The Book of the Week is “The Merry Baker of Riga” by Boris Zemtzov, published in 2004. This book described the difficulties of operating a bakery in Riga, Latvia in the 1990’s (just after the fall of Communism).
Latvia used to be a Soviet territory. The half-American author was a businessman and part-owner of said bakery. Latvian culture was largely to blame for the poor profitability of the capitalist venture, which lasted only a few years. Language and sanitation were among the myriad problems Zemtzov encountered.
Whenever an employee had a birthday or there was an excuse for a celebratory social gathering (which was often), the consumption of alcohol ensured that nothing got done the whole afternoon. Alcohol consumption also played a part in a bad experience Zemtzov had with a contractor who was supposed to complete a renovation job in his home.
Nevertheless, Zemtzov described an aspect of Latvian culture that this American blogger found to be quite funny: on one’s birthday, one is woken up at the crack of dawn by his or her loved ones, is wished a happy birthday, and has a birthday gift shoved in his or her face.
In sum, this was an entertaining tale.
The Book of the Week is “Walking on Walnuts” by Nancy Ring, published in 1997. This book is the career memoir of a pastry chef in New York City. Ms. Ring discusses the uncertainty surrounding the fiercely competitive restaurant business in New York, and thus the attendant job insecurity of a pastry chef. She discusses the details of the job– long hours, difficult bosses, hard work, and a hilarious episode in which The Fig Tree restaurant personnel were tipped off that a very influential restaurant reviewer, one Bette Brown, was to visit one night.
A woman fitting the reviewer’s description entered the eatery with her entourage. She proceeded to complain about a draft at her table, then when moved, about being too close to the waiter’s station. The bread basket caught fire from a candle on the table… You can see where this is going– a long series of further mishaps, complaint-fodder for the fussy diner, “… who sarcastically asked Liz [the waitress] if she had graduated from high school.” Ms. Ring, who was also a waitress there at the time, witnessed Liz’s feisty temper flare as she finally told off the customer.
The supposed Ms. Brown confronted Carl, the restaurant owner, who, at the bar, was “… busy crying into his fourth double bourbon.” With the ‘don’t-you-know-who-I-am’ speech, she told off Carl, telling him her name. It was not Bette Brown. Carl was extremely relieved. A good dining experience was had by the actual Bette Brown, who had been there earlier that evening.
This book contains not only entertaining anecdotes, but recipes, too.