By Melissa Patafio
**Giveaway is now closed**
Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel "The School of Essential Ingredients," and "Joy For Beginners," just published in June, 2011. She has been married to the same man for almost three decades and her children are now mostly grown. She has even lived in Italy! Erica is here today to talk to us about what summer means to her. We're glad to have her at CLC and we hope that the one lucky reader in the US or Canada who wins her latest novel will agree!
You can visit Erica on Facebook to learn more about her.
What’s your best summer memory?
When I was young, my parents would load all five kids in the car and we would drive from Maryland to a small fishing camp in Vermont. Not that we were the fishing type – but my grandfather was, and we loved him. We stayed in rustic cabins set around a lake that felt huge but probably wasn’t at all. I spent my days drifting about in a row boat on the lake, reading, or “rescuing” the frogs from in front of our cabin and transporting them to the other side of the lake (my grandfather was always joking about eating frog’s legs, although I never saw anything but delicious, corn-meal-covered trout on our table). I picked blueberries for hours, and wandered down to the main house for fresh homemade doughnuts, still hot with oil. It was a time to live in your body, or in books, both of which felt all the more three-dimensional because of where I was.
What food means summer to you?
Watermelon, no doubt. I have few cravings, but that is one of them. There is also a Caribbean sandwich stand in Seattle, near Golden Gardens beach. It’s the perfect bike ride from our house. We arrive, hungry and full of anticipation, and take our pork and carmelized onion sandwiches, lathered with garlic aioli mayonnaise, to the beach where we eat them, juices dripping into the sand, as we look across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains beyond.
Ah, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention blackberries, too. They take forever to ripen in the Pacific Northwest, but there are usually a couple weeks during August when the blackberries get huge and deeply purple. There are wild bushes everywhere around here, and one of the best parts of summer is taking a walk and occasionally stopping to graze off the bushes, picking the fullest, ripest ones you can find and letting them dissolve across your tongue, warm and lush and earthy.
What is your favorite part of summer in the Pacific Northwest?
Here in Seattle, we like to say that we pay for our summer with our long, grey winters when it turns dark at 4:30 in the afternoon and if there wasn’t good coffee we would all, quite simply, go crazy. But then there’s summer. Day after day, it stays light a little longer, and then longer still – an unending generosity of light, until you can sit outside in your backyard around a table, eating, and don’t have to even light a candle until 9:30 or 10 o’clock at night. The air is soft around you, the sky is abalone blue. Everyone is euphoric in the neighborhood and you can hear it in their voices, trailing over the fences between the yards. That’s why we live here.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done in the summer?
Five years ago, my husband and children and I were invited to go rafting down the Grand Canyon. The rest of my family was excited beyond measure; I was simply terrified. But I am also a deeply protective mother, and there was no way I was sending my kids down the rapids of the Grand Canyon without me, so off we went. It was by far the scariest thing I have ever done. And the most exhilarating, and life-changing, and soul-opening. And one of the great parts of being a writer is that even as you are facing a rapid that is bigger and more horrifying than anything you can imagine, there is part of your mind that is always thinking – I could write about this! (and I did – that was the start of Joy For Beginners).
What is a favorite summer ritual for you these days?
Summertime means the farmer’s markets around here. I love taking a big cloth bag and making my way down to the market, getting inspiration for dinner from the colors and smells there. The other night my daughter and I created a new recipe with shrimp and scallops and lemon and basil and oranges and avocado, served over lemon pasta. Sounded questionable (who puts oranges and avocado in pasta?), but it was fantastic. Summer in a bowl.
Thanks to Erica for visiting with us and for sharing her book with a lucky reader!
How to win "Joy for Beginners":
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1. Please tell us: What is your favorite summertime food?
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US/Canada only. Giveaway ends September 11th at midnight EST.