Dysfunctional family angst rises precariously in bread-baking classes at a New York cooking school.
Facing death, Schaffer’s father, Flip, who abandoned his family 30 years earlier, convinces son Dylan to join him for a week’s course in what is billed as “artisanal” baking at the French Culinary Institute. And so, bonding, more or less, they bunk together in a seedy neighborhood hotel. Workings of the culinary school are outlined, and classmates are neatly sketched. As others see Dylan’s father, a professor of history at Clemson University, as cute, his son sees him as oafish. Flip is sloppy. He lies. Long ago, he left his young children in the care of their mother, psychiatrist Cookie, who was certifiably nuts. “He left me to be raised by a crazy woman,” says Dylan, now a lawyer and writer of legal thrillers (I Right the Wrongs, 2005, etc.). Dylan hates Flip, and yet loves him more. Truly, Professor Flip is difficult. He’s no Morrie on Tuesdays or any other day, and his son expends much of his creative talent whining in a Woody Allen–esque mode about present anger and past slights. Ultimately, of course, understanding grows like yeast, and there is love in the loaves of bread. The intergenerational sniping ends in reconciliation and understanding as Dylan tends to his father in Flip’s last days. With much impassioned, highly personal confession, a son unburdens himself. Some readers may feel the author is sometimes too frank, but, withal, when he’s on a roll, the writing is as artisanal as the baking.
Fraught lessons learned about the stuff of living and the staff of life, along with kvetching in the kitchen.