Friday, December 10, 2010

Cake Boss

Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia FamigliaI've been reading books based on television shows lately. First I read Alison Arngrim's Confessions of a Prairie B****, which I devoured in one sitting. Alison played the hated Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie. Arngrim's book is filled with great behind the scenes detail, interesting tidbits about the actors, as well as the drama of growing up the daughter of a gay man and whose mother did the voice of Caspar the Ghost and Gumby. From her description of Melissa Sue Anderson (Mary) on Little House as a silent but deadly force, I had to read Melissa's autobiography next, The Way I See It. Well, the way she sees it is apparently a way to get   some money, without actually divulging any interesting information. Anderson does a lot of name-dropping, does a recap of several episodes of the show, and doesn't discuss anything personal about her childhood, not even a little. It's was boring with a capital B! I'm not alone in my review, check out Amazon to see more people lambasting her for one of the most boring and self-serving bios ever written. After her no-tell, I now have Melissa Gilbert (Laura)'s memoir, Prairie Tale on my book shelf, and I'm hoping to read it this weekend. It's given me a whole new appreciation for Little House on the Prairie. Knowing that Michael Landon is wearing huge lifts in his shoes, Nellie and Laura were best buds who had sleepovers on the weekends while avoiding the icy Mary, and that Harriet and Nels Oleson are each exactly like the roles they played, makes the show come to life for me in a new way.

With all of those TV memoirs on my shelf, it makes sense that I would read today's book too.

Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro is a companion volume for the popular TLC series about the antics of the Valastro family of Carlo's Bakery in New Jersey. The show is famous for his astounding theme cakes as well as the family tiffs and pranks, and that flavor carries over into this book. Buddy narrates the book in his trademark off the cuff voice and tells the story of his family history. His father, Buddy Sr, started working in the bakery business as a young boy to support his family after his father abandoned them. His fierce loyalty to family and love of baking is carried on by his youngest child and only son, Buddy, who nows runs the business. Fans of the show (like me) will enjoy reading about the romance between Buddy Sr and Mary, and how she, who is often seen berating her son for riding a motorbike or pulling pranks, was known as a firecracker as a young girl and has taken care of the books for the business since she was in her teens. Their four daughters now run the downstairs shop while most of their husbands now have a role within the family business as well. Buddy makes the point early on in the book, that this bakery is not just business for the family. It is their heritage, and so from Buddy's earliest memories, those who work at the bakery are family, and the family works at the bakery. There are lots of terrific vintage photos (including Buddy with his first lunchpail: The Dukes of Hazzard!). Buddy writes with absolute love for his family and complete confidence in his abilities, but he never comes across as arrogant. If you love watching the show with the building of beautiful cakes and the drama of the kitchen, you'll enjoy this book for its behind the scenes view of the show, as well as the opportunity to understand what motivates the Valastro family and just what the name "Buddy" means to them. Included at the end are several of the shop's most famous recipes. This is a must read for any fan of Cake Boss.

Thank you to Free Press Publicity for providing me with a copy of this book for review!