Growing up in northern Michigan, Samantha “Sam” Mullins felt trapped on her family’s orchard and in their pie shop, so she left with dreams of making her own mark in the world. But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star’s New York bakery is not what Sam dreamed.
When the chef embarrasses Sam, she quits and returns home. Unemployed, single, and defeated, she spends a summer working on her family’s orchard cooking and baking alongside the women in her life–including her mother, Deana, and grandmother, Willo. One beloved, flour-flecked, ink-smeared recipe at a time, Sam begins to learn about and understand the women in her life, her family’s history, and her passion for food through their treasured recipe box.
As Sam discovers what matters most she opens her heart to a man she left behind, but who now might be the key to her happiness.
Sam Mullins has spent her life dreaming of becoming a world-class baker. From her small northern Michigan apple orchard to the bright lights and competitive world of New York City, Sam has earned her culinary school degree, has a tremendously crappy job, and the feeling she still isn’t where she’s meant to be. After an unsettling episode at work, Sam packs her bags and heads for home.
In an effort to sort out her life, Sam returns to the loving embrace of her family and their century-old apple orchard. The orchard holds so many happy and some very conflicting memories for Sam. There is the ever-present love and support of her family, the orchard, and the pie shop where Sam first discovered her love of baking. At mother and grandmother’s sides, Sam learned how to mix and create, to bake and to love, and to share her creations with her family and community. The recipes she learned as a child are both simple and comforting and have brought Sam great pleasure throughout her life. In her current state, however, Sam is beginning to question if her fancy culinary degree was a way to cover her embarrassment over the very provincial nature of her family’s recipes and cooking.
Over the days she’s at home, Sam not only reconnects with her love of her family recipes, but with the women who made her love and opportunities possible. Sam’s formidable grandmother, Willo reminds Sam, through stories of their past how the orchard and pie shop came to be, how both have sustained the family though the long years, and how a history such as theirs is as much a foundation as a piece of architecture. Slowly, and after much baking, Sam begins to realize her fancy culinary degree isn’t at all about embarrassment or shame, but about wanting to make her own unique mark on the world outside of the long shadow of her family.
The Bottom Line: If it weren’t for one very large issue, The Recipe Box would have scored so much higher with me! I am a smart and attentive reader which means I don’t need an author to constantly remind me of certain themes and/or issues in their books. In The Recipe Box, the themes of history, shared history, and foundations are repeated so often they become almost comical. Almost! I got to the point where I began skipping over the excessive passage related to these themes and moved on to the far more interesting business. I did enjoy Willo a great deal and her shared stories of the Mullins family and their past. Willo builds a strong connection between the past and the present which allows Sam to understand her place in the family as well as in the world. There are some really touching moments in this read a TON of yummy recipes which will appeal to many readers. If you don’t mind the repetition, The Recipe Box may be just the read for you 😊