Reading The Bakery Girls by Florence Ditlow made me insanely hungry. The book chronicles the lives of three sisters and how they grew up in their fathers bakery in Pennsylvania. The book is loosely based on Florence’s own family. Knowing the essence of the book is true makes it all the more fascinating!
I enjoyed reading about the sisters and their lives and their relationships. How they both love and loathe the bakery in their own ways. It was interesting to read how the technology changed through the course of the book to what is modern day baking. I also enjoyed, of course, the baking analogies. “the hand of God reached him. Somehow, someway, the cows’ butter, the bees’ honey transcribed how God wanted Floyd Stitt to make wedding cakes, and cake were born in ovens, and ovens lived in bakeries”.
When entrepreneurial Floyd Stitt opens a bakery in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1908, his timing is perfect. Barely emancipated women eagerly buy his delicious bread, cakes and pies and Stitt’s Bakery flourishes. Growing up surrounded by flour and sugar, Stitt’s three attractive daughters have the bakery in their blood. Artistic Dot, enigmatic Louise and problem-solving Elaine come of age in the Depression and see the men they love to war while they continue baking and selling bread on the home front. With meticulous attention to historical detail, The Bakery Girls chronicles three memorable decades from the perspective of three remarkable sisters who understand the big difference a little sugar can make in good times and bad.
Reading the book the essence of American baking hasn’t changed much at all. The Stitt Bakery “crumb crew” makes “Sunshine” yellow cake and sticky buns (Pennsylvania’s contribution to world cuisine), baguettes, black walnut cake, strawberry cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, miniature desserts, cookies, cream puffs, sticky buns, devil’s food cake, apple pie, cherry pie, red velvet cake and chocolate cocktails to name a few!
The book covers a lot of ground starting off when President Taft was in office, through to the invention of the electric toaster, parchment paper and ends sometime after World War II. The one thing that I found hard to believe was that in their youth none of the girls learned how to bake. There was an interest in the business side but only towards the end of the book did any of the girls want to learn how to bake.
I think this was a great selection for this month’s book club. It’s fairly long but I loved reading about life in the family bakery and a glance back in time to what it used to be like living in America.