Rick Bailey’s latest collection of essays utilises personal anecdotes to weave together a myriad of themes and subjects. Life writing at its finest, this is a warm, funny and relatable read, perfect for the part-time foodie amongst us.
As the title suggests, Bailey naturally spends a fair bit of time centred on food and drink in Get Thee to a Bakery. The opening, eponymous essay sets the book off on a wonderfully cosy note, as Bailey tells us about the history of pumpkin pie, while his wife reprimands him for climbing too many ladders. In Get Thee to a Bakery, Bailey primarily writes about his own life, occasionally blending in an element of research, which makes for an imminently readable work. While occasionally this feels forced or overly long – such as Bailey’s history of nutmeg, which feels slightly excessive – it infuses his autobiographical writing with fact, and the combination of the two keeps Bailey’s writing fresh and original.
Although at times I wished this had a sharper sense of focus and structure, Bailey’s writing, the funny and sometimes touching detail to his stories, implored me to read on. He effortlessly moves between a whole variety of subjects and themes – food, music, travel – illuminated by a whole realm of anecdotes from his own life. His warm humour and wit allow him to segue from wine tasting, to university grading, to the temporality of art, and back again. His writing is intelligent while remaining simple and colloquial – it feels like coming home.
Like all essay collections, some essays are stronger than others. Personal favourites include ‘A Minor Memory’, about Bailey’s newfound obsession with Shazam, and ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, which focuses on Bailey’s wife’s hatred of Burt Bacharach, and a trip to Italy. Bailey’s writing is less successful in essays like ‘Alien Pleasures’, where the segue from an anecdote about leftovers into a discussion of citizenship feels a little forced.
Bailey writes wonderfully about the oddities of human relationships – his nods to the quotidian, to food, and to the mundanities of ordinary life ground his writing firmly in the everyday, with glints of humour bringing a sense of warmth and accessibility. Lovers of David Sedaris, eat your heart out.