Cuban Pastries, English Tea–No BerryMichael M. Guevara
Unpopular opinion–British Baking Show is way overrated. Okay, very unpopular opinion. I just don’t like it and feel it my mission in life to de-cultify people from machinations of Mary Berry.
And though I’m not entirely certain Lila Reyes from A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey would agree with me, I take slight solace in believing she would.
Lila is a baker, who has helped run the family bakery in Miami since she “was thirteen and my parents were stranded in New York, I catered a huge order for our congressman’s party. I made more than a thousand Cuban pastries and appetizers working overnight. The Miami Herald even did an article on it” (36).
And Lila has goals.
“My mom doesn’t bake, but she’s a skilled cake decorator. When Pilar graduates next May, my parents want to open a small custom cake shop in another part of Miami. And Pilar and I will take over La Paloma–it means dove. I’m going to supervise the kitchen staff and all the food. And Pilar’s gonna handle the books and business stuff” (136).
But plans aren’t going as Lila envisioned as she finds herself shuffled off to Winchester, Hampshire, England.
“I’m here because the Cuban Remedy failed. It’s forever ancient and reads like a recipe. Though the ingredients may vary from family to family, the goal is always the same: suffer heartbreak and your family will fix you. Except no amount of food and family could heal my heartbreak, so like a plotline from one of Miami’s telenovelas, they tricked me instead” (1).
And why the Cuban Remedy was necessary: “I. Am. Here. Because not only did my most beloved abuelita die, but within two months of her death, my best friend abandoned me, and my boyfriend of three years dumped me right before prom” (2).
So Lila finds herself four thousand miles across the Atlantic with her Tia Cate at the family’s Owl and Crow Inn that “looks like something straight out of a Jane Austen novel” (2).
And though Lila desperately misses the Cuban culture and sartorial expression of her Miami home, along with worrying about what will become of her beloved La Paloma Panaderia in the 85 days she’s been shipped off across the pond, Lila may find that home and baking can take on new meanings–especially after meeting tea shop clerk Orion Maxwell who takes Lila on a journey to find her signature tea.
A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow is a delightfully sweet treat of cross-cultural connections, serendipity, and expanding worlds and dreams beyond what we thought they could possibly be.
Also, there’s tea–lots and lots of tea.
And no Mary Berry.
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Michael Méndez Guevara is a former high school journalism and English teacher who spent his time in the classroom helping students see themselves as writers and fall in love with reading through the world of young adult literature. As an educational sales consultant with Perfection Learning®, Michael works with teachers and schools on improving their literacy instruction and providing resources to help students achieve academic success. He has taught elementary school, middle school, and high school and has worked as a district level leader and served on the Texas state standards revision committee that developed the state’s current literacy standards. He is the father of three adult sons, the youngest a student at the University of Kansas—Rock Chalk! Michael is working on a professional development book for literacy educators and currently has agents reading the manuscript of his young adult novel, The Closest Thing to a Normal Life. When he's not reading, writing, or running, Michael is fully committed to watching as much Law & Order as possible.