Posted by: bunnyterry | January 2, 2010

The Lost Recipe for Happiness

Sometimes you get really lucky at the bookstore.  Sometimes you’re wandering around in Hastings looking for a couple of books to get you through the next week and you pick up something with an interesting cover, read the description on the back, and then carry it around for 10 or 15 minutes so that you can read the back again, and then you decide this might be the one, and then you carry it to the cash register and pay and stick the book in your purse and carry it home.  And sometimes you get really lucky.  Because sometimes you find a book that absolutely sings to your soul, that says exactly what you were hoping to hear that day.  And sometimes you find a book that captures the essence of what home means to you.

That happened to me a couple of weeks ago.  Luckily I was also carrying my new Hastings gift card that my co-workers at the Harris Law Firm had given me for my birthday, so I had $100 to spend, an unheard of and luxurious amount for book buying.  And I found a book that looked interesting, The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal.  Not an author I’ve bought before, and honestly I don’t know if she’s ever written anything else.  But this book touched my soul, mostly because it was a book about a girl from New Mexico who finds her life again after it has been broken, seemingly beyond repair, and after she has suffered unspeakable tragedy. 

As luck would have, the heroine, the very real and likable Elena from Espanola, is a chef, and sprinkled throughout the book, at the end of  almost every chapter is a recipe for such essential delicacies as carne asada, tamales, Mexican wedding cookies. even chicken soup with a note that there are some poor souls out there that don’t like chile.  I just finished reading the second half for the second time in two weeks, because the writing is true and fresh and I wanted to take another look at those recipes.  If you haven’t figured it out, I love to eat.  I also love to cook, but my great favorites are reading and eating. 

Here’s just one paragraph from The Lost Recipe that captures the essence of eating breakfast on the plaza in Santa Fe: 

“She ducked into the Plaza Cafe for a breakfast to fortify herself, and was slammed, hard, by the heady scent of chile and pork and eggs, all made the New Mexico way.  She heard the sound of her accents, her home, the sound of  Spanish and Indian layered over English, and stared, stunned and hungry, at the shapes of faces she had missed, the broad cheekbones and particular grins.  Dark-skinned men with long hair falling down their backs, clad in worn jeans and boots and checkered shirts, sat next to a knot of locals in their sixties, speaking ancient, colonial Spanish, next to a well-tended Anglo couple in their sixties dressed in golf casual.  The wife wore a huge yellow diamond on her finger.”

It’s a great book that will make you cry several times.  And the recipes are an added and unexpected bonus.  I’m a big lender of books, but I can’t bring myself to offer this one to anyone.  I want to try the carnitas recipe first.

So I’m giving you my review.  Find it, buy it, read it, try the recipes.  I got really lucky with this one.



  1. Can’t do much better than a good book and recipe combined. Thanks for review. I’m reminded of a saying, “I don’t loan books to my friends. I want neither to lose my books nor my friends.” Good posting. And, I can tell you must write during the day because your post is composed really well. I nearly refuse to read poor writing. We use the Casa Sena (Santa Fe) cookbook a great deal. Happy holiday! ~Jack

    • Jack – Thanks for your ongoing comments. As you might expect, I’m relatively new to blogging, but love having an outlet for my daily writing. Your encouragement and positive feedback is valued!

  2. Good morning girl, ok I’m not much of a reader but you’ve convinced me I need to get this book, if for nothing else than the recipes because I’m a recipe junkie 🙂 Thanks again. Love reading your blog…

    • Vicki – you are my most faithful blog reader. Thanks! It makes it worthwhile – I’m so happy to have found this outlet for all the things I want to say and stories I have to tell. Enjoy the recipes!

  3. […] and appealing about New Mexico.  I first wrote about Barbara O’Neal last January (  I stumbled across “The Lost Recipe for Happiness” at Hastings in Clovis as part of […]

  4. […] and appealing about New Mexico.  I first wrote about Barbara O’Neal last January (  I stumbled across “The Lost Recipe for Happiness” at Hastings in Clovis as part of […]

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