Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Review: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Title: The School of Essential Ingredients 
Author: Erica Bauermeister
Published: January 2010 Berkley Trade
Format: Paperback, 261 pages
Source: Personal copy


Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect...

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.

My thoughts: Back in August, I was trying to read more of my own books, especially those that had been sitting on my shelves since before the start of the year. I saw this one and thought I would give it a try...and I can't believe I didn't read it sooner! It was such a quick read and not really being a good cook myself (hubby does most of the cooking here!), I loved the concept of a cooking school at a restaurant.

Lillian learned at an early age the power food has to heal and comfort, and so she tries to get her students to respond to the food around them. Each chapter is told from a different character's point of view, so that by the end of the book, we have learned what has brought each of the eight students to the class and we've learned a bit about Lillian, too. It seems that Lillian has developed an almost uncanny knack for knowing just what her students need at the right moment. By the time the classes are over, each student has been able to recapture a piece of themselves that they forgot was there.

This really was a charming novel. You end up walking away with the notion that food has the power to heal, give courage, offer a fresh start, and make you a better person. It really makes me want to learn to cook better - to not have to always rely on a recipe to create a wonderful dish. It also made me understand why my husband loves cooking so much - after a stressful day at work, coming home to cook a meal is downtime for him - he's able to be creative and not think so hard when putting together really delicious meals.

I look forward to seeing what else Erica Bauermeister writes. I know she has written a sequel to this book called The Lost Art of Mixing and I hope to read it one day soon.

Do you enjoy cooking? Are you a follow-the-recipe kind of person or do you create your own dishes using a little of this and a little of that?

2 comments:

  1. I think I have a friend that would adore this. Going on the Christmas maybe list :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I admire your husband's ability to wind down while cooking. I really don't enjoy cooking so it wouldn't work for me.

    This novel caught my attention at the bookstore. Now I am wishing I had purchased it!

    ReplyDelete

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