- Fizzy Thoughts: The School of Essential Ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


The School of Essential Ingredients
Erica Bauermeister
January 2009
256 pages

From the publisher:
The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives. One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian’s food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen.
First, a whoopingly huge thank you to Dar for sending me her copy of this book. This book was a delight to read. I really like the layout...introduced by Lillian, with each subsequent chapter focusing on one of the cooking classes and its impact on a student. Through the influence of the dishes being prepared, the student recalls memories and experiences from their life. Then we return to Lillian for the conclusion.

Also, the language in this book is gorgeous.
"The beef bourguignon was bubbling in the oven, the smells of meat and red wine, onions and bay leaf and thyme murmuring like travelers on a late-night train. The kitchen was damp from the heat of cooking; Ian opened the window above the sink and the scent of the basil and oregano plants on the windowsill awoke with the breeze."
This book is about relationships...between people and food and memories. Yet, it's not at all complicated (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). It's a comforting, descriptive read that will leave you feeling good (and maybe just a little bit hungry).

15 comment(s):

Melody said...

I've heard a lot of good things about this book... I ordered mine recently and I just can't wait to jump into it!

Veronica said...

I've heard a lot about this book too. Thanks for the review. It's definitely going on the TBR pile...

chartroose said...

Me wants thisssss...

Beth F said...

This is near the top of my list. Can't wait to get to it.

Melissa said...

Oh, a food book that actually makes one hungry? I want that.

bermudaonion said...

I loved this book, but you're right - it's not complicated.

Jo-Jo said...

This book does sound really good, I will have to read it soon!

Dar said...

Jill, I'm so glad you liked the book. I love the quote you used, it brings back memories of the book for me. I really loved this book. I felt sad when it ended. Why can't all reads be as good.

Charley said...

Relationships... food... this sounds good.

Wrighty - said...

I just reviewed this book too and loved it! I didn't expect to enjoy a book about food but she worked magic with her words. Great review!

Pam said...

I already have this on my list, this just moves it further up to the top!

beastmomma said...

I have heard so many good things about this book. I would love to get a copy someday.

Ladytink_534 said...

I like to bake but I'm not much of a cook yet this book still intrigues me!

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

sounds delicious! this is on my shelf :)

i had another food memoir on my Friday Finds today, *A Homemade Life* by Molly Wizenberg.

lisamm said...

I'm late to the party but just wanted to mention I loved this one too. The author is very nice as well.

I came by to see if you'd blogged about the FOB yet because I wanted to thank you again for Speak and tell you I finished it. So good. I looked to see if you'd reviewed it yet but I couldn't find a review. It's on your to-do list, I'm sure!

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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