Tuesday, March 03, 2009
The School of Essential Ingredients
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).