The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
From the inside cover:
"The first question people always ask me is what are the essential ingredients." Lillian paused and smiled. "I might as well tell you, there isn't a list a list and I've never had one. Nor do I hand out recipes. All I can say is that you learn what you need to."
Once a month on Monday night, 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. One by one they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create. Over time, the paths of the students mingle and intertwine, and the essence of Lillian's cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected, and always delicious.
I absolutely adored this book. For me it a was a very comfortable and comforting read. Food has long been a source of comfort for me and I think it probably is for a lot of people. I enjoyed attending this cooking class with all of these great character's that Bauermeister created. When I finished the book I longed to find a cooking class that I could take so that I could experience the magic of food. I am not a good cook.......my family does not like to try new things. I need to rephrase that, my HUSBAND, does not like to try new things. He's strictly a meat and potatos kind of person. So when I'm planning out the week's menu it is always BORING. That is why this book totally roped me in. I would love to try some of these recipes but I feel unsure of myself in the kitchen. A lot of these characters in the book felt the same way but Lillian, the head chef, had such a calming and confident way about her, that gradually her students realized that they could trust their senses and make dishes that were out of this world. Within each new chapter you get the opportunity to meet each of the students and to get a glimpse into their past and present lives. I fell in love with Isabelle and Tom and the couple Helen and Carl. Their stories touched me at times on a very personal level. If you're looking for a book that you can just sink into and finish with a day or two, and you love food, cooking, and reading about it, then I would highly recommend this book to you...I don't think you'll be disappointed!!
A few of my favorite passages:
It made a certain sense for a holiday celebrating survival over starvation, and everyone seemed to revel in the excess of it all, but she couldn't help feeling embarrassed for the food, all smashed together like immigrants in steerage class.
"I used to know a sculptor," Isabelle said, nodding. "He always said that if you looked hard enough, you could see where each person carried his soul in his body. It sounds crazy, but when you saw his sculptures, it made sense. I think the same is true with those we love," she explained. "Our bodies carry our memories of them, in our muscles, in our skin, in our bones. My children are right here." She pointed to the inside curve of her elbow. "Where I held them when they were babies. Even if there comes a time when I don't know who they are anymore, I believe I will feel them here.
"Well...how do you feel about her?"
"She's beautiful and smart and..."
"I mean, " Lillian's voice was patient, "what do you want?"
"I want...." Ian paused, and then his voice cleared. "I would want her for the rest of my life."
"Then that is how you cook."
Please read an excellent review of this book posted by Dar from Peeking Between the Pages. After reading her review, I immediately went to my library's website and requested this book!! Thanks Dar... I loved it!!!
Anna at Diary of an Eccentric has a great post of her interview with the author Erica...check it out here: Interview with Erica Bauermeister