Saturday, February 14, 2009

The School of Essential Ingredients- my thoughts

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
240 pages
Published 2009
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.

My thoughts:

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 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.

p. 90

"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.

p. 187

" 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."

p. 212

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


  1. I loved this too! I'm lucky that my husband will eat pretty much whatever I make - and believe me I test him. Books on the Brain posted an interview with the author and the pasta sauce recipe from the book - would your hubby like that?

  2. I don't know but I'm going to have to check that out!! Thanks Tara!!

  3. This sounds like the perfect book for me. I love to cook and try out new recipes. The title wonderful.

    Tell me more about Frindle. Is it a weekly thing you do on your blog or is it a game you play at home?

  4. What an excellent review! I love how passionate you are about reading...You can tell just in the way you write your reviews.

    I hope you are enjoying Valentines Day! Have a great day my friend.

  5. Booklogged,
    Frindle is the name of a book by Andrew Clements and it is a story of how a boy got the name of a pen changed to Frindle!!

  6. Thanks for the awesome review! The cover of the book conveys its comforting nature. I'm saving it for one of those lazy afternoons. :)

  7. The passages you included were fun to read. This one is on my list of books to read this year.

  8. Thanks for the great review! I already had this on my list, but now I can't wait!

  9. Wowwwwwwwww....sounds like an amazing book! :):):):):):):)

  10. I can't wait to get my hands on this! I think I will definitely buy it, though, since I have seen so many great reviews and I collect culinary fiction.

  11. Thanks for the link! I'm lucky that my hubby will eat pretty much anything I make. I love to experiment in the kitchen, and I find that cooking is a great way to release the stresses of the workday. I'm so glad you enjoyed this book! I added your link to my review.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  12. Thank you! This sounds wonderful. I can't count the number of women who say their husbands are 'meat and potato' men. Why is that? So many women say they would be vegetarian or at least eat more vegetarian meals if it weren't for their husbands. What do men have against other foods? Think it is tied into their childhood suppers? Tom and I became vegetarians at the same time so we've always eaten the same way. We don't eat meat but we sure do like the potatoes. :<) Really I think someone should do a study on this subject.

  13. Oh, and I meant to say I loved the quote from page 187. I can still 'feel' my kids resting on my hip in the crook of my arm. A wonderful stage of childhood that simply does not last long enough.

  14. Staci, we really have such similar tastes in books!! I have this TBR and it's calling me big time! I'm going to have to move it up in the pile as I just love foodie books. I scanned your review at the beginning and will be back to read it when I finish the book.

  15. Staci, what an awesome review! I love your personal thoughts on the book. Now I love to cook but you know it's really all about experimenting sometimes. It is hard though when your family is strictly meat and potatoes. It's too bad because you can make a lot of great food that doesn't have to be really fancy either-just yummy.

    lol-I wanted to take a cooking class after reading this book too. I bet it would be lots of fun. YOur quotes are great too-I especially like the sculptor one. I had forgotten that one-it's lovely.

    I'm so glad you loved the book Staci!

  16. Staci, you already know what I thought about this book, so I will not repeat myself....and you write great reviews!

    How long have you been married?

    Here is my advice...make it and he will eat it. When I got married (back in the days of dinosaurs), my husband only ate meat and potatoes. He ate one kind of fish. No casseroles. And NO chicken. Well, that has all changed and there is almost nothing that he will not eat. I told him I was bored enough by cooking and refused to continue making the same things over and over and over. He could eat....or not. He chose to eat and was very surprised.

    Oh, and I just finished watching "Sense and Sensibility" tonight!


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