The School of Essential Ingredients
By Erica Bauermeister
(Berkley Trade, Paperback, 9780425232095, January 2010, 272pp.)
The Short of It:
The School of Essential Ingredients is the panacea for all that ails you.
The Rest of It:
What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said? Well, coming from a person who prefers heavier fiction over cozy reads, I can tell you that I would not have picked it up on my own, had it not been for the wonderful reviews its received. Additionally, I heard Bauermeister speak at a local bookstore and I liked HER. Does that ever happen to you? You like the author as a person, so then you pick up his/her book? I admired the easy, effortless way she read and her characters seemed to have heart.
In School, Lillian owns a restaurant. A lovely little thing, with cozy, intimate spaces that open to a gorgeous garden. Each Monday, once a month, she teaches a cooking class. The participants change regularly, but each group brings with them, memories of lost loves, heartache, the awkwardness of a first kiss, the warm scent of a freshly washed baby. As the students learn the importance of experiencing their meals and not just cooking them, the reader is treated to little bit of history on each participant.
There are many, wonderful characters but I identified the most with Claire. A mother of two and happily married, Claire lost a little piece of herself when she had her first child. That page and a half where she talks about her loss and what she gained in return, nearly brought tears to my eyes. I think a lot of women have probably felt that way at one point. I know I did. That moment where you realize that you are now responsible for this other person, and that you will never, ever be the same. It’s wonderful yet also a little bit sad.
Ultimately, this is a feel-good book. It’s warm and inviting and incredibly satisfying. At one point, it seemed almost too good to be true but I took my critical hat off and just enjoyed it for what it was. If you read this book, and I suggest that you do, you MUST have food on hand. After finishing the book, I spent an entire weekend cooking and savoring delicious meals. This book is so popular that I’m surprised it wasn’t followed up with a cookbook. Or, some sort of cooking retreat. I’d be the first in line to reserve my spot.
To the more serious readers, I dare you to read this book and not feel good about it afterward.
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