The School of Essential Ingredients Paperback – Jan. 5 2010
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
- ISBN-10 : 0425232093
- ISBN-13 : 978-0425232095
- Dimensions : 13.97 x 1.8 x 21.08 cm
- Paperback : 272 pages
- Item Weight : 240 g
- Publisher : Berkley; Reprint edition (Jan. 5 2010)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #182,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
“Delectable writing.”—Seattle Magazine
“Food Network fans will devour this first novel about a whimsical cooking school run by a gentle chef with a fierce passion for food.”—People
“Lyrical and descriptive.”—The Oregonian
“Bauermeister deftly combines romance, lyrical language and a dash of sentimentality.”—St. Petersburg Times
“[A] warm, satisfying exploration of food, cooking and memory…evocative.”—The Star-Ledger (NJ)
“The novel has that...life-is-meals feeling.”—Los Angeles Times
“In this remarkable debut, Bauermeister creates a captivating world where the pleasures and particulars of sophisticated food come to mean much more than simple epicurean indulgence.”—Publishers Weekly
“Exquisitely written...It’s a luscious slice of life...and you will enjoy every bite.”—*New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison
“The perfect recipe for escaping from life’s stresses...luminous prose.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Kate Jacobs
About the Author
Erica Bauermeister’s love of slow food and slow life was cemented by her two years living in northern Italy with her husband and children. She has taught literature and creative writing at the University of Washington and currently lives in Seattle with her family. The School of Essential Ingredients is her first novel.
More items to explore
Top reviews from Canada
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This is territory that has been explored in other popular novels, such as Julie & Julia, Like Water for Chocolate, and Chocolat. Each took a different approach, and Bauermeister's novel is a delicious addition to the growing list.
Lillian’s students arrived in a variety of motivations, some drawn by a yearning as yet unmet to hear murmured culinary compliments, others who had come to find a cook rather than become one. A few participants had no desire for lessons at all, arriving with gift certificates in hand as if on a forced march to certain failure; they knew their cakes would always be flat, their cream sauces filled with small, disconcerting pockets of flour, like bills in your mailbox when you had hoped for a love letter.
And then there were those students who seemingly had no choice, who could no more stay out of the kitchen than a kleptomaniac could keep her hands in her pockets. The came early, stayed late, fantasized about leaving their corporate jobs and becoming chefs with an exhilarating mixture of guilt and pleasure. If Lillian’s soul sought out this last group, it was only to be expected, but in truth, she found them all fascinating. Lillian knew that whatever their reasons for coming, at some moment in the course of the class each one’s eyes would widen with joy or tears or resolution – it always happened. The timing and the reason would be different for each, and that’s where the fascination lay. No two spices work the same.”
This is a quote that I found that I think best describes Lillian. She may be the main protagonist of the story. With a mother who raised her with her head in the books,
“In this new life, Lillian’ s mother’s face became a series of book covers, held in place where eyes, nose, or mouth might normally appear. Lillian soon learned that book covers could forecast moods much like facial expressions, for Lillian’s mother swam deeply into the books she read, until the personality of the protagonist surrounded her like a perfume applied by an indiscriminate hand. Lillian was never sure who would greet her at the breakfast table, no matter that the bathroom, the hair, the feet were always the same. It was like having a madician for a mother, although Lillian always suspected that the magicians she saw at birthday parties went home a d turned back to portly men with three children and grass that needed mowing. Lillian’s mother comply finished one book and turned to the next. “
And, possibly because of this, she goes through the book almost like she’s at the zoo watching an exhibit. Okay, that sounds bad…
It’s like she is making a souflee. She puts all of the ingredients together but knows that after that point she can only put it in the oven and wait because, if she opens the door too early or keeps checking on it, she’s just going to ruin it. It’ll come together on its own, in its own time. This is how she treats people. Get them in a room together and things will happen as they happen.
All of these strangers have their own different trials in life and yet they are brought together by the binding forces of the universal language of food. They may have come to the class initially to simply learn how to cook, but they may wind up leaving with something far more nourishing.
Speaking of the language of food. This is one of the things that I love most about this book. Erica has such a beautiful way with words. Her phasing had me tantalized and hungry for more…. and hungry for food!
“The polenta was a cauldron of summer, vibrantly gold against the black of the pot. Carl was stirring with a long-handled wooden spoon with a hole in the center while Tom dropped in small bits of cheese that left white comet trails as they melted into the moving yellow mass.”
“She gently tossed the garlic. It landed in the bowl created by his palms, its outer layers crackling like a secret, the weight both heavier and lighter than he had anticipated.”
Each chapter focuses on the story of a different character in the class, slowly unwrapping their lives and circumstances like the secret that garlic held. Each story different, and yet the same. Characters who may not have lost the same things and yet the loss of memories and the loss of a loved one can still be the sort that brings two people together, or the fact that you are trying to find yourself as a child growing to adulthood doesn’t mean that you can’t connect with the mother trying to find her identity out side of being a mother.
I think Charlie says it best, “We’re all ingredients, Tom. What matters is the grace with which you cook the meal.”
"...Margaret's mother raised the cup of milk away from the pot, and Lillian looked at the sauce, an untouched snowfield, its smell the feeling of quiet at the end of an illness, when the world is starting to feel gentle and welcoming again...", and
"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."
There is a theme running through this novel, that of women offering themselves up for family - a noble and rewarding pursuit, but one which leaves them feeling a bit hollowed out (remember the Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein?) But another theme, that of slowing down and treasuring, savoring, indulging in, the simple things, works to help heal these people. In fact, after I finished the book, I found that the act of closing up my home for the night seemed a richer experience. I walked through the rooms thinking, "This is my beloved home. I love this room. I love these windows." etc.
The characters are well-developed and relatable, and there is a gratifying warmth between them as they struggle with the normal difficulties of life. There are several places in the book where one character reminds/asks/encourages another to answer the question, "what did you do today that made you happy?" Wouldn't we be better off for asking ourselves this question?