Review – The School of Essential Ingredients

essential ingredientsThe School of Essential Ingredients

by Erica Bauermeister, Berkeley Books, 2009

A slip of a book, with lush and vivid descriptions, about love, life and food.  Someone mentioned it during my last bookclub meeting so I picked it up to check it out.  This is a feel good book, with people learning to cook with their instincts  and in doing so they gain a better understanding of their lives and loves, turning heartache into a life lessons and readying themselves to move on.  Recommend for people who love to read and eat.  This book was simply lovely.  It reminds me of how I feel after a Sarah Addison Allen book, there is tough stuff in life, but it teaches you there is beauty everywhere and in everyone.  You just need to know where to look, stop to smell the green olive oil and make sure to keep it simple, elegant and sensuous.

The writing is fantastic and thoughtful.  The book isn’t long, and that is the worst thing about it.  But if you just want to roll around in some beautiful sentences filled with scent described with feeling and taste described as color, read this book.

“She discovered that people seemed to react to spices much as they did to other people, relaxing instinctively into some, shivering into a kind of emotional rigor mortis when encountering others.” (pg 13)

You don’t really know how the teacher becomes such a “wise man” but she is, she just knows what you need to understand your life.  What cooking lesson is needed to help you to move on and if you need someone to simply talk to.  Actually, it seemed like chefs in general were wise women who know who they are and what needs to be done.  Listen to women who cook people!  🙂

“Lillian believed in food the way some people do religion”

Each chapter focuses on a different person within the cooking school so we get to know what their main issue in life is all about.  Some are super sad, others are bittersweet and others too are just starting in life and need a gentle nudge to get going in the right direction.

So if you need something nice and short with beautifully crafted sentences (pulling them out of the book really does not do them justice) check this one out.  I read it in an afternoon and during and after the light sparkled golden, the air was sweet and I really wanted to create something lovely in my kitchen.  There are bits of magic that can’t really be explained and no answers or anything, so if you don’t like that type of “open possibility” or feel-good, mystical stuff steer clear.  I like it though, so I give it 4.5 raviolis shaped like stars, stuffed with sweet potato, covered in crispy sage and a brown sugar sauce.  A delectable small plate.


About ocdreader

I love to read! I always have a book or four going, I have more books in my to-be-read pile than I can read in a year and yet I continue to haunt the bookstores. I have a problem, but I somehow soldier on. I enjoy talking books, so pass on your recommendations and thoughts - I would love to hear them.
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8 Responses to Review – The School of Essential Ingredients

  1. OMG!! Now I’m HUNGRY!! Will keep this in mind…sounds like something to read when on a break from reading 😉

  2. Oh, this is love at first sight for me. I have to have this book and will be ordering it from my bookshop next time I go to the Mall. I doubt they’ll have it on the shelf. I can’t wait. I just love books like this. Apart from anything else, the remind me of my mom who used to read cook books for pleasure the way the rest of us read novels. Thanks for this one.

    • ocdreader says:

      Oh I hope you like it! It is funny, the lead hates reading cookbooks (you find out why) but she does talk food and how to prepare during the class, mmmm. Comfort food at its best!

  3. jenniferbielman says:

    The writing looks beautiful. I love the cover. But I am so over short books right now. I need a good length novel to keep my attention. But I am happy you liked it.

  4. cleemckenzie says:

    Lillian and I would get along famously! Sounds like a beautifully written book.

    • ocdreader says:

      It really is. I think I need to reread a few of the chapters once I get it back just to enjoy the descriptions. She describes a red pepper as a shiny red Christmas bauble or something like it and I just can’t get the visual out of my head!

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