The School of Essential Ingredients

February 8, 2009 · 14 comments · Print This Post

in Book Reviews, Reviews

The School of Essential IngredientsOnce a month an eclectic group of strangers meet in the kitchen of Lillian’s restaurant to participate in The School of Essential Ingredients. Shy and cautious at first they soon build a supportive rapport with one another, and under Lillian’s intuitive culinary tutelage blossom and grow in ways they never imagined possible.

Each chapter reveals a single participant’s story. Joy, heartache, personal failure, and successes are lovingly interwoven into the larger context of the cooking class. Some of the character’s you’ll meet inside Lillian’s kitchen include: Claire, a young woman struggling with balancing her personal identity with that of being a wife and mother; Tom, who is recovering from a seemingly insurmountable loss; Chloe, a shy and clumsy teenager desperately in need of a confidence boost; and Carl and Helen who have been married for decades, but harbor painful secrets from one another.

Erica Bauermeister’s ability to write about the human emotional connection with food is outstanding. Reading about the luscious dishes being created in class made me crave everything from roast crab to white cake. Of late, it has become popular for many books with a culinary slant to include recipes. However, as Lillian does not use recipes and encourages her students to feel, taste, and judge the timing and texture of their cooking on their own, the reader is only granted the same level of access. I definitely found myself repeatedly hoping that I’ll be able to recreate the elegant food so sensually described in the story, while also wishing that I could be a part of this amazing and personally transformative class. Where do I sign up?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 RecipeGirl February 8, 2009 at 10:57 am

Thanks for this review. I’ve been considering picking this up!


2 Patti Anastasia February 8, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Can’t wait to read this.


3 PaniniKathy February 8, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I’m so glad you liked this one! I’ve had it on my list for after I’m done with “Garlic & Sapphires” which I’m finding impossible to put down 🙂


4 meg February 8, 2009 at 5:48 pm

I might just have to get a hold of this! Thanks!


5 Flying Cloud February 9, 2009 at 10:23 am

This will be in time for the La Grande Farmers Market this spring!


6 Karen @ Mignardise February 9, 2009 at 11:46 am

Have not heard of this before – it sounds great. I’ll definitely put it on my list. Thanks for the recommendation!


7 snooky doodle February 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm

wish to read this book looks interesting. thanks for suggesting it.


8 Hillary February 10, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Sounds like a book with a great premise. I’ll have to pick up a copy.


9 bibliochef February 10, 2009 at 11:34 pm

So, I loved your blog on this –and I reviewed the book on my blog to, based on an advance copy. I mentioned your (actually put a link to your)_ blog in my review.


10 Maria February 11, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I have this on reserve at the library! I can’t wait to get it!


11 Bren February 15, 2009 at 11:56 pm

what a great book to have!


12 Jill April 24, 2009 at 10:42 am

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Erin. I loved this one as well! My review is here:


13 Margaret Ann February 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

What did Isaac mean when he said that he and Isabelle were a chair and a ladder for each other?


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