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Review: The School of Essential Ingredients

January 30, 2009

school-of-essential-ingredientsLillian’s father left her family when she was four years old and her mother turned to books for solace.  I can certainly understand why, but her daughter was left feeling neglected.  Lillian turned to preparing special foods to try to get her mother’s attention.  Thus starting a lifelong love of food and cooking.

As an adult, Lillian opened a restaurant.  Once a month, on Mondays when the restaurant is closed, Lillian conducts  a series of cooking classes.  The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister follows one group of students through this class.  Each chapter of this book tells the story of one week’s class and focuses on one student, filling in background detail.  The class is made up of a variety of characters –  a young mother who has trouble leaving her children, an older married couple, an Italian immigrant, a grieving widower, a young woman struggling to find her place in the world, a woman in the beginning stage of Alzheimer’s, a lonely young man, and of course, Lillian who teaches them about so much more than food.

This delightfully charming book is wonderful!  I absolutely loved it.  The characters are great and the writing is magical.  I loved passages like this:

While the egg yolks cooled, he directed the beaters at the egg whites, setting the mixer on a high speed that sent small bubbles giggling to the side of the bowl, where a few became many until they were a white froth rising up and then laying down again in patterns and ridges, leaving an intricate design like the ribs of a leaf in the wake of the beaters.

Erica Bauermesiter has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington where she has taught writing and literature.  She has co-authored 2 non-fiction books.  This is her first novel.  I hope it won’t be her last.

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.

34 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2009 7:18 am

    It sounds like she gives the reader opportunity to really know (and understand the personal stories of) the main characters in each chapter, not just Lillian. Well done.

  2. January 30, 2009 7:29 am

    Happy to see you back and tweeting again. Missed ya!

  3. January 30, 2009 8:09 am

    As you know, I already wanted to read this. Great review — I’m excited about the book all over again!

  4. January 30, 2009 8:28 am

    I can’t wait to start this one. Every passage I’ve read in the blog reviews I’ve loved. The characters sound intriguing, too. Great review!

  5. January 30, 2009 8:37 am

    This is on my wishlist.

  6. January 30, 2009 8:58 am

    I am starting this one today. I am so, so excited…so glad to hear that you liked it!

  7. January 30, 2009 9:11 am

    I received this book last week and I definitely want to read it sometime soon.. Your review is making me bump it up on my TBR pile..:)

  8. January 30, 2009 9:30 am

    Sounds like a perfect book to go with my yummy recipes feature!

  9. January 30, 2009 10:15 am

    I have seen SO many glowing reviews for this book! I definitely want to read it. Thanks for the review!

  10. January 30, 2009 10:32 am

    Great review – I’ve Stumbled it! I really want to read this one.

  11. stacybuckeye permalink
    January 30, 2009 10:51 am

    This sounds really good.

  12. January 30, 2009 10:56 am

    Can’t wait to read this one!

  13. January 30, 2009 12:02 pm

    What a neat premise for a book. Sounds great!

  14. January 30, 2009 12:33 pm

    Wasn’t this a delicious book (pardon the pun)? I thought it was wonderful!

  15. January 30, 2009 12:36 pm

    I heard so many good things about this book. Thanks for the review!

  16. January 30, 2009 12:36 pm

    Great Review Kathy, The book sounds really good. Another one to add to the TB list. Welcome back.

  17. January 30, 2009 12:41 pm

    This book was so fantastic. I read half of it before I went to sleep one night and the other half at lunch the next day. If I’d had more time/hadn’t been so tired I could have easily read it in one sitting.

  18. January 30, 2009 1:24 pm

    Good review Kathy. This was such a delightful book. I just loved it.

  19. January 30, 2009 1:39 pm

    I’m so glad that you liked this one. I’ve read such great reviews of this book. I love foodie type books and this one sounds like it fits the bill! I just received a copy in the mail and can’t wait to read it.

  20. January 30, 2009 1:52 pm

    This really does sound charming. I’ve read nothing but great reviews and they’re all really making me want to read it.

  21. January 30, 2009 2:01 pm

    I have this one on my list, and now I really want to get it!

  22. January 30, 2009 2:35 pm

    Ooo that sounds good! I’ll have to add it to the get-your-hands-on list.

  23. January 30, 2009 3:08 pm

    No wonder I couldn’t find your review when I was looking for it yesterday! 🙂

  24. January 30, 2009 5:02 pm

    Wasn’t this great?

  25. January 30, 2009 9:41 pm

    Sounds wonderful!

  26. January 31, 2009 9:50 am

    I saw a little blurb about this book and thought it looked interesting. I always love your reviews and trust them. If you like it, I usually do too.

  27. January 31, 2009 12:17 pm

    This book caught my eye after reading a review at A Reader’s Respite. I’m glad you liked it Kathy. I can see where it would especially appeal to us foodies!

  28. January 31, 2009 1:42 pm

    I’m definitely looking forward to this one, 🙂 So glad you liked it!

  29. January 31, 2009 3:18 pm

    “..bubbles giggling to the side of the bowl..”
    What’s not to love? Sounds so wonderfully lyrical. Another one for the list! Great review.

  30. February 2, 2009 11:35 pm

    I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this one! It sounds great.

  31. February 4, 2009 3:18 am

    Kathy – I always love your reviews!

    You’ve been Stumbled!

    🙂 Wendi

  32. February 5, 2009 10:26 pm

    This sounds like a really great story!

  33. February 13, 2009 11:27 am

    I’m so glad to read that you liked this one. I have my own copy around here..somewhere…You are much faster at getting to review books than I am. 🙂

  34. February 19, 2009 10:11 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read this one – looks really fun!

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