Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, totally worn out and screaming,
"WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Reviews: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

A gorgeously written first novel
about the evocative lessons
that food can teach about life.
-back cover

Lillian grew up in a home without a father and without a mother's attention. Cooking held a fascination for her from a very young age and she took over that duty at home by the time she was eight. She sensed it and experienced it in ways that others did not. It intrigued her and it sustained her in an empty home. Now she is a famous chef who owns a restaurant and has been teaching cooking classes for seven years. Every Monday night, eight very different people join her for lessons. She reveals to them that she doesn't use recipes or have a list of essential ingredients. She creates using her senses. Each student will learn what they need to know, what is important for them to know. They will be transformed in her kitchen through aromas, textures and flavors.

Each chapter reveals the background of a different student. The reader gets to know them and discover what led them to take a cooking class. Their reasons are as varied as they are. A widower is grieving his loss, a young waitress lacks confidence and a woman is experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. They all are learning from Lillian. As their lessons progress they come to understand the whole experience. They delight in the colors and textures, savor the aromas and flavors, and are transformed in their personal lives in ways they never imagined.

I wasn't sure if I would like a book about food and cooking but it only took one page for me to fall under it's spell. Erica Bauermeister creates beauty with her words. The imagery is vivid and sensual. I could feel her creations and how she connects the whole experience with other aspects of life. In the first paragraph she describes Lillian as;
a watcher from the shore of her mother's ocean.
And at the end of the first chapter she supplies this description of a simple apple;
"It feels like fall", she commented, and bit into it. The sharp, sweet sound of the crunch filled the air like a sudden burst of applause and Lillian laughed at the noise.
So simple, so beautiful. I recommend this book to everyone. Enjoy.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness and Putnam for providing an advance copy of this book.


  1. Hi Debbie, thank you so much for your kind words about my friend Barbara. It really helps to have someone as kind and caring as yourself be there and reach out as you did. But of course, that is the type of person that you are. Your friendship is so much appreciated. I can't thank you enough for being so wonderful in the last 2 weeks while I was still reeling with the fact that indeed, there was nothing the doctors could do for her and knowing she would be gone in a very short time. That short tribute did not even begin to do justice to her.

  2. Okay I just have to read this book.

    and by the way....Pop on over to my blog. You have an award!

  3. I loved this book, too. I couldn't put it down, but I hated for it to end.

  4. I started this one's absolutely lovely.

  5. I keep hearing about this book and how it will make readers salivate. Thanks for the great review.


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