Monday, January 19, 2009

The School of Essential Ingredients


It wasn't until I received The School of Essential Ingredients that I realized I'd known of its author, Erica Bauermeister for some time. Bauermeister is the co-author of a book I return to again and again - 500 Great Books by Women. I happen to love books that are lists of other books, and I believe this is the one that introduced me to the genre. The thing that makes 500 Great Books so Great, is that each title is represented by a paragraph about it, to help you decide which books you might like. There is another version for girls which is also a lot of fun.

Anyway, I was excited to read The School of Essential Ingredients not only because it sounded interesting but because I knew how much its author loved books. This novel is the story of a cooking school, a cooking class really, and it is about food, and life, and love. We first meet Lillian, the cooking instructor and restaurant owner. She had a difficult childhood and found herself in cooking. Her cooking philosophy and restaurant reminded me of what I know of Alice Waters. Each chapter details one class, one meal prepared and one member of the class. We get to know each of them - the young mother getting out of her house, the mature stable married couple, the young Italian beauty, and several more. What struck me about this book was being reminded that everyone has a story, everywhere you go, that everyone is not just who they appear on the outside, but are complicated and experienced in the joys and sadness of life. Bauermeister writes brilliantly about food, it's textures, smells, and taste. My copy is an unfinished proof or else I would share a passage with you. I still think longingly of the pasta and sauce from one of the chapters and the cake from another. This is a quiet novel, ostensibly about cooking, but really about people. It's very well done, and I recommend it.

17 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I just finished this book and loved it, too.

Anna said...

I've heard great things about this one. I'm dying to read it.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

avisannschild said...

Ditto what Anna said! I'm also curious about 500 Great Books by Women!

Fyrefly said...

I recently reviewed this book as well, and I loved it too!

Ti said...

I love the whole idea of this book. It's on my list.

Bookfool said...

I've already plunked this one on the wish list!

softdrink said...

It seems like everywhere I go I see great things about this book. I'll have to add it to the list.

Carrie said...

I adored this, too.

Literary Feline said...

This book does sound good, even to a non-foody person like me. :-) Thanks for the great review.

Carrie K said...

It sounds good. Somehow it also sounds like a book you'd love.

Lenore said...

Both School and 500 Books by Women look great. I've been trying to read more books by women...last year I succeeded but that's just because I read a lot more YA than usual.

Staci said...

I've read quite a few favorable reviews of this book and I liked yours also. I've got this marked to read for sure this year!!

Ali said...

I'm almost finished with this and loving it too. Nice that you remembered the author's other work so fondly. She definitely has a way with words.

Tara said...

bermudaonion, that seems to be the consensus.

Anna, I hope you like it!

avisannschild, check it out! I always see copies at used books stores.

Fyrefly, glad to hear it!

Ti, I bet you'll enjoy it.

Bookfool, Yeah!

Softdrink, cool! I'm glad the word is getting out.

Carrie, I haven't heard of anyone not liking it!

Literary Feline, thanks!

Carrie K, it does doesn't it?

Lenore, I am always heavy on the female authors - I struggle to read more males!

Staci, thanks! I hope you like it.

Ali, thanks, I think she does too, have a way with words, it all seems very deliberate.

avisannschild said...

I will have to keep an eye out for it! Thanks, Tara, for introducing me to yet another great-sounding book!

J.Danger said...

Wow, this really got me. I always try to tell myself not to judge- you never know what people go home to. What they are really like when all appearances are lost. This sounds excellent!

Tara said...

avisannschild, you are welcome!

J.Danger, I know what you mean, completely. I'm glad you think this book sounds good! I haven't read any negative things about it yet!