The School of Essential Ingredients captures the moments of connection between food and life in the lives of the eight students that take part in an 8 month cooking class. The class is taught by Lillian, the owner of the restaurant where the class is held. The lessons that they learn release sensations and feelings that allow the students to connect to their inner selves. They learn about love and life and how food connects to the various meanings of love. Each chapter focuses on a student and their life and process of learning through the cooking classes.
This is a book that touches the depth of your heart and soul, if you let it. Just as the students in Lillian's cooking class must learn and grow and allow the lessons to seep through, so do we as readers. It is easy to open your heart and mind while reading this story that sparks the senses so easily that you can envision in your mind the smell of lavender, the taste of dark chocolate melting on your tongue or the feel of the knife slicing an heirloom tomato.
Erica Bauermeister has a gift of writing beautiful prose that is lyrical and sensual. She is able to use words in a manner to describe the simple beauty of food, life and relationships. She captures the essence of life and connects it so perfectly to food. Through the story, Lillian leads the students to connect to what is essential and to the importance of showing your love for others through choosing and preparing the food you serve them. It has made me want to connect more to the food that nourishes us and apply some of the lessons that Lillian has taught through her cooking classes.
Reading The School of Essential Ingredients is like finding the perfect recipe to escape the mundane day to day fast food pace of life and cooking that many of us subscribe to. It will allow you to vicariously savor the varied ingredients in the dishes that the class create and it may even inspire you to create some of your own.
The School of Essential Ingredients is definitely going to be on the list of my most favorite books that I've read this year. It is the kind of book that I can imagine reading over again. I didn't want the book to end. I loved reading every morsel. I enjoy cooking, but this book took cooking to a different level and has challenged me to expand my own skills. I want to find a cooking class like Lillians. This is the first novel written by Erica Bauermeister and I look forward to her next work. I can envision a sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients and certainly hope that the author is considering this.
For more information, check out the the author Erica Bauermeister's Website. There is an Excerpt, Discussion guide, Author Q& A and more.
Thank you to Matthew from Penguin Books.