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Reading “The School of Essential Ingredients”

I received this book as a gift from a dear friend recently and it was such a pleasure to read.

Lillian, who owns and operates Lillian’s restaurant, holds a cooking class on Monday nights. She had an unusual childhood. Her father left them when she was only 4 and her mother’s method of coping was to read. Non-stop, constant reading, one book after another. Although she was there physically, reading aloud, spiritually and mentally she left Lillian as well. Lillian learned to take care of the household or nothing would get done. This included cooking, which became her passion.

Lillian has an uncanny sense for understanding people, for making sure that the people who can support and relate to each other come together. Her latest cooking class at “The School of Essential Ingredients” has a number of students who don’t even realize they’re looking for more than just cooking lessons. A young mother who doesn’t know who she is without her children and husband; a couple who have been married for many years and withstood a potential relationship shattering episode; a widower whose wife had been a chef; and more.

In this first novel by Erica Bauermeister, the writing is so lyrical, the food sounds so amazing and the characters feel like people you know. Here are a few wonderful excerpts:

  • Helen would groan good-naturedly and roll over, telling Carl all she wanted for Christmas was a good night’s sleep, and he would pull the children close and whisper the story of the Night Before Christmas until they would slowly, one by one, fall asleep, their bodies draped across each other like laundry in the basket.
  • The frosting was a thick butter-cream, rich as a satin dress laid against the firm, fragile texture of the cake. With each bite, the cake melted first, then the frosting, one after another, like lovers tumbling into bed.
  • The first time he had kissed her–it had taken six weeks–was over hamburgers, two inches thick, juices running. He had leaned over and licked the grease off her arm without thinking.
  • The chicken was soft, delicate, the broccoli crisp and distinctly alive, ginger seasoning the mix like the provocative flip of a short skirt.

This was a sweet, delightful read (258 pages) and a wonderful lesson in how food affects our senses and triggers memories.



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