Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Title: The School of Essential Ingredients
Author: Erica Bauermeister
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Subject: Cooking, Life
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Release date: January, 2009
Length: 256 pages
I got this book: borrowed it from the library

From Goodreads:
"The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives. One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian’s food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen."

Personal opinion:
I loved the concept of this book. Each chapter was spend with another character. We got to know a problem they encountered and how the cooking lessons effected their life. Sometimes I thought I was reading a collection of short stories instead of one story, even though all the stories were connected. It started with Lillian's story and I found that very interesting. However the first three characters after her didn't really spike my interest and I almost gave up on the book because it didn't draw me in enough. But it seems that the author saved the most interesting stories for last. I was particularly touched by the stories of Tom and Chloe. In the end I am glad I finished the book, but leaving the best for last can be a dangerous technique if the rest isn't all that interesting. I would say, read it if you ever come across it, but don't go out of your way to get it.

It was okay.

Purchase links: Amazon
Challenges: Foodies Reading Challenge
Other reviews: None yet.
If you have reviewed this book and want your link here, please leave a comment with the link, and I will add it :)

This post is part of Weekend Cooking. Make sure to check out which foodies books other people have read :)


  1. This book has been on my radar for while. I just couldn't make up my mind if it would hold my interest. After reading your review, I think I will borrow it from the library instead of buying it. I'm glad it turned around for you later in the book but you are right - that is a risky move on the author's part!

  2. I haven't read this one yet either. I appreciate knowing that I should stick with it if I get stalled by some of the earlier stories.

  3. Thanks for your honest reactions. Think I'll try a sample on my Kindle and then maybe borrow it from the library.

  4. This has been on my wishlist for a while because I love the concept. It's a shame the execution wasn't that great for you.

  5. I haven't heard of this one yet. It sounds maybe a little like Maeve Binchy's books. I do like the concept. Thanks for putting it on my radar.

  6. I have this book on my shelf, still unread. Last year I read her second book Joy For Beginners, and liked it a lot. I'm sorry this one didn't grab you.

  7. The audio version of this book was very done - can't go wrong with Cassandra Campbell narrating. It really enhanced my overall enjoyment.

  8. Sounds like a good book. I may put it on my to buy list following my enjoyment of The Kitchen Daughter.

  9. Sorry this one wasn't so great, it does sound promising. Not sure if I'd ever get to the best parts if it didn't grab me until the end.

  10. I have never read a 'foodie' type book. this does sound good though!

  11. I wasn't a huge fan of this one either. Or Joy for Beginners for that matter. Bauermeister's descriptions are much too indulgent for my liking.