Monday, March 14, 2016

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister ~ Book Review

Lillian was a young girl of 8 when she took over the cooking in their home.  After her father left them, her mother also disappeared.  Not in the physical sense, but she checked herself out emotionally and lost herself in books.  Lillian first started cooking to have something to eat but then as her skills improved and she was mentored by a couple of loving ladies she started to see the power of food to heal.  She determined to "cook her mother out" and set herself on a course to perfect her cooking until she saw that happen.  Now an adult, Lillian owns a very popular restaurant and still has a special relationship with food and it's emotional power to heal.  And she passes that on with a once a month cooking class.  Here her students come to learn not only her recipes, but her art of cooking and they leave with not only skills transformed but sometimes also lives transformed.

The first thing that drew me to this book was the cover.  Is that not an absolutely lovely cover?  And I found the story just as lovely.  The descriptions of food are almost poetic and the author's prose is wonderful.  I found myself savouring some of the descriptions and sentences and how food and cooking were related to life.  I reread many of the sentences and paragraphs because they were so nice.  The main character was a likeable woman who had great insight not only into food but also into her students as well and used her creativity to help them define what they were seeking beyond learning to cook.  The book's chapters are devoted to the different students and their personal stories and how they found themselves at the cooking school.  They were each interesting and real and heartbreaking.  Each had something that needed mending deep within their hearts and souls.

The one criticism I had of this book had to do with one of the stories and the baking of an apple cake.  I found it very distasteful and totally gross and not at all endearing or sweet.  In fact, I had to reread it a couple of times to make sure that is actually what it was saying.  It was one sentence but just took over the whole emotion of what I should have been feeling at that part of the story and focused me on the thing with the cake.  Some may not agree with me, but that is what I felt and thought.

I do want to do a reread of this book.  It's not a long or a hard read, but because I'm so busy right now, I feel like my head wasn't always totally there, but on my never ending to-do list of all things wedding.  And it is a book I'd like to read again if only for the lovely writing.

I gave this a 10/10 in spite of the one criticism I had.  I thought long and hard whether one idea and one sentence that I hated should cause me to rate it at a lesser score.  I finally decided that I had enjoyed the writing too much to have one sentence take away from the overall scoring of the book.

Linked up with Semicolon: Saturday Review of Books


Barbara H. said...

When I first started reading your review, I thought this was a true story. Sounds like an intriguing read!

Faith said...

I thought it was going to be non fiction too like Barbara said!

Not sure it's something I would read but it sounds pretty interesting. Weird about the cake??

Susanne said...

Nope ladies, it is fiction.

Karen said...

I'm so often drawn to a book by the cover art. If done well, it can really set the tone for the story.

hopeinbrazil said...

Your review really intrigues me. I'll have to check this title out.