Review: The School of Essential Ingredients
Lillian’s father left her family when she was four years old and her mother turned to books for solace. I can certainly understand why, but her daughter was left feeling neglected. Lillian turned to preparing special foods to try to get her mother’s attention. Thus starting a lifelong love of food and cooking.
As an adult, Lillian opened a restaurant. Once a month, on Mondays when the restaurant is closed, Lillian conducts a series of cooking classes. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister follows one group of students through this class. Each chapter of this book tells the story of one week’s class and focuses on one student, filling in background detail. The class is made up of a variety of characters - a young mother who has trouble leaving her children, an older married couple, an Italian immigrant, a grieving widower, a young woman struggling to find her place in the world, a woman in the beginning stage of Alzheimer’s, a lonely young man, and of course, Lillian who teaches them about so much more than food.
This delightfully charming book is wonderful! I absolutely loved it. The characters are great and the writing is magical. I loved passages like this:
While the egg yolks cooled, he directed the beaters at the egg whites, setting the mixer on a high speed that sent small bubbles giggling to the side of the bowl, where a few became many until they were a white froth rising up and then laying down again in patterns and ridges, leaving an intricate design like the ribs of a leaf in the wake of the beaters.
Erica Bauermesiter has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington where she has taught writing and literature. She has co-authored 2 non-fiction books. This is her first novel. I hope it won’t be her last.
Review copy provided by Penguin Books.