January 19, 2013
The School of Essential Ingredients
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
2009 Penguin Audio
Reader: Cassandra Campbell
Rating: 4.75/5 (Terrific!)
Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect.
The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. One by one they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love, and a garlic and red sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Over time, the paths of the students mingle and intertwine, and the essence of Lillian's cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected, and always delicious.
It's been over three years since I first discovered this lovely book. After receiving an ARC of Bauermeister's follow-up novel (The Lost Art of Mixing), I knew it was time to re-read The School of Essential Ingredients. I thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting Lillian's restaurant and Cassandra Campbell's excellent narration didn't disappoint.
You can read my original review here and purchase The Lost Art of Mixing at your local bookstore on January 24th!