Book Review of The School of Essential Ingredients: 2 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (January 5, 2010), Paperback: 261 pages, ISBN-10: 0425232093, ISBN-13: 978-0425232095
Food is required to live because it feeds the body, but to feed the soul, connection to another person is required and this is the true fuel. The School of Essential Ingredients provides both, and it is a slice of life story. It briefly introduces 8 cooking students and their teacher, Lillian, telling a little about each. Most of them meet for the first time at an upscale restaurant which holds a monthly cooking class.
Erica Bauermeister has written a few fiction books and has co-written a couple of reading guides. She released a sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients in January, 2013; it is called The Lost Art of Mixing. This sequel is a continuation of Lillian’s story and revolves around her restaurant and the people who frequent it. The School of Essential Ingredients primarily takes place in Lillian’s restaurant and is told in the voice of a third person narrative with each chapter from the point of view of a different character. It falls into the drama genre.
The School of Essential Ingredients is an enjoyable book, although it does not have much depth. In many ways the story was like a recipe with the subtle flavours of the characters all mixing together to create a feast. The book tries to be more than what it is and would succeed better if Ms. Bauermeister shared as much about the characters as she does about food and ingredients.
There were lots of different characters, and the reader learns just a little about each one. The stories are generally uplifting and the cooking class helped each of them in just the way they needed. Ms. Bauermeister effectively uses white spaces between the words creating a great effect. In many ways the book was laid out like a recipe book. Each section dealt with a separate person. Each person mixed with the others like the ingredients in a recipe.
The writing was great, and the story interesting, but it felt more like a mixture of short stories. I like a story that is big and full, one that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the last page. I also like a story with a bit more excitement. For me the overall story was just a little bit lacking, but I still recommend the book as a good read.
“Underneath the wand was an old photograph of her mother holding a baby Lillian, her mother’s eyes looking directly into the camera, her smile as huge and rich and gorgeous as any chocolate cake Lillian could think of making.” (Page 25)
“There were so few occasions for a zester; using it felt like a holiday.” (Page 27)