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The School of Essential Ingredients (The School of Essential Ingredients #1)

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3.78  ·  Rating details ·  20,753 Ratings  ·  3,794 Reviews
Reminiscent of Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, a gorgeously written novel about life, love, and the magic of food.

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 inclu
...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 22nd 2009 by G. P. Putnam's Sons (first published 2009)
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Chocolat by Joanne HarrisLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelThe School of Essential Ingredients by Erica BauermeisterJulie and Julia by Julie PowellFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Nouvelle Cuisine
338 books — 234 voters
Chocolat by Joanne HarrisGarden Spells by Sarah Addison AllenLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelThe School of Essential Ingredients by Erica BauermeisterThe Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate
Foodie Novels
243 books — 151 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Lisa Kelsey
Oct 25, 2008 rated it did not like it
Hmmmm...I see a lot of people here liked this book. For me the writing style was almost embarrassingly florid, and simile-laden. WAY too saccherine for me.
Brenda
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The School of Essential Ingredients is a story of a cooking class, but is oh so much more! The spices, smells, textures, and flavors throughout the book are used as connection points to the students, their lives, memories, needs, and secrets. As you read this book, you get a warm, cozy feeling from it that lingers with you. You can almost smell and taste right through the book.

This is a book I probably would never have picked up, and if I had, it would have taken a long time for me to finally t
...more
Michele
Jan 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Renowned chef Lillian owns a restaurant in the Pacific Northwest and every Monday night she hosts a cooking class.

Yep, that's pretty much it. Sounds too simple, right?

This novel is, above all else, a beautifully written character study of each student in Lillian's class. Each character is given their own chapter and their diversity is bound to strike a chord in readers from all walks of life.

Bibliophiles everywhere will see themselves in Lillian's mother, a woman who used books to escape the har
...more
Jackie
***oops--I misposted this review with the wrong book earlier this week. Sorry! I'm blaming holiday craziness!



This is a glorious book. It's about food as a touchstone and a means for memory, community, nurturing, healing, loving, seduction, sustenance, pleasure, joy, beginning, endings--life. It is the story of a cooking class that learns far more than culinary skills at the hands of a chef whose wisdom is not limited to food stuffs. The language is lush and decadent, rolling off the page and int
...more
Margitte
I am not sure if this book can be called a culinary exercise in poetic philosophy. But if it can work, then that is what I feel it is. Add a touch of fairyland and a dollop of romance to it and the end result is a gentle, dreamy, adventure into vegetables and meat.

Lilian runs a restaurant and offers cooking classes on Monday evenings when her business is closed. Through her teachings she is changing the lives of the participants who all came for different reasons to attend the lessons. They all
...more
Amanda
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blog
The School of Essential Ingredients is a quick read focused on a Monday night cooking class held at a popular local restaurant, Lillian's. Lillian herself presides over these classes and, as someone who has always had an intrinsic understanding of the power of food to heal and comfort, she eagerly awaits each new class to see the transformations (some positive, some negative) that her students undergo as they respond to the food around them. The novel opens as Lillian welcomes her new students: ...more
JoAnn/QuAppelle
Feb 12, 2009 rated it liked it
While I did finish this book, mainly to read about the food, this topic has been done before and done better, I think (by Joanne Harris and Sarah Addison Allen). I did not mind the magical realism (I am a fan of Alice Hoffman's, after all!) but the writing left a lot to be desired. I found the writing repetitious and the author used FAR TOO MANY SIMILES. By the middle of the book I was mentally groaning every time I encountered yet another simile.

Another thing that annoyed me was her over-use o
...more
Carrie
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
When an ARC arrives at my house, it usually goes in the stack of ARCs waiting to be read. But recently, I have cut down on ARC requests and have been diligently making my way through them. I’m pretty sure I only have one left in the stack to read. So, when The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister arrived on Tuesday, it was serendipitous timing - I had just finished Blindspot, and hadn’t picked up another book yet.

I started it Tuesday night, staying up way too late reading. It gr
...more
Connie
A solid 3.5 enjoyable read.

This was a comfort read for me. A cast of characters from all walks of life with very different experiences and at very different stages all come together once a week for cooking class. Of course, they learn so much more....about themselves, about each other and about how to look at and experience life. It was a quick and easy read, with a feel good ending. For me, the food was as much a character of this ensemble cast as the others. I would LOVE to find a class like
...more
K8e
Dec 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This book was AMAZING!!!!! I was hungry while reading it, and hungry for more when I finished. Congrats to Erica for writing such an amazing first novel. I loved the how each chapter was a different characters point of view about their life and how they ended up in Lillian's cooking class. There were some of the best pieces of advice within the pages of this book. I think it really appeals to people who cook, or don't cook for that matter (like me) but now I want to really start learning how and ...more
K
Jul 06, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Someone far less jaded than I
Shelves: cooking, ebooks, chicklit
I have read way, way too many books like this. Several random individuals end up meeting regularly (in this case for a cooking class) and gradually bonding. Each character comes with his own set of traumas and in each chapter we meet a different one and learn his story, interspersed with the teacher's deep philosophical food musings as she demonstrates cake, turkey, or whatever (such pithy gems as, the flour is like the guy at the party who you don't realize is sexy until the end -- huh?). The t ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
This is a glorious book. It's about food as a touchstone and a means for memory,community, nurturing, healing, loving, seduction, sustenance, pleasure, joy, beginning, endings--life. It is the story of a cooking class that learns far more than culinary skills at the hands of a chef whose wisdom is not limited to food stuffs. The language is lush and decadent, rolling off the page and into your mind like a drug. I could taste, smell, see and feel everything as if I was indeed standing at the prep ...more
Rory
I've given 5-star ratings to a lot of books I've really liked. But "The School of Essential Ingredients" is on a totally different plane. This is a novel of pure love, toward food and toward life. I've never said this in any other review I've written either on here or in my movie reviews: This book will change your life, no matter if you simply read it straight through without much reaction. Scenes will creep into your memory at times you never expected. If you're not a foodie, you'll become a b ...more
Joanna
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
A cabin weekend read, recommended (sadly) by NPR. I ended up reading parts aloud to Mara and Abby while we all read by the lake this weekend, because the writing was so florid (and because a grieving husband makes a very creepy tribute to his dead wife, involving her ashes and a cake served to her mourning friends).
The author made a rookie mistakes of writing from the perspectives of all of the characters while maintaining the florid, simile-laden language with every character, so you are force
...more
Maribel
3,5/5
Erica
I picked this because it was short and I was waiting for my other audiobook to get here so I didn’t want something that was going to take forever, in case the other book arrived within the week. I had no idea what it was really about except people coming together to cook and heal. That sounded nice. And it was nice. Actually, the story, itself, is quiet and lovely, centered on food and the individual lives of people in a winter cooking class.

I liked the first several pages, the idea of a little
...more
miaaa
Dec 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fictions-others
It probably sounds a bit sad that I actually give this book to myself as a Christmas present lol but I sometimes tend to be quite melancholy around Christmas,

First, I couldn't go home as every resources are reserved for my sister's wedding next February
Second, not going home means I couldn't ask mum to cook all her special dishes for me oh especially those sour-sweet shrimps oh yummy
Three, Christmas means baking cookies for the whole family oh yeah I can bake cookies hehe but maybe this time I
...more
Indri Juwono
Jun 20, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: a-gift, drama
#2011-29#

yang didapat ketika baca buku ini = lapar.

masakannya enak-enak, kelas restoran, dan banyak resep italia favoritku, canneloni dengan saus yang menetes-netes, taart coklat berwarna putih, kepiting saus lemon.

penguasa-penguasa dapur yang bikin teringat ketika baca buku ini :

1. Burger Blenger.
Sudah pernah nyoba? Kalau menurut saya, rasanya enaakk sekali. Dagingnya yang dipanggang sampai empuk, tebal dan mantep lah (sangat jauh beda dengan mcD punya), sayurannya kyuri jepang yang segar dan t
...more
Traci
Dec 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The School of Essential Ingredients is more than a cooking school. Chef and instructor Lillian proves it's a chance to rediscover your own life. The School of Essential Ingredients allows readers a peak into the life of each student and we watch with pleasure as their worlds realign and come together.

While nothing earth-shattering really happnes here, the pacing is beautiful--it reads so quickly, but has that lovely, languid slowness that I crave on a January afternoon. This is a perfect read fo
...more
Hilda
Apr 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Hilda by: drama queen
Shelves: romance
Setiap makanan memiliki keajaiban.

Lillian mempercayainya, dan itulah alasan ia membuka kursus memasak di restorannya setiap Senin malam. Setiap muridnya memiliki alasan tersendiri berada di sana. Alasan yang berbeda-beda, dan masalah yang juga berbeda. Tapi perlahan, semuanya disembuhkan dengan sihir sederhana, tapi sering kali dilupakan. Masakan, dan cinta yang perlahan tumbuh dalam setiap suapan, adukan, dan taburan dalam kebersamaan mereka.

Isabelle, yang telah melupakan banyak hal dalam hidup
...more
Jen
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Brilliant! So heartfelt and tender. This book is poetry. A work of art. The writing is fabulous, the story is told beautifully, and the author conveys such an artistic love and appreciation of food, it’s like magic. I don’t know how to describe it in words. This is a must-read for any foodie, chef, anyone who cooks, anyone who eats. Simply delicious. I would love if there were a companion book or website with recipes for the meals in the story, but then again, Lillian (the chef and cooking class ...more
Ash


I picked this book just because I wanted to read something different. I was bored of reading similar kinds of books. This was a genre that I had not explored so I thought why not. I ordered Chocolat and this book, both based on cooking and food just to see if I will like the genre. Both books were good but not mind blowing. They were not so good that I would want to read more books in this genre.

The writing and the language is beautiful.
Some quotes were good like -

"He knew that not all sticks i
...more
Maria
Oct 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Тази книга я четоха две от многото ми „Аз” – романтичната и циничнатами страна. Но защо циничната – по-скоро тривиалната и ежедневната. Романтичната ми част се опита да се наслаждава и даже успя - през повечето време. А циничната ми седя от страни и беше заета да брои клишетата и да шепне „каква досада...”.
А книгата е пълна с клишета, просто гъмжи от тях. Даже няма нищо друго освен клишета. Тук са всичките представи на американците за романтика, познати ни от подобна литература – противопоставян
...more
Sara
Dec 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I just finished reading this book, which I must say I might never have picked up, except for the fact that I won it in a Goodreads Free Book contest. I'm so glad I did, because the book is very, very good. Essentially, it's the story of Lillian and the restaurant she owns where she holds cooking classes. However, that doesn't begin to tell the story. Lillian has a magical talent, which is that she can select food for individuals that helps them remember critical events in their lives in a positi ...more
Sharmeela
May 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone looking for a breezy read without much substance
Recommended to Sharmeela by: Zuriel
Everything about this book was just okay to me. I found it to be very boring, predictable, all loose ends neatly tied by the finish. The descriptions of the food sounded delectable, but other than that all the story lines were pretty bland. Each student in Lilian's cooking class was conveniently broken in some two-dimensional way and under the spell of food and Lilian (doing her best fairy-godmother imitation) waving her magic wand, everything was miraculously right in the world again.
Not only w
...more
Lynn
Simply put--one of my absolute favorite reads OF ALL TIME--FOR EVER!! Just completed a third reading of this novel in preparation for a second reading of the sequel The Lost Art of Mixing; all for the book club I facilitate. we will speak with Ms. Bauermeister this Saturday as part of our discussion! cannot wait! I never cease to be amazed by this book--the author's deft usage of such visual sensual language with regard to food. Being a "foodie" myself, I am especially appreciative of her writin ...more
Rebecca McKinnon
Dec 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
One of the best parts of this book turned out to be the thing I was a little wary of before starting it: every chapter is from a different character's viewpoint. I'm a people-watcher. I love to guess where people are going and why. This book takes that idea and actually gives you the answers. We get a glimpse into all these people's lives.

I was surprised how much I liked the story. It's a very quick read--I just got the copy yesterday afternoon and I'm already done. The descriptions, especially
...more
Susan
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you appreciate the concept of the Slow Food Movement and cooking without recipes you'll love this book. Definitely one of my all time favorites. A great weave of food and characters. I loved putting the book down and climbing out of bed to zest some orange peel in a cup of fresh hot chocolate.
Nicole (TheBookWormDrinketh)
Lillian loved to watch her students at this moment – they were elements that would become more complex and intriguing as they mixed with one another, but at the beginning, placed in relief by their unfamiliar surroundings, their essence was clear. A young man reaching out to touch the shoulder of the still younger woman next to him – “What’s your name?” – as her hand dropped to the stainless-steel counter and traced its smooth surface. Another woman standing alone, her mind still lingering with- ...more
Heather
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Lillian has discovered that the art of preparing fine foods can heal many of the soul's wounds. Personal experience tells her so. As students filter into the cooking school that she holds in her restaurant every Monday night, she begins to teach them the secrets of culinary excellence, tailoring the meals to each particular person's unspoken need. As raw ingredients are transformed into luscious feasts, each person in the class is also changed. From the frazzled housewife to the couple with a st ...more
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605 followers
Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of the novel The School of Essential Ingredients and the upcoming novel Joy For Beginners (June 9, 2011). The School of Essential Ingredients is currently being published in 22 countries and Joy For Beginners was recently selected to be performed as part of the New Short Fiction Series in Los Angeles (June 12, 2011). Erica Bauermeister received a B.A. f ...more
More about Erica Bauermeister

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“Each person's heart breaks in it's own way. Every cure will be different, but there are some things we all need. Before anything else, we need to feel safe.” 61 likes
“Life is beautiful. Some people just remind you of that more than others.” 37 likes
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