Tara's Reviews > The School of Essential Ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
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Jul 02, 2010

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Read from August 23 to 25, 2010

Bauermeister's food descriptions will leave your mouth watering! She deeply and thoroughly understands the passion gourmands have for food--the emotions it evokes, the memories it uncovers. However, the book left me hungry for more. The chapters are separated into tales about each character in Lillian's cooking class, including Lillian herself, but they did not feel complete and fully-realized. The book functions like an anthology of short stories, linked by the cooking class, and while each character had an emotional change in the book, their stories felt too short, too lacking. The chapters were like ingredients themselves, ready to be cooked and melded together. But another 100 pages could have been added to enrich the sauce. Regarding Lillian, for instance, we never learn if her experiments cooking for her mother yield positive results, to bring them closer together. And while she is very wise as an adult, encouraging her students to explore their relationships and create new ones, it's not clear from where she gets such wisdom, and it's especially puzzling that she knows so much about relationships since she herself is single (no former romantic interests are mentioned) and her one lifelong friend is Abuelita. Was it Abuelita who taught her so well? We can only guess. (My guess is yes, but I would have liked to see the transition from her mother to Abuelita's guidance. It's only hinted at by a sentence or two.) It's a 3.5 for me because the language is so luscious! I could be persuaded into a 4. I bookmarked several wonderfully wise sayings that Lillian imparts to her students.

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Reading Progress

08/23/2010 page 70
27.0% "Thus far it's like a series of short stories, each chapter focusing on a different student (and the teacher) in a cooking class. The class is the link between the individual tales, but I'm waiting to see if there's some other link that will blow my mind... Since I'm a foodie, I love the descriptive cooking language--I can almost smell and taste what's happening."
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