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The School of Essential Ingredients Paperback – January 5, 2010


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The School of Essential Ingredients + The Lost Art of Mixing + Joy For Beginners
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425232093
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425232095
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (377 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this remarkable debut, Bauermeister creates a captivating world where the pleasures and particulars of sophisticated food come to mean much more than simple epicurean indulgence. Respected chef and restaurateur Lillian has spent much of her 30-something years in the kitchen, looking for meaning and satisfaction in evocative, delicious combinations of ingredients. Endeavoring to instill that love and know-how in others, Lillian holds a season of Monday evening cooking classes in her restaurant. The novel takes up the story of each of her students, navigating readers through the personal dramas, memories and musings stirred up as the characters handle, slice, chop, blend, smell and taste. Each student's affecting story—painful transitions, difficult choices—is rendered in vivid prose and woven together with confidence. Delivering memorable story lines and characters while seducing the senses, Bauermeister's tale of food and hope is certain to satisfy. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review




More About the Author

Erica Bauermeister is the bestselling author of the three novels. The School of Essential Ingredients (Putnam, 2009) follows the lives of eight students and their teacher in a cooking class held in a restaurant kitchen. Joy for Beginners (Putnam, June 2011) explores what happens to seven women who challenge one another to do one thing in the next year that is new or difficult or scary. The twist? - they don't get to choose their own challenges. The Lost Art of Mixing picks up four of the characters from the beloved School of Essential Ingredients, one year later, and brings four new ones into the mix, becoming a series of interconnected stories about food and ritual and family, in all the ways we find it. Erica Bauermeister is also the co-author of two nonfiction books: 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader's Guide and Let's Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She lives in Seattle and loves to talk with book groups. For more personal insights, you can visit her at www.ericabauermeister.com or at www.facebook.com/EricaBauermeisterAuthor.

"Erica Bauermeister writes prose delicious enough to devour." Tiffany Baker, NYT bestselling author




Customer Reviews

I found the characters very well developed.
M. Frisbie
The descriptions of the food are fabulous, makes me want to take a cooking class and cook wonderful food.
Librarydragon
This was such a good book, I didn't want it to end.
Pati Medina

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

135 of 138 people found the following review helpful By emmejay VINE VOICE on January 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lillian's father deserts his wife and young daughter literally, and then her mother deserts her figuratively -- disappearing deeply into the solace of books as a coping mechanism. As Lillian takes on the management of the household, she discovers an intuition for cooking and uses food alchemy to try to reach her mother. Later, when grown, Lillian applies this intuition to operating a first-class restaurant and conducting an annual series of cooking classes called the School of Essential Ingredients.

Through themes associated with a particular food or meal, each chapter explores one class and the life of one of the students: a mother lost in the needs of young children; a long-married couple; a kitchen designer; a young widower; a misfit teenager; a software engineer; and a woman moving into the middle stages of dementia.

The writing is sensual and lush, the stories tender and hopeful, with a magical realism evocative of Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate. Since I finished the book, I've wanted nothing more than to read the stories of the next year's class. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
When she was a little girl, Lillian discovered the power of food to bring people back to themselves. After Lillian's father left the family, Lillian's mother retreated into a fictional world, her face always hidden behind the pages of a book. Only when Lillian, desperate to reconnect with her mother, enlisted the help of an "Abuelita" from the neighborhood grocery store, did she discover that a perfectly prepared dish, a few "essential ingredients," had the ability to bring her mother back to reality --- and to her daughter.

This ability of food, and cooking, to connect people with themselves, their past and each other is the common theme of Erica Bauermeister's THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS. The novel gets its title from the cooking school that Lillian, now an adult, runs on evenings when her popular, high-end restaurant is closed. On the first Monday of each month, Lillian's restaurant kitchen is filled with a colorful assortment of amateur cooks, some eager to deepen their own culinary connections, some unsure what brought them to this place.

There's Claire, who's been so smothered by the constant physical and emotional demands of being a young wife and mother that she's forgotten what it means to make time and space for her own interests. There's Carl and Helen, an older couple whose seemingly perfect marriage hides a history of betrayal, redemption and hard work. There's Tom, whose passion for food was ignited by the love of his life. And there's Isabelle, whose short-term memory is failing her in her old age, but whose rich, long life rushes back to the present when she indulges in the nourishing, delicious food Lillian's restaurant prepares.
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110 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Sparkle on September 4, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I saw the great reviews and the book summary and was really expecting to LOVE this book. It was even my recommendation for our ladies book club. We only select female authors, agree with Ms. Bauermeister's perspective on promoting them and love cooking classes and food. At the discussion session for the book though, the other ladies walked away with feelings similar to mine. What I did like is that it was a book about everyday life, relationships, emotions and of course... food!

I found it very difficult to engage and enjoy the characters, ambience and storyline the author was weaving due to what I though was an overwhelming number of metaphors and similes used throughout each page of the book. So many, that I eventually found myself counting them and many times, there were several per page... one page after the next. It just seemed very forced.

Writing a book is such a difficult, personal accomplishment and I mean no disrepect to the author. As she continues to write, I hope the trusts her own beautiful words and descriptions to take the reader on her journeys rather than relying on the comparisons that kept taking me off course in this novel.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By LWB on January 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In "The School of Essential Ingredients" Erica Bauermeister mixes the deep personal stories of Lillian & her students, simple but sophisticated foods, and Monday night lessons that go beyond the kitchen to create a rich, flavorful book that will make you crave your favorite restaurant or favorite food. Put something delicious in the oven, pour yourself a glass of wine and take in this wonderful first novel. You will feel satisfied, yet hungry for a 2nd novel. Enjoy!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By M. Jacobsen TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
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 harsh realities of life.

Mothers will be drawn to Claire, a young woman who gave up her identity to be a wife and mother.

Young adults seeking to find direction in this world will be drawn to Chloe, who is still trying to create an identity.

And there are more; each character more compelling than the last. Each character finds that the simple act of creating meals illuminates many of life's problems and can sometimes even provide solutions.

The story itself is not near as important as how it is told. There is a difference between writing and prose, and prose doesn't have to be difficult to read or enjoy. Bauermeister masterfully proves this again and again throughout the novel.

You find yourself revisiting passages not to understand some convoluted prose, but to savor and enjoy it.

A brilliant first novel and if you've never read a food-related novel, this is where to start. You will want to eat this book.
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