Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review: The School of Essential Ingredients

My favorite Borders in New York City is closing (in fact, it may even be closed by now). Upon receiving the saddest email from Borders HQ and the consistent updates about book prices dropping in their liquidation, I had to swing by for one last look.

In slowly perusing the stacks, my eye was drawn to one of the most beautiful book covers I'd laid eyes on in a while. It was one of those awkward moments where I sort of gently grazed the cover with my fingers, trying to actually feel the beauty. The woman next to me gave a cough and a side eye, which I mimicked, and side eyed her until she walked away. Then I picked it up and read:

Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian’s restaurant kitchen for a cooking class. They come to learn the art behind Lillian’s dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each one unknowingly seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. One by one, they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create. Over time, the paths of the students intermingle 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. [via]

Sounded interesting enough. So I signed onto my Goodreads iPhone app and read a few reviews, all of which were glowing and added the book to my embarrassingly large stack (good thing I've been hitting the gym).

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister is a case in which judging a book by it's cover worked in my favor. This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. I found myself swooning and crying at the touching moments she outlines in stunning prose.

The novel is completely dogeared to mark my favorite passages, and entirely beaten up (just how I like my books) because I refused to put it down wherever I went. Each chapter divulged the personal story of a student in the cooking class, and each story left me with watery eyes and the same face of awe and love.

I implore you to purchase this book and read it. I'd offer you my copy to borrow, but I'm too attached to lend it to anyone (sorry, boo).

I leave you with one of my many favorite bits. I'd rather not set the scene for you, as this storyline is so touching it makes me cry to even think about it. But the romance, and the beauty of language is something I just have to share:
"The first time he had kissed her - it had taken six weeks - was over hamburgers, two inches thick, juices running. He had leaned over and licked the grease off her arm without thinking. As he brought his face up to hers, he wondered how it was that the distance between arm and mouth could take such a sweet infinity to travel." [via, page 120]

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister


  1. Mai,
    I picked this book up at your recommendation. I absolutely LOVED it. Loved to the point that I was legit mad when I arrived at the last word. Many times it brought me close to tears--ugh, so so good.

  2. Kelly, so happy to hear this - made my day!


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