Book Review – “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister

schoolofessentialingredients  Title:  The School of Essential Ingredients

Author:  Erica Bauermeister

Publisher:  G. P. Putnam’s Sons

ISBN:  9780399155437


Synopsis (from

A “heartbreakingly delicious” national bestseller about a chef, her students, and the evocative lessons that food teaches about life

Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian’s restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect…

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian’s soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.


My thoughts:  I simply can’t say enough about this author and her books.  After reading this author’s “Joy for Beginner’s” a couple of weeks ago I was eager to jump into “The School of Essential Ingredients”.   So what did I do today, but sit down with this wonderful book, a nice warm blanket, and a cup of warm coffee, and finished it in only a couple of hours.

This book is set in a very similar fashion as her “Joy for Beginner’s” in that each chapter represents the story of a different character and ultimately how the character’s lives intersect.  So as this book progresses we get a closer look at each individual who attends these monthly cooking classes at Lillian’s restaurant.

What is fabulous about this book is that it is about way more than simply people coming to a cooking class and getting to know each other.  The deeper themes of the book explore the role food and cooking has played in each character’s past and more importantly into who they are becoming in their futures – food and cooking as a way to reconnect with oneself, food as a way to connect with memories in a woman experiencing confusion in her old age, food as a way to build positive relationships after loss, food as a way to reconnect after dishonesty in a marriage.  Food as a metaphor for life . . . LOVE!

I firmly believe you have to experience this author’s writing style to truly appreciate it, my description simply can’t do it justice.  I find this author’s style of writing just beautifully descriptive, almost lyrical.  Her descriptions of the character’s experiences and in this book, the food, is simply gorgeous and brings the book to life.  When I am reading this author’s works, I feel like I am in the experience, I am in Lillian’s kitchen, smelling and tasting that wonderful food . . . and more importantly the beautiful connections that the food made happen.   Perhaps it is because I enjoy this author’s writing style so much, but I wanted this book to continue.  I felt that I wasn’t finished with these characters, I wanted to know more, and I wanted to delve even deeper into who they were and how they came together.  Give us more!

You know you are enjoying a book and particularly the writing style when you find yourself frequently reaching for something to jot down that beautiful sentence or quote as you want to remember it and refer to it often.  Kudos to Erica Bauermeister for bringing us a simple, heart-warming, lovely book!

We all know I am eagerly awaiting getting my hands on the sequel to this book . . . “The Lost Art of Mixing”.   I can’t wait to return to the love of Lillian’s kitchen.

I highly recommend this book and all of this author’s works!

And remember,

Books Are Life,





Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction

3 responses to “Book Review – “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister

  1. I read this book a couple of years ago and loved it. I was trying to recommend it to someone not long ago but couldn’t remember the name. Thanks for the reminder. I had no idea there was a sequel, thanks for sharing!

  2. I have never read anything by this author, but this book sounds like one I’d enjoy! I’ve often thought about joining a cooking club.
    Thanks for linking to the Foodies Read Challenge!

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