Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

This is our book club selection for the month.  It was a tasty little treat of a book, much needed after reading some heavier things lately.  Some books I refer to as "palate cleansers."  Basically, lighthearted, fun books to clear the head (often these are romance novels...shhhh).  This book would fit into that category and I wouldn't even be ashamed to carry it into the doctor's office!

Lillian has a gift and, as often happens, she discovers this gift under tragic circumstances.  When Lillian is seven, her father abandons them and her mother sinks into a deep depression.  Lillian begins experimenting with food and discovers that she has the ability to create powerful emotions and memories with her delicious recipes.  With the help of a local shop owner and food mentor, Abuelita, Lillian finally succeeds in "waking her mother" from her depressive stupor.

Fast forward a few decades and Lillian is a successful restaurateur and chef.  Her true passion though, is teaching her Monday night cooking classes.  As the class assembles, we meet a variety of characters, each dealing with some individual pain or inner conflict.  In each class, a dish is created that speaks to one individual student, creating clearness where there was confusion or closure where there was sadness.  The multiple points of view allow the reader to get to know each character and their story, all woven around the frame of that Monday night's recipe.

In Lillian's world, food is life.   It is luscious, exciting, and magical.  This book is engaging, with likeably flawed characters and delicious imagery.  It will make you happy (and maybe hungry) to read it.  I can't wait to hear what my book club ladies have to say about it on Thursday!

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