The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister was a gentle read, if a little bland for my taste. A bit like white chocolate, which tastes nice, but isn’t particularly memorable. (Be warned, there are a lot of similes in this book).
The story is told in a series of chapters featuring characters whose only connection is their attendance at a cooking school. The teacher is a woman named Lillian, whose restaurant transforms into The School of Essential Ingredients every Monday night. Lillian and each of her students have a backstory, troubles or obstacles in their lives which bring them to the cooking school. Happily, they all leave with their issues resolved.
Most of the characters seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, they were nearly all too kind, too generous and too good and eventually I became too bored with them to care about their stories. (I don’t think I’m a particularly bad person, but I’m like the character in LM Montgomery’s Anne of the Island who wants a hero who could be wicked, but won’t).
The food in this book is a character of its own. Various combinations of ingredients are given almost magical properties and are able to heal sadness, anger and emotional weaknesses and failings. In real life, this works for me too – chips (crisps) when I’m cross, toast when I’m tired and chocolate works for just about everything else.
I have a soft spot for books with good descriptions of food or with recipes. The School of Essential Ingredients didn’t have recipes, much to my disappointment, because the descriptions of Lillian’s cooking were very appealing and for me, the most enjoyable thing about this book.