August 7, 2010

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister: Review

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Lillian teaches cooking classes in the kitchen of her restaurant one Monday night a month. Every student who joins the class has his or her own reason for coming to Lillian's kitchen. Some, like new mom Claire, want time for themselves, some are lonely, like Antonia or hurt like Tom. As the class progresses, new relationships are formed and discoveries about each student are revealed.

That's not much of a description, I know, but that's all I can come up with for The School of Essential Ingredients. This book has gotten some good reviews but it left me feeling underwhelmed. It might have been the way the book is written: each section reveals just a portion of each student's life. I never really connected to anyone.

At times I found it overly sentimental and felt like I was being manipulated emotionally by the writing. And dear Lillian is just too good to be true with fairy godmother-like powers.

Just to be nit-picky, during one class they made a cake. I thought about this- a half hour to prepare, an hour to bake, an hour to cool, then half an hour to decorate. Then they ate it. What were they doing during this marathon cooking class? My suspension of disbelief just can't stretch that far.

On the other hand, I loved the passion the author seems to have for food. This book made me hungry. It's too hot to cook like this at the moment but I really want to make Beef Bourguignon! Plus this is a super quick read.

If you want to read something light and quick while contemplating the contents of your pantry, I recommend it.


Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

BookBlips: vote it up!

14 comments :

  1. Sorry you didn't love this one - it was one of my favorites of last year.

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  2. Interesting review -- I mean that in a good way. I've been wanting to read or listen to this one; I wonder how I'll feel about it. Those little bits of unrealistic time arcs sometimes get to me too.

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  3. I really enjoyed this as an audio. Not sure I'd react the same to reading though.

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  4. I have this one (somewhere) on my to-read pile. It's too bad it wasn't to your liking.

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  5. I know how you feel--sometimes a book just doesn't click. I wonder if I read those books at a different time if it would click more with me? Anyway-I enjoyed your review and am still curious about the book.
    *smiles*

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  6. I've been wanting to read this one for a while but it sounds like it's a good thing I found it at the library book sale and only spent a couple of dollars on it.

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  7. Sorry you didn't like this!

    Mine is HERE

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  8. My feelings about this book are quite different from yours...I loved this book...I cried during this book...it was so unique and touching...it is so funny how different books affect different people in different ways...It was one of my favorite books when it first came out...it has been out for a while now...

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  9. I like the cover and the title, but from your review it doesn't seem to live up to the expectations I'd have.

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  10. I have to admit this doesn't sound like my type of book at all. I do, however, love the cover for some reason.

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  11. I did enjoy this one, but it was overhyped. Also, I didn't think about the whole cake thing, but you're really right!

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  12. "Underwhelmed" is honest. Thanks.

    Also wanted to let folks know that sadly, humanist and essayist Tony Judt has died.

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  13. I really loved this book, I got swept up in the beautiful writing and didn't think too deeply about it. Sorry it didn't move you as much.

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  14. Thanks for all the comments guys! I'm glad so many of you enjoyed this book. I wanted to but it just wasn't right for me.

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