The School of Essential Ingredients

“The chocolate made a rough sound as it brushed across the fine section of the grater, falling in soft clouds onto the counter, releasing a scent of dusty back rooms filled with bittersweet chocolate and old love letters, the bottom drawers of antique desks and the last leaves of autumn, almonds and cinnamon and sugar.” (the school of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister)

The School of Essential Ingredients CoverWe are trained to think of books as Very Serious things. People are always encouraging us to read more, and everywhere research says that books benefit the brain. We tend to borrow or purchase big ones, and slowly chip away at them as though completing a nightly duty. There is always a subtle pressure about finding a ‘good’ book, because they can be such an investment of time and energy. So sometimes, it can be freeing to pick up a medium-looking volume, stay in bed on a weekend morning, and read it all in one fell swoop. Then you realize that books are not so serious after all, and that they can be just as light and ephemeral as any movie.

Though I already have several fantastic sounding books in my pile (such as the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde), I decided instead to bring home this comfortable sounding one. I cannot say that it was brilliant or bettered my life; but it did top off a sleepy, relaxing morning perfectly. The food-oriented modern realistic stories were cozy, well written, and intriguing. While each character wasn’t fully flushed out, the stories left just enough for the imagination to continue with on its own. The descriptions of the cooking lessons were, of course, the real draw of the book. Though I don’t agree with the teacher’s blatant moralizing on not tasting batter with raw eggs in it, the descriptions of slow-simmering sauces and creamy tiramisus inspired me to complete the reading experience with my own baking project – which is the best outcome of a food book anyway.

Recommended Action: BuyBorrow – TBR Avoid

Length: 255

Ending: Satisfying, but open to the imagination

Further Reading: According to LJ, this book is part of an emerging genre of food related writing. I found out about it because Bauermeister is publishing a new book in January, called ‘The Lost Art of Mixing’. I expect it will be in the same vein.

*Disclaimer: In order to get through my enormous backlog, I’ve decided to do several short posts instead of a big compilation. This is purely for selfish reasons; as it will make it easier for me to search for a specific book in the future. I’ll try to get it over with as quickly as possible.


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