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Book Review: Erica Bauermeister's The School of Essential Ingredients

Book Cover for Erica Bauermeisters The School of Essential Ingredients

November's Literary Road Box was themed to Washington State and included Erica Bauermeister's The School of Essential Ingredients.

Set in Seattle, The School of Essential Ingredients is centered around a monthly cooking class held at an upscale restaurant. A group of strangers, sharing the love of food and desire to improve their cooking, meet to learn skills that are essential, yet not always basic.

The owner of the restaurant, Lillian, teaches cooking as a means to connect and empathize. Lillian discovered her passion for cooking as a way to heal from a childhood trauma and although she is a very skilled chef, she is also adept at understanding what other people need and how to help them. Each of the students in her class need something beyond cooking skills and Lillian gently guides them towards healing their problems.

For example, the youngest person in the class is a woman in her early twenties who is struggling to leave an abusive relationship and needs encouragement to take the leap. Lillian helps her, but other members of this multi-generational class also step in to provide guidance. Similar to how Lillian knows which ingredients go together to make a fabulous meal, she also knows how to connect people to fufill their emotional needs.

Each chapter focuses on a different student in a different month. The School for Essential Ingredients reminded me of the movie Love Actually, in that some of the stories were heartbreaking, while others were lighter and comedic, but all had heart. I liked the theme of building a community and forming new friendships at every stage in ones life. It's a beautiful story. A book to delight your senses with lush food descriptions: Do not read on an empty stomach!

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