book review, books about cooking, cookbooks, Erica Bauermeister, good read, The School of Essential Ingredients
The chocolate entered Helen’s mouth, and the taste was there, as she remembered it – as if it were some deeper, richer part of herself, all that mysterious and yearning and passionate and sad somehow come together, washed up on the shore of her imagination. And there in her mind, as she knew he would be, in the place where she had hidden the memory apart from the rest of her life, was her lover, his eyes dark, his hands smooth as the sea, bringing her hot chocolate in bed on a cold afternoon. -Erica Bauermeister
Just as I love good food, I also love good quality writing. These two passions often join forces in my life as evidenced by a large collection of cookbooks and the fact that I often read cookbooks, such as Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking, in bed just before turning in for the night. I love beautiful photographs and descriptions of food as well as learning new and innovative ways of preparing delicious meals.
Whenever I travel, I focus on tasting the local food and wines of that region and by the end of the holiday, I am always impatient to get back home to my own kitchen to try the new ingredients and recipes that I picked up along the way.
She stared at him and shook her head. ‘Poetry isn’t any different from food, Tom. We humans want to make things, and those things sink into us, whether we know it or not. Maybe your mind won’t remember what I cooked last week, but your body will… and I have come to believe that our bodies are far more intelligent that our brains.’-Erica Bauermeister
Some of my all-time favorite movies feature food and the preparing of food, such as Babette’s Feast, Mostly Martha, Big Night, Chocolat and even Ratatouille. Some of my favorite books that feature food and food writing include: A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence, Encore Provence and Acquired Tastes by Peter Mayle; Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel; The Passionate Epicure by Marcel Rouff; Julie and Julia by Julie Powell; Bella Tuscany and A Year in Tuscany by Frances Mayes; Almost French by Sarah Turnbull and En Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis.
I highly recommend all of the above titles and would love to know if you have any books, cookbooks or movies to recommend to me.
Ian slid his finger along the edge of the tiramisu, bringing it to his mouth. The texture was warm, creamy and soft, like lips parting beneath his own, the taste utterly lacking in precision, luxurious and urgent, mysterious and comforting. Ian stood in the kitchen, waiting for Antonia, every sense in his body awake and completely alive, and thought that if the stars were suddenly to fall in great, glorious bursts into his kitchen, he would hardly be surprised. -Erica Bauermeister
Recently, I discovered a new novel about cooking, food and life that I enjoyed so much that I just had to share it with you. It is Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients. I love Erica’s warm and narrative style of writing, her lyrical descriptions of food and her interesting, lively characters. While reading her book, I often found myself pausing to reread paragraphs in order to savor her delicious writing…
As Lillian’s skills progressed over the years, she learned other unexpected culinary lessons. She observed how dough that was pounded made bread that was hard and moods that were equally so. She saw that cookies that were soft and warm satisfied a different human need than those that were crisp and cooled. The more she cooked, the more she began to view spices as carriers of the emotions and memories of the places they were originally from and all those they had traveled through over the years. She discovered that people, relaxing instinctively into some, shivering into a kind of emotional rigor mortis when encountering others. By the time she was twelve, Lillian had begun to believe that a true cook, one who could read people and spices, could anticipate reactions before the first taste, and thus affect the way a meal or an evening would go. It was that realization that led Lillian to her Great Idea.- Erica Bauermeister
But here was a fireplace. It reminded Antonia of her grandmother’s kitchen, with its stove at one end and a hearth at the other, the space in the middle long and wide enough to accommodate a wooden table for twelve and couches along the sides of the room. Her grandmother’s cooking area was small- a tiny sink, no dish washer, a bit of counter- but out of it came tortellini filled with meat and nutmeg and covered in butter and sage, soft pillows of gnocchi, roasted chickens that sent the smell of lemon and rosemary slipping through the back roads of the small town, bread that gave a visiting grandchild a reason to run to the kitchen on cold mornings and nestle next to the fireplace, a hunk of warm, newly baked breakfast in each hand. How many times had she sat by the fire as a little girl and listened to the sounds of the women at the other end of the kitchen, the rhythmic rap of their knives against the wooden cutting boards, the clatter of spoons in thick ceramic bowls, and always their voices, loving, arguing, exclaiming aloud in laughter or mock horror at some bit of village news. -Erica Bauermeister
The School of Essential Ingredients is an elegant novel based on a cooking class, the small group of students who attend and whose lives are transformed by the experience, and Lillian, the instructor, whose passion for cooking and creation of soulful dishes evoke feelings and memories in others that extend beyond the kitchen.
Many books have been written on a cooking theme but few of such high quality. If you love cooking, eating or good quality literature, I highly recommend this book. The Bellingham Herald describes this novel perfectly: A foodies dream, unleashing a flood of sensual details… a delicious read. A national bestseller, I couldn’t put this book down and as soon as I finished the last paragraph, I found myself in my kitchen cooking, reaching instinctively for long-forgotten spices and tasting with all of my senses…
Bauermeister, E. (2009). The School of Essential Ingredients. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Karen Dobson said:
I am looking forward to the sequel to this book, The Lost Art of Mixing, By Erica Bauermeister. Was just released…Comfort Food, Angelina’s Bachelors, the Cookbook Collector, A Homemade Life, and My Berlin Kitchen are a few of my favorites.
Ooh- thanks for the heads up on the sequel, Karen. I will look for it as well as your other mentioned favorite. I haven’t read any of them yet and am looking forward to reading these as well!
I absolutely loved reading this book, and equally enjoyed reading your post about it.
I had no idea there would be a sequel either, I only hope its as delicious as the first!
Me, too! Truly delicious writing is not easy to find! 🙂
Thank you so much for posting random lovely tidbits of inspiration! Based on a couple of the books you’ve mentioned, I was wondering if you’ve read A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi. If it catches your fancy, she’s also written a couple sequels of her journeys with her husband in Tuscany and Umbria. It was as much a sensory delight to read as the little enticing snippets you’ve posted here!
No, I haven’t read A Thousand Days in Venice- it is now officially on the top of my ‘books to find and read immediately’ list. I appreciate the recommendation as I find that with time at such a premium, I want to spend it reading delicious writing, not searching for delicious writing! And thank you for the compliment- both encouraging and a gentle push to keep writing!