The School of Essential Ingredients (A School of Essential Ingredients Novel #1) (Paperback)

By Erica Bauermeister

Berkley, 9780425232095, 272pp.

Publication Date: January 5, 2010

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (1/21/2009)
Paperback, Spanish (8/30/2011)
Hardcover (1/22/2009)
Compact Disc (1/22/2009)

List Price: 16.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.

February 2009 Indie Next List

“Lillian, a restaurant owner, teaches Monday night cooking classes as much for herself as for the students. With magical language, first-time novelist Bauermeister weaves the lives of the students in Lillian's class with the meals prepared and life lessons learned. Strong, sensuous writing leaves the reader hungry for more.”
— Holly Smith, Wide World Books & Maps, Seattle, WA
View the List

Description

The “heartbreakingly delicious”* national bestseller about a chef, her students, and the evocative lessons that food teaches about life. 

Once a month on a Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect.

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create....


About the Author

Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, The Lost Art of Mixing, and The Scent Keeper. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction works, 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.


Praise For The School of Essential Ingredients (A School of Essential Ingredients Novel #1)

Praise for The School of Essential Ingredients

“Delectable writing.”—Seattle Magazine
 
“Food Network fans will devour this first novel about a whimsical cooking school run by a gentle chef with a fierce passion for food.”—People
 
“Lyrical and descriptive.”—The Oregonian
 
“Bauermeister deftly combines romance, lyrical language and a dash of sentimentality.”—St. Petersburg Times
 
“[A] warm, satisfying exploration of food, cooking and memory…evocative.”—The Star-Ledger (NJ)
 
“The novel has that...life-is-meals feeling.”—Los Angeles Times

“In this remarkable debut, Bauermeister creates a captivating world where the pleasures and particulars of sophisticated food come to mean much more than simple epicurean indulgence.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“Exquisitely written...It’s a luscious slice of life...and you will enjoy every bite.”—*New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison
 
“The perfect recipe for escaping from life’s stresses...luminous prose.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Kate Jacobs


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. When Claire first walks into Lillian’s, she reflects: “When was the last time she had been someplace where no one knew who she was?” Is the anonymity of the kitchen a lure for Lillian’s students?
  2. How did you respond to the story of Lillian’s upbringing? Would Lillian have been better off with a more traditional home life, like those of her school friends? Do you agree with Abuelita’s statement that “sometimes our greatest gifts grow from what we are not given”?
  3. Besides scenes from her childhood, the author discloses very little about Lillian. Why do you think she did this? How would the book be different if we knew more about Lillian’s day-to-day life?
  4. As a general rule, Lillian doesn’t give her students recipes. Why do you think she does this? What are the pros and cons of this approach to cooking?
  5. Did Helen do the right thing by telling Carl about her affair? How would their marriage—and Helen and Carl themselves—have evolved had he never learned the truth?
  6. Each of the character’s stories centers on a dish or an ingredient that has a profound effect upon how they see themselves or the world. What connections do you see between Claire and the crabs? Between Chloe and tortillas? Tom and the pasta sauce?
  7. Although we only see Charlie, Tom’s wife, in flashback, she seems to share Lillian’s love of essential ingredients. What do you make of Charlie’s statement that “We’re all just ingredients. What matters is the grace with which you cook the meal”?
  8. Chloe observes that Thanksgiving at her house is “about everyone being the same, and if you’re not, eating enough so you won’t notice.” Is this something that our culture buys into in a larger sense? How does Lillian’s approach to food fly in the face of this idea?
  9. Isaac says to Isabelle that he thinks “we are each a chair and a ladder for the other.” What do you think he means? Are there people in your life who are or have been that for you?
  10. Lillian tells the class that “a holiday is a lot like a kitchen. What’s important is what comes out of it.” In what way do the kitchens in this book—Lillian’s childhood kitchen, the greasy spoon where Tom meets Charlie, the kitchen that Antonia saves from demolition—represent different celebrations of life? Is there a kitchen in your life that you associate with a particular celebration or emotional milestone?
  11. At the end of the novel, Lillian reflects that: “She saw how connected [the students’] lives had become and would remain. Where did a teacher fit in the picture, she wondered, when there was no longer a class?” What does happen to Lillian once her class is disbanded? Do you feel that each character’s story is resolved? What do you imagine happens in these characters’ lives after the book ends?
  12. What would be your essential ingredients?