Erica Bauermeister’s novel,The School of Essential Ingredients, SHOULD have been a book that I really enjoyed. It is all about food and cooking and how the two can shape your life, and that is something I believe and about which I enjoy reading. And in fact, the story started out grabbing my attention.
Lillian is a successful chef and restaurant owner, who once a month closes her restaurant and teaches cooking classes. The classes, however, are not just about food and the preparation of meals. She believes (as do I) that good food and friends and family gathered around the table are essential ingredients for a happy life. So her classes were as much about enjoying life and friends and family as they were about preparing food.
So about the first third of the book, as Bauermeister introduced us to the characters, I was all in. I liked the variety of people and life backgrounds and reasons for taking a cooking class. But unfortunately, it didn’t take long before the characters all started seeming exactly the same. They even talked the same.
I am more than willing to suspend reality when reading a novel. But the class consisted of eight people, all of whom it seemed had lives that were coming apart at the seams. But after a class or two, and upon learning the proper way to prepare a roast turkey, their lives changed. No matter their background, suddenly they develop a suburb nose for good wine. They can differentiate between different herbs and spices in a dish simply by a single taste. All this in a couple of classes.
Bauermeister’s writing is flowery and reminded me of drinking a wine that is just a little too sweet for the meal being eaten. Her characters ended up being boring and annoying, at least to this reader. By the end, I wanted one of them to take a taste of something and not like it. It didn’t happen.
I don’t think I will attempt another of the author’s food books. I’m not that hungry.