2009 Audio Book

The School of Essential Ingredients – Erica Bauermeister (Audio Book)

Note: This book is called The Monday Night Cooking School in the UK, but is only available as an audio book under the title The School of Essential Ingredients.

I bought a copy of this book after Sandy raved about it and then included it in her top ten of the year. Good audio books are very hard to find, but Sandy listens to a lot of them and so if she raves about one then I know I’m in safe hands.

The School of Essential Ingredients is a weekly cookery class run by Lillian, a restaurant owner who taught herself to cook as a child in order to connect with her mother, a woman who had become depressed after her husband left her.

Each week the book focuses on a different one of the eight cookery students; we learn a bit about their lives and Lillian uses food to help them through their various problems.

Warning: This book will make you hungry!

The book is packed with amazing descriptions of food preparation – I could almost taste each dish as it was described and in many cases I wanted to rush out and make it. I think this is mainly down to the wonderful narration provided by Cassandra Campbell – she made the book come alive! I can’t imagine enjoying the print version of this book – I think I’d have found the recipes tedious and the lack of momentum would have led me to give up.

I’m not a fan of short stories and I’m afraid this book suffered from being more like a selection of short stories than a novel. The stories of each cookery student were very different and I had hoped everything would be brought together in the end, but I’m afraid they failed to link up and the book seemed to end quite abruptly.

I also found the book to be a bit overly sentimental and there were a few too many metaphors for my liking:

What did she do that made her happy? The question implied action, a conscious purpose. She did many things in a day, and many things made her happy, but that, Claire could tell, wasn’t the issue. Nor the only one, Claire realized. Because in order to consciously do something that made you happy, you’d have to know who you were. Trying to figure that out these days was like fishing on a lake on a moonless night–you had no idea what you would get.

Note: Trying to get a quote from an audio book is very hard, so I copied this quote from this wonderful quotes and passages blog.

A slightly amusing problem was caused by the fact this is an American book. Many foods have different names and although I knew most of them, there was a point when I wondered why she was decorating a cake with okra. It took me a few minutes to realise that Lady’s Fingers are something very different in America!!

Despite these criticisms it did inspire me to cook and on the whole I enjoyed listening to it.

Recommended to those interested in cookery.

I couldn’t find a negative review for this book:

I absolutely adored this book, and I’m going to be recommending it to everyone. Booking Mama

…if you’ve never read a food-related novel, this is where to start. A Reader’s Respite

Don’t read this book when you are hungry; it will probably be unbearable. S. Krishna’s Books

30 replies on “The School of Essential Ingredients – Erica Bauermeister (Audio Book)”

How strange – I starte reading this in bed last night! It does seem more like short stories at the moment, but I’m curious about the characters and it’s an interesting premise.

sakura, I’m sure some clever cooks can make a great cake containing okra, but decorating the edges with it?! The image I had in my head still makes me laugh.

This one’s patiently waiting on my shelf… Nice to see you liked it so much, I really liked the concept but it can always go either way, of course. And yes, I’m sure I’ll be hungry for most of it! 🙂

That is a riot about the okra! I did like the book. When the author was touring it around when it first came out, she included a recipe from the book on each blog where she stopped. I saved the one for the wedding cake. If you do a search for old reviews, you’ll probably find the recipes if you are interested!

Well, I do like cooking, so this would probably be fun… Although I don’t necessarily care for short story collections either. That said, I don’t really mind if a narrative jumps from person to person where there are linking elements. This sounds like something I would enjoy, and since the audio is so good, maybe something I could listen to while knitting!

Steph, I think this would be perfect for knitting to, but I found it was best to cook while listening – if it is going to make you hungry then you might as well be surrounded by food while listening!

I always get nervous when you review something I’ve recommended! Strange, because never in a million years would I have described this as a collection of short stories. I guess in a way it is, but the way it was presented, with all the students intermingling and interacting, I never felt like it cut off completely from one and moved on to another. The narrator is wonderful…she is the same one that narrated Henrietta Lacks.

Sandy, Sorry for making you nervous! I think that the stories mingled in the beginning, but became increasingly separate as the book progressed. I’m pleased that I listened to this one. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Read this book over the summer, even though I could have listened, I WANTED to be able to reread the recipes because I love to cook. To me it flowed like the swirls of a perfect mouse – oops a simile and metaphor, sorry. But I do admit I was disappointed in the endings too. What happens to all these interesting people? However don’t most good books keep you guessing… All my nutritionist, foodie friends say it is genuine and as a teacher I know the relationship with students is most often short and sweet. It was a quick, wonderful read. Hope there’s more to come from Ms. Bauermeister, or else can I sign up for the classes – ha! Reminded me of Italy. Glad you recommended it!

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