The title of Erica Bauermeister’s debut novel The school of essential ingredients is certainly intriguing. This beautifully written story is a delight for the senses.
The novel gets its title from the cooking school that Lillian (the main character) runs on evenings when her popular, high-end restaurant is closed. On the first Monday of each month, Lillian’s restaurant kitchen is filled with a colourful assortment of amateur cooks; some eager to deepen their own culinary connections and some unsure of what brought them to this place. Each student is searching for something more than a great recipe, and one-by-one they are transformed by what they create.
The reader expects to learn what the essential ingredients are. In one sentence the main character explains, “I might as well tell you, there isn’t a list and I’ve never had one. Nor do I hand out recipes. All I can say is that you will learn what you need to”.
The ability of food and cooking to connect people with themselves, their past and each other is theme that runs through this novel.