NOVEL: The School of Essential Ingredients
AUTHOR: Erica Bauermeister
YEAR OF PUBLICATION: 2009
You’ve read (or seen) this story before. In Maeve Binchy’s Evening Class (or the movie loosely based on it, Italian for Beginners), what does that collection of people need? Italian language lessons, a new attitude, and each other! In The Jane Austen Book Club (novel or film), what does that collection of people need? Great literature, a new attitude, and each other! In The Enchanted April (or the film, Enchanted April) what does that group of unhappy people need? A trip to Italy, a new attitude, and each other! And so it goes here. We’ve got a mother of young children feeling a loss of her identity, a young woman struggling with boyfriend and career problems, an older woman starting to lose her memory. We’ve got a lonely bachelor, and a broken-hearted widower. We’ve got an immigrant from Italy getting used to life in the USA, and an older couple with some unresolved issues. And we’ve got Lillian, the owner of the restaurant and teacher of the assembled students in this cooking class. She’s something of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but she’s actually not manic, but rather calm and wise. Maybe she’s got a touch of magic, though…her class transforms lives. What do her students need? Well, you guessed it. Delicious food, a new attitude, and each other!
I’m not really knocking it, though. They’re all lovely people, thoughtful and unfailingly kind, and if I could join their cooking class, and eat at Lillian’s place, I certainly would. It’s a predictable, escapist story, but it’s a lovely story, which is why it’s so popular: excellent food, friendship, camaraderie, romance (of course there’s romance), beauty, self-knowledge, timeless wisdom, and all that’s good in life. It’s a good book for when you’re upset with the world and seeking comfort, when you want to indulge in a bit of fantasy with happy endings for everyone. But much like the featured tiramisu…it doesn’t do to have this kind of thing too often. A little bit is a perfect end to an exquisite meal. A steady diet of it will leave you bloated and make your teeth and belly ache.
RATING (one to five whistles, with five being the best): 3 Whistles
HOW TO PURCHASE: Amazon
Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.
Laura can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Book Cover Courtesy of Penguin Random House
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