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One Monday night a month, a group of students gather in a quiet restaurant kitchen to attend The School of Essential Ingredients. Owner Lillian tells them from the beginning that she does not have a list of these “essential ingredients,” nor does she offer them recipes. “All I can say is that you will learn what you need to.” As the focus shifts around each of the students and Lillian, it is obvious that the essential ingredients are essential to life as well–time, patience, savoring the moment, starting fresh, doing what’s good for yourself, and learning from your mistakes.
I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I am a world-class picky eater so a book centered around food should not have done anything for me. But it was written so beautifully that I was even ready to admire the redness of a tomato or the honesty of killing your own crab for dinner. I’m looking for a quote to offer up, but really, just read the book. It’s all gorgeous and it’s impossible to choose a little bit to quote.
I loved the way that the students grew during the class and took away exactly what they needed. The harried mother losing her identity, the grieving widower, the girl barely out of high school who needs a serious self-esteem boost, the aging woman losing her memories…they all come out of the class better able to live their lives.
There was just one little aspect of the ending that I was not happy with. It tied things up a little too neatly and didn’t ring exactly true for me. I can’t say more without giving things away.
When you have the time to sit down and savor a book about food and life, give this one a try. It is truly beautiful and thought-provoking.
Read an excerpt.
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I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.