The School of Essential Ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients  *****  by Erica Bauermeister


I’m joining Jain with my edible book review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera~


  My favorite quote from the book:

“It’s not always easy to slow our lives down. But just in case we need a little help, we have a natural opportunity, three times a day, to relearn the lesson.”


“The School” is a cooking class that meets one Monday a month in restaurant run by Lillian. Lillian, herself, discovered at a young age that with a few “essential ingredients” in cooking, you can reconnect people to themselves, others and their past.

 The story revolves around eight students as they gather once a month for class…each lacking an ingredient in their lives. Lillian guides each student, and serves as a catalyst in their discovery.








 So much beautiful food imagery as the class prepares fresh crab, wedding cake, a Thanksgiving menu, pasta with red sauce, tortillas, fondue… each participant taking away from the class Lillian’s food knowledge and wisdom:

“If you think about it, every time we prepare food we interrupt a life cycle.  We pull up a carrot or kill a crab– or maybe just stop the mold that’s growing on a wedge of cheese. We make meals with those ingredients and in doing so we give life to something else. It’s a basic equation, and if we pretend it doesn’t exist, we’re likely to miss the other important lesson, which is to give respect to both sides of the equation.”



“The name for cocoa is theobroma, which means ‘food of the gods’.  I know that chocolate is meant for us, however, because the melting point for good chocolate just happens to be the temperature within your very human mouth.”

A favorite passage from the book that is timely with Valentine’s Day around the corner:

“Our skin has been hibernating in layers of clothes for months; we are accustomed to gray. We can start to think that this is how it always will be. And then, there’s Valentine’s Day. A day to look in your lover’s eyes and see color. To eat something that plays with your taste buds and to remember romance.  But here’s the thing. If you live in your senses, slowly, with attention, if you use your eyes and fingertips and your taste buds, then romance is something you’ll never need a greeting card to make you remember.”



“I like the idea of taking the first asparagus of the year, picked right that day, and putting it in a warm, creamy risotto. It celebrates both seasons and takes you from one to the next in just a few bites.”

 With the promise of Spring on the horizon, I made Ina Garten’s Spring Green Risotto.

Recipe Here.


I HIGHLY recommend this book. It’s a quick read, yet in going back through for pictures and quotes, some passages took a new significance. Here’s hoping you’ll come away with your own Essential Ingredients

  7 comments for “The School of Essential Ingredients

  1. January 30, 2010 at 4:40 am

    oh … my … gosh… you did such a gorgeous job on this book! i read this too and your imagery is beyond beautiful! i love love love your style! when i get excited i want to move and read quick, i forced myself to just stop, and take in all your fantastic details… omg, you do details DELISH! the pasta pics are so gorgeous, well, everyone of them are, true art, really! just a gorgeous post form top to bottom! i don’t have to ask you if you are having fun, you pics say it all!

    thank you so much for sharing, i am just thrilled with you exceptionally tasty post!

  2. January 30, 2010 at 4:43 am

    I am definitely getting this book for my husband for his Valentine’s Day gift. I love the quotes of this book! Thank you for sharing this wonderful review!

  3. January 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Oh! Oh! Oh my goodness….such wonderfully colorful & mouth watering flavors represented here! You did a fantastic job of pulling out the best of the book. It really sounds like a winner & I’m putting it on my list.

    I had heard the definition of chocolate before but not the tidbit of info about the temp. inside our mouths. Makes perfect sense to me! ~heading to the kitchen for some right now~

    Delightful photos & wonderful post, Mary! This was my fist visit to your blog but I’ll certainly be back for more.

  4. January 30, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    What lovely photographs! I particularly like the ones that combine words on the page with an ingredient that goes with it — and the way you play off the colors in the cover with the objects surrounding it. What a fun idea!

  5. January 31, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    What beautiful pictures! This book sounds really good and I think I’ll have to add it to my wish list. Oh, and I told my hubby the name of your blog and he loves it! We have a smallish boat for now that we tool around the local waters in, but he’d like to get a bigger boat someday so we could stay overnight on it and take trips on it.

  6. January 31, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Your description makes me want to read this book and I think your photos are beautiful. Thanks for teling us about it.

  7. February 6, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Just got this book in the last Amazon order. Almost wish that we were getting that horrible snowstorm so I would have an excuse to hunker down and dig into the story…That risotto is making my mouth water!

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