It was my turn to host book club this month and I chose "The School of Essential Ingredients" by Erica Bauermeister as our reading selection. I loved this book with it's theme of cooking classes and the wonderful cast of characters. Just reading each chapter made me hungry and I learned several new things about cooking.
Just as much as I loved the cooking, I also loved the depth of each character that the author developed in her writing. Each chapter is devoted to one of the beginner students and their stories were poignant indeed. From an elderly woman developing dementia to a young woman still finding her identity to a young man mourning the death of his wife, there are surprises and twists in the plot. The sensory descriptions make you feel like you can almost smell and taste the foods cooked at each class. Bauermeister wrote this book after spending 2 years in Italy with her family and, as one of our members said, the book itself has a slow and relaxed pace reminiscent of Italy and the joy of food shared there.
I asked each reader to bring their essential ingredient to our gathering and we heard great stories and memories as each person shared. Our ingredients included laughter, cinnamon, salt, maple syrup, time, tomatoes, flour, cheese, seasoning salt and ghee. It was a diverse list and we only had 1 item shared twice. I loved getting to know my friends better this way.
I wanted the menu for snacks for my guests to match the book in some small ways and the author's website had some recipes that I was able to use. We had Abuelita's Hot Chocolate and Carl's White Cake (which tastes even better a day later, I think). A fondue would have been a great addition too.
I love books about food and this one is definitely a favourite. I've given away 4 copies of the book - that's how much I liked it! It's definitely a 5-star read in my opinion!