Monday, June 15, 2009

The School of Essential Ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients is about a cooking school in the Northwest. Lillian owns a small restaurant that once a month on Mondays hosts a cooking class. Each chapter simultaneously tells the story of one of the weekly classes and follows a different student in the class. I loved all the beautiful food descriptions and almost cried with envy while reading about the crab with butter sauce (note to self – must go crabbing this summer), but at the same time the whole book felt a little simplistic to me. It was a little corny and contrived. Or maybe I’m just a bitter Betty?

Here’s the deal – this book describes cooking classes exactly as I’ve always wanted them to be: You go to a quaint restaurant and are taught by a quirky, motherly character as you make fantastic food and new best friends with the other students. Last year Jeff did a great thing for my birthday and enrolled us in a Greek cooking lesson at a fancy local cooking school (in fact, the school is actually thanked in the notes of this book I might add). Greek food is my favorite and I was pumped. But the truth is, pretty much all the other attendees were with some corporate group doing a team building exercise and were obviously NOT pumped. A few of the younger ones even slipped out the back door a few minutes in. The people who stayed were annoying and weird and then we just sort of ate as we went instead of all sitting down to pig out and bond together. Don’t get me wrong, the food was really good and Jeff and I still had fun together, but my point is that this book seemed a little too perfect-perfect. Plus, every single person in the class is profoundly impacted by the cooking class and food and I don’t know, I guess I found it a little rashy. Like the woman that seems to be struggling with mild post-partum depression who is magically repaired by her first taste of crab? Not really buying it.

That said, it only took a day or two to read and if you like reading food blogs (which I do) you’ll probably still enjoy it (which I did) purely for all the beautiful descriptions of food.

PS: Blogger feels that “rashy” is not a real word. I disagree. When something is annoying (like a rash), it’s only right for that thing to be described as rashy.


Anonymous said...

Ditto to the ditto. This is EXACTLY how I felt about the book. Loved the food descriptions, but it was a little to simplistic and wrapped up too tightly - not like real life which is a hot mess.


Anonymous said...

Rashy sounds like a wonderful and useful word!

I once took a pie baking class and it was a lot of fun - even to the point of making friends and bonding with everyone. Quite remarkable and yet... also forgettable? I don't remember any of those people's names or if I would recognize them again, but that night was like time stopped and I had no worries.

Good review - it's on my tbr already but I'm in no hurry to move it to buy-now-status.

Diane said...

I just came across your blog, and wanted to let you know I think it is great! Thanks (This book looks really good)