Book Review: The School of Essential Ingredients

The School of Essential Ingredients
Erica Bauermeister

My Goodreads rating: 3/5 stars

Well, I dunno. I was reading along, and I will definitely admit Essential Ingredients made me hungry, but about midway through all I could think of was: Where is the plot? I was growing increasingly suspicious that I was stuck in a book with none.

Which turned out to be pretty much true.

Not long ago I was asked why I never wrote any bad book reviews. My answer: I don’t finish them if they stink. Also, I was on one hell of a run of amazing books. Thanks and flaming eye-darts to those who inquired, for my streak ended right then and there. I’ve started (an unfortunately finished) quite the banquet of clunkers, and even more that just weren’t that great.

And now I will add another reason to my list of why I wasn’t writing bad book reviews. They’re no fun. I forewent writing reviews altogether for a lot of those books, only marking them angrily as ‘read’ as I slammed them shut. And the few reviews I did bother to write, I just couldn’t bring myself to cross-publish to my blog. Icky. Boring content. Not Fun.

The School of Essential Ingredients was not a miserable read. I didn’t dislike it. I actually kind of liked it a little, sort of. But I certainly can’t bring myself to give it many stars, or a review that might tempt a friend to read it and then call me up and question my literary scruples. Or worse yet, question them without calling me up.

So I’ll write the review, and it won’t be great, and no one will ask me ever again why all my reviews have five full-fledged stars. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll earn myself a fresh start with some good books. I think I need a few recommendations. I’m drowning here.

Bauermeister does have a way with words. Her description is lovely and the way she integrates life into a bagel or a relationship is nice, if sometimes a little bit forced. But she’s definitely been honing that skill that Nat Goldberg would be proud of. She’s a free-writing genius. I could take a highlighter to her book looking for little gems, and the whole danged thing would be yellow (maybe sometimes tinged with the orange of ‘Come, come. That’s taking it a little bit too far.’). But as a whole, it just didn’t weave a full story.

I enjoyed reading Essential Ingredients. I did. But the lack of plot left me cold. There were beautiful philosophies on the power of food and mindfulness. And there were many well-done life sketches, as her book traces many lives through the lens of one quaint and lovely cooking class (I would LOVE to take one of Lillian’s classes!). But there was no plot. So I was left with nothing real to hang onto.

There. Don’t you wish I’d just stick to reviewing killer books? As soon as you find them for me, I’ll get right on it. you need

If you need me, I’ll be searching,
KJ

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