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The School of Essential Ingredients

Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 6 hrs and 4 mins
4 out of 5 stars (314 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Over time, the paths of the students mingle and intertwine, and the essence of Lillian's cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected, and always delicious.
©2008 Erica Baurmeister (P)2008 Penguin

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Lovely, lovely book

This is a wonderful book for these times - a way to remember to slow down, appreciate what we have and just forget for a few hours the bad news we hear every day. It is beautifully recorded and the writing is superb. Its sensuality is another example of what a treat it is to listen to a book.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

my favorite book ever

As a cook this story hits deep into my foodie soul and I love it!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Characters came alive

I enjoyed this book immensely. when I finished it was like saying goodbye to an old friend. I am looking forward to the next in the series.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it

Not what I expected and that's what made it great. Loved it a lot! :0)

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Coffee
  • Virginia Beach, VA, United States
  • 02-06-12

Outstanding story on cooking, life, and love.

Recently, I mentioned that Cassandra Campbell was fast becoming one of my favorite narrators for audio books. There is an atmosphere her voice creates, light and humorous (as in Very, Valentine) or mournful and haunting (as in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). It's always perfect for the story. So when Sandy at You've GOTTA Read This! commented that I should pick up The School of Essential Ingredients, I did. When it comes to audio, Sandy's an exceptional guide.

I'm never going to get tired of books about cooking food and living life. I love it. The connection of recipes, knowing which spice should go with which dish, and how that translates back to relationships, loss, and love, will fit the bill for me every time, and this story did not disappoint.

The story is told by the eight students taking a cooking class on Monday evenings, their personal stories and memories meaningfully unfolding for the listener. There is humor, tragedy, sadness, loss, and newly found love. Usually, when there are more than three or four characters sharing their stories, it can become overwhelming or confusing, or one character may be completely uninteresting, but not so with this story. All of the characters contributed a significant part of their lives, and not one was overdone, or wasted, or skipped over. It all fit.

At the heart of it is Lillian, the instructor and owner of the restaurant where the classes are held. She, too, has a quietly compelling story, one that has shaped her with whom she has become. She was an exceptional character, the rock of knowledge for each of the students, quickly learning what they needed to be taught. She is what kept them moving forward, both in their cooking skills and in life.

Erica Bauermeister's novel was released in 2009, and the story has such a sophisticated style that it's surprising it was a debut novel. It's a story that will make you cry and laugh, but most importantly, it will remind you that living is about the here and now, and that while mistakes happen, the choice to never let a moment pass you by is clear. Love, and be loved, and do so with integrity and kindness.

While the school deals with the essential ingredients of cooking, it is by far the fundamental elements of living that are the most important lesson to be learned. I cannot wait to read (or listen to) Joy for Beginners which was released in June 2011.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

calming story, thinking different about food

Narrator was outstanding! Interesting story, really inspired me to look at food differently - to slow down and savor. Love how the author described dishes down to the very bites. I found this book to be calming, making it an enjoyable read at the end of the day.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Yummy!

A feast for literary and culinary senses! I wasn't ready for it to end! ❤

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • ddoly
  • Olympia, WA, United States
  • 08-09-19

Favorite cooking book ever

Oh my gosh! I didn’t want this book to end. Bauermeister knows how to write descriptively to the point I feel as though I am there, smelling, eating and enjoying the food. Sensual to the very end. The performance is excellent!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

fun easy read

Enjoyed this story. A gathering of various people and their lives as they come together for cooking school. An easy quick read that held my interest and kept me reading

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A listening pleasure!

I absolutely loved listening to The School of Essential Ingredients. Every portion of the book, was an absolutely pleasure, and a reminder to slow down, and enjoy the simple things in life. My only disappointment was when the book came to an end. I wanted more! .i savored every moment, and will start at the beginning, and listen a second time. I highly recommend it!