Wow, it's been a slow week in blogland for me, which is bad because it seems that everybody else is really back in the bloggy swing of things. Blogland is in full swing and so's the workload at my job where it seems like we were busier than ever this week. Every day I try to sit down and read what everybody's writing and rarely get very far before getting distracted by all of life's have tos (and a few of those pesky other want tos, too). It all reminds me of why I've always been (and continue to be despite my best efforts) a big old lurker. All this commenting stuff makes this bloghopping take so much longer. Yet it would be a bizarre contradiction if I stopped taking the time to comment in the name of getting through the posts in my Google reader quicker, no?
Is anybody starting to get the feeling that the brief personal interludes at the beginning of most of my posts with actual content are merely serving to get me into the flow of writing? Because I'm pretty sure that's why I do this. Or else I'm just dragging my feet without really knowing why. Anywho, I'm all warmed up now, so on to the good stuff...
I finished a great book last weekend and my first read that will be released this year. It was one of those books that was fully satisfying and one that I knew that I would be recommending before I even came close to turning the last page. Any book that can make me forget that A) it's snowing outside and B) I'm sitting on a rock hard kitchen chair that's really making my back hurt for a considerable amount of time definitely gets my vote. Now the irony in all this is that, uh, I don't even remember requesting this ARC. Terrible, right? It arrived in the mail, and I was like...I chose this? I guess it sounds good, but when did I choose this? Oh well, all's well that ends well, and this book certainly does!
The book in question, of course, is Erica Bauermeister's debut novel The School of Essential Ingredients. Lillian recognizes from an early age that food is powerful. For Lillian, flavors can heal, spices can seduce, and even an ordinary apple can be magical for someone who eats it at just the right moment. During a monthly cooking class at her restaurant, Lillian sets out to show that cooking is much more than simply following directions in a recipe and eating is much more than a practical action to stave off hunger. As her students come from their seperate walks of life, each of their personal stories is illuminated and each of their lives is impacted by lessons they learn under Lillian's perceptive tutelage, lessons that extend far beyond how to bake a good cake or prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Slowly but surely, Lillian's students come to discover the power of a good meal to bring people together, to heal past hurts, and to alter the course of current struggles.
She saw that cookies that were soft and warm satisfied a different human need than those that were crisp and cooled. The more she cooked, the more she began to view spices as carriers of the emotions and memories of the places they were originally from and all those they had traveled through over the years. She discovered that people seemed to react to spices much as they did to other people, relaxing instinctively into some, shivering into a kind of emotional rigor mortis when encountering others.
The School of Essential Ingredients is a briliant blend of the obvious and the subtle just like the flavors that change the lives of Bauermeister's characters. Bauermeister's writing is a rare and sensual treat as her writing brings scents, flavors, and textures to life right alongside the poignantly rendered moments in the lives of each of the characters. Each of the students is fleshed out and all are having experiences that it is easy for the reader to relate to their own life. Their stories are both sweet and sad, but above all, genuine. Bauermeister's debut is a delicious story about food, about love, and about life that left me totally satisfied, even as I wiped a tear or two from my eye.
The frosting was a thick buttercream, rich as a satin dress laid against the firm, fragile texture of the cake. With each bite, the cake melted first, then the frosting, one after another, like lovers tumbling into bed.
That's two for two on books making me cry in 2009 which is actually a highly unusual event. And I should have written this review right after I finished the book instead of now when the afterglow has worn off in the face of a week of hard work - then maybe it would not be so feeble - though it is admirably concise, for me. *sigh* I loved this book a lot more than it seems like from the review, mmkay?
The School of Essential Ingredients will be available where books are sold on January 22, 2009. And have I mentioned that it was really, really good?
Read other reviews at:
A Reader's Respite
Books and Cooks