The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
Source: Library - audio format
Description: The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian's Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students' lives. One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian's food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a pepper heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen. (from Goodreads)
Why I Picked This Book: I love foodie books and anything that mentions a cooking school normally grabs me pretty quickly!
Pro: The characters in this book were really delightful. They were all interesting people who were easy to relate to. Bauermeister did a good job of focusing on one character at at time to really allow for development but still letting the story flow naturally. I really loved everyone in this book though I especially enjoyed Claire and Chloe's stoires. The narration was done by Cassandra Campbell was perfect with the flow of the book.
Con: It did seem a bit unrealistic that almost every character had some kind of huge emotional connection with food and can speak/think about it very poetically.
Overall: This is a warm book full of delicious sounding food and interesting people. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it to the point where I was coming up with extra cleaning projects to keep listening!
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Absolutely!
Would I Recommend this Book?: Yes! Particularly in audio form
The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister
Rating: 2 Stars
Source: Library - audio format
Description: Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There's Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn't learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al's wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there's Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn't expect...
Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind - and links that break - The Lost Art of Mixing is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship. (form Goodreads)
Why I Picked This Book: I enjoyed The School of Essential Ingredients so I was thrilled when I saw that this book featured a number of characters from that book.
Pro: It was really nice to revisit Chloe, Isabel, Tom and Lillian. I particularly enjoyed seeing Chloe again. Cassandra Campbell once again did a fantastic job with the narration.
Con: The characters weren't as likable and with this kind of book that was crucial to my enjoyment. While I liked Chloe, Finnegan and Isabel and their story I didn't love Lillian and Tom's story. While I could sympathize with Abby she got on my nerves especially as there was no development with her. Al's story was interesting at first but I really didn't like how open ended it was and his general apathy towards the events that unfolded in his life. The ending was open ended which I was fine with in The School for Essential Ingredients but with this book it left me feeling like I had somehow missed the last chapter.
Overall: This was okay.
Would I Read More of this Series/Author?: Yes, but mostly on the strength of The School of Essential Ingredients
Would I Recommend this Book?: Not really. It was okay but I didn't think it captured the magic of the first book.
I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads