Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The School of Essential Ingredients

When I was about fifteen years old, I attended school in an old school in a historic part of town.  You know the sort of area, houses built with at least a 200 year lifespan by the influential leaders of the city with each house being different from the next -- no two houses alike.  I used to sit in "study hall" in the library gazing at these houses through large, multi-paned windows.  On the days when I didn't have homework to do I would pick out a house and create a story in my mind about the family that lived in it.  Now, granted, I knew some of the families that lived in some of those houses so I just skipped over those.  I chose the ones I knew nothing about.  That is what this book reminded me of -- a whole book full of little stories about individual people.

The first story is about Lillian, the owner of a restaurant who also gives cooking classes on Monday, in the evening.  It begins in  her childhood and ends with her "present".  Each chapter concerns itself with a member of her current cooking class.  Each character has a story and each is very realistic, I am sure all readers could identify with one or two, if not all of them.  As these characters participate in the cooking class, their lives become intertwined and blended just like the food they create.

Then, that brings us to the food.  The way the author approaches the food is the way almost anybody who is serious about cooking as an art form approaches the food.  She relates the food to the people, she depicts food as an essential part of relationships as much as a necessity of life.  Honestly, the way Bauermeister writes about the food makes you want to sign up for a cooking class because it is so much more than following a recipe -- it is following an instinct.

This is Bauermeister's first novel.  I don't know how she is going to out do herself.  This is a beautifully written book.  The settings are so well described that all you have to do is close yours eyes and you are there.  You can taste the food, you can feel the pain and joy and sorrow and love that all the characters exude.   It is a fantastic book. 

I recommend this book with one reservation -- don't read it unless you have already eaten!
From Jake at Junkboat Travels

and wouldn't it be fantastic to have a bookstore such as this somewhere close -- like just down the road within walking distance with a coffee/tea shop near? If only Fort Worth was supportive of independent business like Austin is -- I could see running a little shop --- with coffee and tables and maybe even a little dog.  I can see all sorts of possibilities if the environment were right which it is not.  Oh well, I can dream, can't I?