I’ve just finished a truly lovely, lyrical, dare I say delicious, novel. And even more special, it came to me in a somewhat roundabout way. I gave The School of Essential Ingredientsto a friend for her birthday after admiring the cover and thrilling over the gushing reviews. Last week I got an email from her, asking me if I’d read it and wondering if I’d like to, because she’d read it in a single sitting and LOVED it. How could I refuse? (Honestly I didn’t even remember the name of the book until she told me). Despite her glowing review, I was a little wary. This is not my typical fare. Literary books tend to be a little deeper, and very often darker, than I like. My mixed-feelings about this book evaporated within the first five pages. It is written with such a delicate hand, full-to-bursting with evocative images and spot-on metaphors that I was instantly charmed.
It is about a girl who learned to cook while her mother was lost in books and how, all grown-up now, she enthusiastically teaches others. Not recipes or how-to’s, just feeling and experiencing, adjusting to taste, doing what feels right. It is the story of seven strangers learning to cook and discovering that experiencing food in a new way fills the holes in their lives.
My friend told me that reading the book had made her want to cook something as soon as she was finished, and I couldn’t imagine it having that effect on me. It has. Lately I’ve tried to get past my mini-phobia of dirty dishes piling up to do a little extra cooking. I ventured back the orchard and came home with a few more peaches and blackberries, a couple tomatoes, a handful of rosemary and a few sprigs of thyme. Since then I’ve make a peach cobbler, some homemade french fries seasoned with olive oil and rosemary, a chicken pot pie with fresh thyme, and homemade blackberry ice cream! Yay me!
Seriously though, I highly, highly recommend this book. I only wish the author had another novel ready for me to dive into.