I come from a family of good cooks. No, they’re not chefs by profession; they just learned and perfected recipes passed on from one generation to another. My mother learned to cook from my grandmother, who had part-Chinese blood running through her veins. I remember my grandmother used to cook for no less than 50 people on holidays. She would prepare a menu with appetizers, a main course with five or so dishes, and a selection of desserts to name a few.
My mother is the boss in the kitchen. I grew up to my mother’s cooking on ordinary days and special occasions. Like my grandmother, she cooked by feel or estimation. Unless completely necessary, she would use measuring tools to aid in her cooking. To this day, she makes mean dishes. Her specialties are barbecue and pasta. She plans on taking up culinary classes when my youngest brother has graduated from college. She would like to learn more about other cuisines and develop her craft. It’s a shame I didn’t get my mother’s love for cooking when I could be following her footsteps.
The School of Essential Ingredients
by Erica Bauermeister
The book was divided into chapters named after the main characters, Lillian, Claire, Carl, Antonia, Tom, Chloe, Isabelle, Helen, and Ian. Every one of the character’s stories centers on a dish or an ingredient that has a profound effect upon how they see themselves or the world.
The story began with Lillian narrating on how she cooked her mother out from depression. Her mother had succumbed to this state when her father left them. Since then, Lillian’s mother lived in the world of her books, oftentimes reciting some phrases aloud as if she were in character. With the help of a good friend, Abuelita, Lillian succeeded in her mission. Little did she know that she had a greater mission of becoming an instrument in bringing other people’s lives together through her soulful dishes.
I don’t know much about cooking per se, but I did enjoy reading this book. It was amazing how the author put into writing the aromas, flavors, and textures of what the characters create as if you can actually taste them. I also believe in the author’s perception that the dishes one make depend on his mood. When a dish was made with much passion and love, the cook brings out the best in its essential ingredients.
This is not a recipe book, but the author kind of gave hints on how certain techniques can be effective, which is a good thing. I am giving this book a generous three stars, perhaps for my lack of knowledge in cooking, but overall a nice read.
P.S. Thank you, Micah, for lending me this delectable piece of work. You do have an eccentric taste in the books you read. No pun intended!