Reading guide for The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The School of Essential Ingredients

by Erica Bauermeister

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister X
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2009, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2010, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Joanne Collings

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Discussion questions

  1. When Claire first walks into Lillian's, she reflects: "When was the last time she had been someplace where no one knew who she was?" Is the anonymity of the kitchen a lure for Lillian's students?
  2. How did you respond to the story of Lillian's upbringing? Would Lillian have been better off with a more traditional home life, like those of her school friends? Do you agree with Abuelita's statement that "sometimes our greatest gifts grow from what we are not given"?
  3. Besides scenes from her childhood, the author discloses very little about Lillian. Why do you think she did this? How would the book be different if we knew more about Lillian's day-to-day life?
  4. As a general rule, Lillian doesn't give her students recipes. Why do you think she does this? What are the pros and cons of this approach to cooking?
  5. Did Helen do the right thing by telling Carl about her affair? How would their marriage—and Helen and Carl themselves—have evolved had he never learned the truth?
  6. Each 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. What connections do you see between Claire and the crabs? Between Chloe and tortillas? Tom and the pasta sauce?
  7. Although we only see Charlie, Tom's wife, in flashback, she seems to share Lillian's love of essential ingredients.  What do you make of Charlie's statement that "We're all just ingredients. What matters is the grace with which you cook the meal"?
  8. Chloe observes that Thanksgiving at her house is "about everyone being the same, and if you're not, eating enough so you won't notice." Is this something that our culture buys into in a larger sense?  How does Lillian's approach to food fly in the face of this idea?
  9. Isaac says to Isabelle that he thinks "we are each a chair and a ladder for the other." What do you think he means? Are there people in your life who are or have been that for you?
  10. Lillian tells the class that "a holiday is a lot like a kitchen.  What's important is what comes out of it." In what way do the kitchens in this book—Lillian's childhood kitchen, the greasy spoon where Tom meets Charlie, the kitchen that Antonia saves from demolition—represent different celebrations of life? Is there a kitchen in your life that you associate with a particular celebration or emotional milestone?
  11. At the end of the novel, Lillian reflects that: "She saw how connected [the students'] lives had become and would remain. Where did a teacher fit in the picture, she wondered, when there was no longer a class?" What does happen to Lillian once her class is disbanded? Do you feel that each character's story is resolved? What do you imagine happens in these characters' lives after the book ends?
  12. What would be your essential ingredients?
Free Book Club Report

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Berkley Books. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Circe
    Circe
    by Madeline Miller
    Towards the end of Madeline Miller's novel Circe, the titular nymph is questioned by her son ...
  • Book Jacket: All the Names They Used for God
    All the Names They Used for God
    by Anjali Sachdeva
    Pre-publication press has already compared Anjali Sachdeva to Kelly Link and other genre-blending ...
  • Book Jacket: Look Alive Out There
    Look Alive Out There
    by Sloane Crosley
    After a brief (and thoroughly enjoyable) foray into fiction (with her 2015 novel The Clasp), Sloane ...
  • Book Jacket: Winter Sisters
    Winter Sisters
    by Robin Oliveira
    Winter Sisters begins with an epic blizzard (see Beyond the Book) hitting the entire Northeast of ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Other People's Houses
    by Abbi Waxman

    A hilarious and poignant novel about four families and the affair that changes everything.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Leavers

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

One of the most anticipated books of 2017--now in paperback!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T E H N Clothes

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.