Friday, March 27, 2015

The School of Essential Ingredients, Lasagna and Salad

“Have you read the Book? Book Club” February’s selection was “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister. 
joy cover 
The Siberian Express was ravaging the eastern part of the country and as the temperature continued to drop and layers of ice were hiding in plain sight on every roadway in Charlotte, NC I was snuggled in reading  “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister.   

Erica, the author writes with a whimsical flare that captures your interest the minute you dip into the book and radiates such warmth, it wraps itself around you like a favorite sweater on a chilly day.

The book was a National Bestseller, published in 2009 and this was Elaine’s selection this year and was recommended to Elaine by our local librarian at the Waxhaw, NC library. Thank you Elaine and Ms. Librarian!

I have to say, I loved loved loved this book! Elaine thought our group would enjoy it and she was so, right we all did.
Erica’s writing captured my attention from the first page as I stepped off the pages of the book into Lillian’s restaurant, imagining all the scents and delicious dishes that would be prepared in her kitchen. The same goes for when I walked into Ann’s home, I thought it was like walking into Lillian’s restaurant, a home filled with warmth, the smell of garlic and is that lasagna in the oven? Yes, one of my favorite dishes! 

Ann's Lasagna and Field Greens Salad
After our discussion I realized that the book reflected so much of what our book club is about. Some of us in the book club enjoy cooking more than others, but we all share a love for a great read, good food, laughing and just enjoying each others company.

Ann served fresh bruschetta; toasted French bread topped with chopped tomatoes tossed with garlic, olive oil and basil, which kick started our taste buds and the evening. Ann prepared a delicious and savory Lasagna; ground beef with red sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, Italian herbs and a surprise ingredient, a pinch of cinnamon, it was a layered delight! Here is a link for a recipe similar to how I make my lasagna and Ann’s was very much like this with a pinch of cinnamon!  As we caught up and shared news, Rose had the most amazing and wonderful story to share, she found her Dad! After years of never knowing where he was they finally connected. How could we top this discussion?

As we gathered around Ann’s table it was a special night for another reason, Ann’s home caught fire last year and if you have ever lost anything to a fire you really understand that the only thing that really matters is that you and your family are safe. Stuff is just stuff, as Don Henley sings But you don't see no hearses with luggage racks” from his song “Gimmie what cha got”.

The writing in the book is described by many as lyrical and the ladies agreed that book was beautifully written. Some of us were drawn in by the in-depth description on preparing the food, others not so much but we all agreed that it was a great book.

We all shared stories of our own kitchen experiences growing up and it was apparent that each of our own childhood environments’s influenced how we look at food. Food for many is simply about survival; however when fresh food is available and prepared by someone with great care a person can begin to appreciate why some of us love to cook and learn to enjoy foods they never liked in the past. And nothing compares to just picked organic veggies, however I will say that some frozen vegetables which are properly packaged will do until the fields warm and start producing fresh vegetables.

My Mom is a great cook, however I remember her Brussels sprouts growing up, not so tasty sorry mom I don’t think you had access to fresh Brussels sprouts…Took me years to try them again and only when our son Jake prepared them with a little garlic and butter. Oh and yes they were just picked organic Brussels sprouts and yes they were yummy.

I think all of us at book club share the same philosophy as Lillian and Erica, that a recipe is just a suggestion. Follow this link for Lillian’s recipes. I always feel such joy when I stumble across a new author that I fall in love with. Here is another link to Erica’s favorite reads.
If you don’t like to cook I still recommend this book, you might just start a love affair with cooking or learn to appreciate freshly prepared meals. 

Thank you for stopping by. Just cook something, experiment, try new things, it’s ok to make mistakes, if you’re not making mistakes your not trying new things. 

In The Lost Art of Mixing Erica continues the story of several of the characters in “The School of Essential Ingredients” .  

For a list of all our books click here “Have you read the Book? Book Club”. Cheers! Kary~ 

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