The School of Essential Ingredients, by Erica Bauermeister is one of the most perfect works of modern fiction I've read this year, or in the past 5 years, come to think of it.
Like its subject matter, it's a delicious blend of the perfect seasonings, such as flawless prose with full-fat tasty characters who tell their stories in a honest, unsparing fashion that fascinates the reader. The plot melts and liquifies like butter in a saucepan with the garlic of goodness and the onion of brilliant storytelling adding flavor to the dish.
I drooled over each chapter as my mind consumed paragraph after paragraph of luscious story:
"In the mornings they woke to songbirds and church bells, then walked across the crunch of small white rocks in the courtyard of their bed and breakfast to one of the round green metal tables set under a linden tree. They poured thick black coffee from one silver pot and foaming hot milk from another into wide white cups that warmed their hands as they drank. They ate croissants that melted on their fingertips, scattering crumbs that disappeared among the rocks, only to be found by songbirds after they had left.
They spent days exploring roads that wound like grapevines up through towns set on the tops of hills, their limestone houses drenched in wisteria, their shutters pale blues or violet or faded sage green, the smells of lunch and dinner slipping out of the windows like children, playing in narrow streets that curved and meandered and made no sense, if you only cared about where you were going, which they didn't."
And this ripe melon of prose:
"Antonia made a celebration of things he had always dismissed as moments to be rushed through on the way to something more important. Being around her he found everyday experiences were deeper, nuanced, satisfaction and awareness slipped in between the layers of life like love notes hidden in the pages of a textbook."
"Ian slid his finger along the edge of the tiramisu, bringing it to his mouth. The texture was warm, creamy and soft, like lips parting beneath his own, the taste utterly lacking in precision, luxurious and urgent, mysterious and comforting. Ian stood in the kitchen, waiting for Antonia, every sense in his body awake and completely alive, and thought that if stars were suddenly to fall in a great, glorious burst into his kitchen, he would hardly be surprised."
Ahhhhh. Feel that? That is the satisfaction of having devoured a book that will nourish your heart, mind and soul.
This is that kind of book, generous with beauty and dignity and strength of soul.
I recommend that only those who love life read it, as those who don't care for living will weep at what they missed.
I hope to find more books by Ms Bauermeister, so that I can roll around in her prose like a child rolls around in meadows of flowers.