North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Novelist cooks up a savory debut


November 18, 2009

Book cover

The School of Essential Ingredients

By Erica Bauermeister

($24.95, G.P. Putnam)

"The School of Essential Ingredients" is a very satisfying and contemplative debut novel by Erica Bauermeister, who explores the essence of cooking and of people with well-blended timing. She taps right into her characters and shares their lives with both precision and tasty detail.

The storyline is of Lillian's cooking school, which she hosts in the kitchen of her restaurant on evenings when it is closed. The essential ingredient to the story is within the prologue, in which we hear of Lillian's youth and how she developed her taste for cooking. The author permeates her story with ideas worth remembering, blended into quotes from her characters, "Sometimes...our greatest gifts grow from what we are not given." The cooking teacher informs us that "...a cake is ...a balance between air and structure. You give your cake too much structure and it becomes tough. Too much air and it literally falls apart."

When she moves us into the lives of the individuals of the cooking class, Bauermeister pens great visuals, as in remarking on a house we're about to enter, "the downspout hanging loose in the air like an arm caught in mid-wave" and a woman having age-related memory problems seeing "phone numbers arriving and departing from her mind like trains without a schedule."

You will savor this book.

Mary Burns is the owner of The BookWORKS, located at 1510 Third Street, downtown Marysville, 360.659.4997, or online at Comments or requests are welcome at


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