In honor of audiobook week, I’m rerunning my reviews of some of my favorite audiobooks. The School of Essential Ingredients was the first time I heard the magic that is Cassandra Campbell’s voice. This magical book held me captivated to the very end.
I downloaded this from the library on a whim. I knew it was a food book, which I knew I normally love, but I only kind of knew what it was about. I’d seen reviews on blogs, but I pretty much just skimmed them (thinking I wanted to read it and didn’t want to ruin anything!) but didn’t retain much of anything about what the book was about. I knew I liked the cover and I thought “what the heck” and “I need something to listen to” and “well, all the books I really want to listen to are checked out” so “I’ll get this one.”
Let me tell you. It was the BEST book decision I had made in quite awhile and I think of the main ingredients in pulling me out of my slump. Pun fully intended.
The first impression I had, as I started up the book on my iPod, was Oh My Goodness where has this narrator been all my life? Cassandra Campbell has an amazing voice and was perfect for this book. I would (seriously) put her up there with Neil Gaiman, who I have always said I would gladly love to listen to him read the phone book. Her voice is wonderful. But I instantly fell in love with this book because of the story. Or stories, rather, for The School of Essential Ingredients is, essentially, a collection of stories about a group of people who attend a cooking class in Lillian’s Restaurant, every Monday night.
These people are all searching for something. The first of these students, Claire, is a young mother searching for the self she lost when her children were born. Antonia, a beautiful, young Italian woman is searching for away to adapt to life in America. Tom is a lonely widower, just looking to learn how to survive without the love of his life, his wife, who he lost to breast cancer. Carl and Helen are looking for each other in the storm-tossed sea of their marriage. Chloe who is just looking to belong and Ian, looking for love. Each character’s story is as beautiful and touching as the first one, about Lillian herself and her search for the mother who is there, but not.
And then, there’s the food. If you can pick up this book and not come away hungry, I’m afraid there is something wrong with you. The flavors, the aromas, and the textures are all lovingly detailed and mouthwatering. Each meal sounds sumptuous and delicious; the characters tales the fine wine holding it all together. I hate that I waited so long to read this book.
And, as I said, Cassandra Campbell’s reading is perfect for this book. If you love food books, audiobooks, or marvelous character studies, you can’t go wrong with The School of Essential Ingredients.