In 2009, I accidentally stumbled upon Erica Bauermeister's "School of Essential Ingredients" on audio. Nothing could have prepared me for the delight, THE JOY, of that book. It left two distinct impressions with me when I finished it...the author knows food and the sensual art of cooking, and she knows the heart of a woman.
Now she is back again with more joy, both for beginners and her repeat customers. I was resolute in my mission to wait for the audio. But I saw this book at the Borders close-out sale, and I grabbed it. I couldn't resist. I needed some joy in my holiday season.
Synopsis: Kate has just emerged from years of battling breast cancer, victorious and ready to embrace life again. Her daughter has challenged her to take a white-water rafting tour in the Grand Canyon...something that is WAY outside Kate's comfort zone. At an intimate dinner party with her five best girlfriends, Kate agrees to face her fear...IF the other five women agree to face their own fears by accepting a mission of Kate's choosing.
So we get to know each woman, and the struggles they have been through. Motherhood, divorce, widowhood, alienation from family, as well as watching their friend fend off death. They all have baggage, and Kate knows just the thing to help them heal. Whether it be getting rid of an ex-husband's books, baking bread, or getting a tattoo, the women each go through a period of rediscovery and rebuilding.
My thoughts: Well, that little statement I made about the food and the heart of a woman? Ms. Bauermeister has done it again. She is witty and warm; she makes my heart soar. She gets it.
When she talks about kneading and baking bread, I felt almost intoxicated:
Daria lay next to Henry in his bed, inhaling the smell of baking bread that filled the house, the man beside her. Warm sugar, fields in the summer, the slight sharpness of wine. She wondered if anyone had ever made a perfume that was the essence of bread, but even then, how could you get it to cover one person so evenly, to sink into hair, hands, the warm expanse of a chest?
Or what it feels like to be firmly implanted in middle age:
The cold reality of it had struck her, as if, perched on the crest of a roller coaster, the rest of the ride was suddenly, irreversibly clear. On the way up, the vista had been infinite, the time to look about sometimes agonizingly long; now there was only the certain and dispassionate knowledge that there was one set of rails on which to travel, the ending immutable and about to begin. It didn't matter that the rest of the trip might take twenty, even thirty years to complete; the angle of the ride had changed.
But probably the very best scene of the book is when Kate, after kicking those rapids to the curb, "leaned over, kissed Robin's cheek and leaped off the rock, a howl of joy flying in the air". It makes me cry just typing it.
If you are in the mood for a celebration of life, women and bread, you must give yourself the gift of sinking into this book. Trust me, you will thank me.
5 out of 5 stars