My conversation with an author: more then a delicious read (Editorial)


Claire Neiberg

Just by looking at the photograph, one can tell this was a well-loved book. I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a memorable read.

Recently for an English paper, I read Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients.  My personal experience reading this novel was different from the classic reader and incredibly special.

Throughout the drafting stages of my paper, I had several email conversations with Bauermeister, learning her personal motives for writing her novel. From speaking with her, I learned that her original idea behind writing the novel was when she found herself in a similar situation.

“The original idea behind School was to explore the way specific flavors and foods could change someone’s life,” said Bauermeister. “It came from an experience I had in a cooking class.” 

This event in her life connected to the plot of the story, as the novel tells the story of protagonist, Chef Lillian, who is a woman with a passion for cooking.  She opens a cooking school in her kitchen, where she teaches a diverse group of students that the “essential ingredients” are what create a perfect meal, and that food is a healer.

Bauermeister uses vivid imagery to structure her characters that mold the story into a concrete character analysis and brilliantly tells the tale of how Lillian helps her students work through their problems, seeing each other in a new light through cooking.

She details how she creates her imagery by stating, “How would I describe an avocado if I wasn’t worried about being scientific or completely accurate?  Well, to me, the fun part of an avocado is the difference between the outside and inside (like so many people). Grumpy on the outside, spring on the inside.”

By giving food human characteristics, she gives her readers the ability to connect with the images on a more personal level, as her description of an avocado relates to many people.  Her creativity shines through in her novel like none other I have read.

While writing the novel, Bauermeister had a solid idea of what as she wanted her characters to experience.

“I wanted people to think about ingredients as personalities, to encourage them to pitch the recipes and play with the feelings in order to create food that satisfied their souls as well as their taste buds,” said Bauermeister.

By doing this, her novel is one that reaches readers.  All of her characters have complex backgrounds which become expressed through the ingredients which they cook with.  From cooking, their personal struggles metaphorically melt in with the food, creating a not only a stellar dish but also the notion of self-discovery.

The quintessential element that readers can take out of the novel is that food can serve a greater purpose than just fulfilling one’s stomach, and that the act of eating can embark characters not only on a physical but also an emotional journey.

My conversation with author Erica Bauermeister not only served my paper well but my overall understanding of author inspiration.