The School of Essential Ingredients: How Food Teaches You To Take Care of Yourself

Rating: Orange

The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives.

One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian’s food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen.


On my first day of teacher school, the dean of my college asked us to spend a few minutes thinking about what restores us.  He argued that if we didn’t take time to do something for ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of our students.

My list included yoga, reading (surprise surprise!), and cooking. 

Lately, I haven’t taken the time to do anything for myself aside from sleeping.  The reading has slowed down (except for mandatory school stuff), the yoga has been nonexistent for months, and cooking…as far as cooking goes, I have been eyeing the local diner or Moe’s more and more frequently. 

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