This book centers on the power of food and the existence of an incredible, mystical relationship with cooking. There are gorgeous descriptions of ingredients, of sauce-making, of perfect desserts. It's a big love letter to gastronomy and an appreciation of taste and smell.
It's also, well, a tad sappy. The characters are extremely sensitive - and each can communicate with others through only the most understanding of glances, or the kindest half-smile. In the same chapters where I scoffed at the sentimentality, I found myself next to tears in just a few pages. Even if I wasn't crazy about what Bauermeister was doing with her characters, the language she used to make it happen was wonderfully moving.
"The School of Essential Ingredients" is really a place where everything works out, where the people are wholeheartedly good and the eating is divine. My final reaction was, so what if it's romanticized to within an inch of it's life? It's delicious.