‘The Monday Night Cooking School’ by Erica Bauermeister

I recently read Erica Bauermeister’s The Monday Night Cooking School (the book is also published under the title The School of Essential Ingredients). It’s a charming book – essentially linked short stories about eight people who meet at a cooking class.

I’m not going to attempt a ‘traditional’ review of this book (at last count, 2,443 people on Goodreads have already done that). Instead, given that I read this book as part of the Foodies Reading Challenge, I thought that a list of the dishes described in the book was far more thrilling – without question, food is the star of the The Monday Night Cooking School. Some of these dishes are described in greater detail than others but all are important to the stories (especially plain, steamed rice for Ian, whose story I enjoyed the most).

Scrambled eggs
Mashed potato
Magic coffee
Crab with buttery white wine and lemon sauce
White cake
Tortelini with butter and sage
Roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary
Pumpkin ravioli
Stuffed turkey breast with rosemary, cranberries and pancetta
Polenta with gorgonzola
Green beans with lemon and pine nuts
Chocolate biscotti
Bolognese sauce
Spice cake
Tortillas with salsa
Spring salad of baby lettuce leaves, dried cranberries, almonds and pear
Salmon served on white cannellini beans with crisp sage
Cheese fondue
Steamed rice
Chicken stir-fried with ginger and broccoli
Beef Bourguignon
Asparagus risotto

Finally, there were lots of delicious quotes I could have pulled from this book but my favourite was this –

“Kneading dough is like swimming or walking – it keeps part of your mind busy and allows the rest of your mind to go where it wants or needs to.”


3/5 Gentle, sweet and lingering.

So much food packed into 200-odd pages! As much as I love pumpkin ravioli (with a butter and sage sauce, please), I’m pairing this book with asparagus risotto. I live for asparagus.


6 responses

  1. This book, so much food…it’s sincerely a wonder I don’t weigh 200lbs. I did pair my review with pumpkin ravioli, I love pumpkin anything.

    I find both covers rather underwhelming.

    • Agree about the covers although I prefer the School of Essential Ingredients artwork – the Monday Night cover looks so mumsy that I would have otherwise just passed over it in a bookshop.

      I love pumpkin everything as well. In Australia we don’t eat pumpkin as dessert – it’s always savoury eg. risotto, pasta, soup and my favourite, roast pumpkin. I was an exchange student in Germany when I was a teen and one day started preparing vegetables for the meal, including roasting some pumpkin. My host mother looked at me in horror and said “Kate, that is the food for the pigs!” (they had lots of animals). But she let me cook it anyway and they all enjoyed it. To this day, she tells me that sometimes they still have a ‘pig’s dinner’!

      • I much prefer it savory (although I do love Pumpkin Waffles) and I flat out cannot stand pumpkin pie.

        Are you going to read the sequel? The first one is better, but I liked something particular (and ridiculous) about the second. I won’t tell you if you plan to read it (I’ll wait until after).

  2. I .liked this book and the sequel, although there seemed to be more focus on food in this one so it is my preference. Bauermeister certainly knows how to engage the reader’s senses. I also read her other book but wasn’t as keen on that one.

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