The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
Published by Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin
Please also see the additional post with the giveaway and knife skills video.
Kathleen Flinn is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, but she wasn’t really doing anything much with her training. Sure, she wrote a book about her experience there, but since then? Yeah, not much for some time. Not until the Kitchen Counter Cooking School.
It all started with a trip to the grocery store. Compelled by something she herself couldn’t quite explain, Kathleen approached a perfect stranger and began asking her about the piles and piles of boxes in her shopping cart, things that approximated, but didn’t approach, real food. When she discovered that the woman simply had no idea how to actually cook for herself the relatively easy dishes the boxes allegedly contained, an idea began to take root.
With more research, it became clear to Flinn that we have, as a nation, lost much of our cooking literacy. As she points out, when speaking on some friends’ radio show:
“Recipe writers don’t use certain words anymore, like braise. Instead, they write, ‘Cover and simmer in the oven,’ because people don’t know what braise means.” – p. 43
This loss of literacy has roughly corresponded with our growing obesity epidemic, and the two do seem to be connected.
Several studies back up (Jamie Oliver)’s assertions that the less a person cooks real food, the more they rely on processed or convenience foods, whether at home or in the fast-food line, and the more weight-related health problems they experience. -p. 36
This situation, Kathleen decided, was something that needed to change, even if only one person at a time. With help from fellow chefs, she chose nine women who wanted to change their eating and cooking habits and brought them to a basic kitchen and cooking class, covering not only specific methods of food preparation, but things like knife skills as well.
If far too many of your meals come from a box, a bag, or a drive-through line and you wish they didn’t, this is the book for you. Flinn has a way of talking about cooking and food that is at once magical and realistic. Her instructions are clear and concise, and there is something new to learn on nearly every page. As a result, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is hugely inspiring, making real home-cooking seem like something attainable. The best thing is, Flinn seems to truly believe in the abilities of not only everyone in her class, but everyone reading her book.
There have been books before that have inspired me to want to change my eating habits; most notably, anything by Michael Pollan. These tend to be only very short-term changes, however, because while they often have concrete ideas of what to change, they fail to impart the tools for how to do it. That is where The Kitchen Counter Cooking School really excels. This is decidedly not a cookbook, but you will find a number of clear recipes, many of which I have already made within a week of reading the book. Although I may need to do rereads for further inspiration – The Kitchen Counter Cooking School has definitely earned a place in my permanent collection – I can see this as being the one that really sticks.
For the aspiring home cook, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School provides both something to aspire to, and the tools to reach it. Highly recommended.
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