March 17, 2012
Audiobook: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
by Kathleen Flinn
Read by Marguerite Gavin
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
(Also a post for Weekend Cooking.)
I adored Flinn's first book, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, and was quite excited to tackle her next book.
Home from Paris and Le Cordon Bleu, author Flinn is wondering what to do with her life. She really has no interest in owning a restaurant, and is getting tired of people asking her when she's going to open one (and on a similar line, when are she and her husband going to have a baby...). Then, in a grocery store, inspiration hits: she sees a woman whose grocery cart is full of processed foods, and the reason? Because she doesn't feel she can cook. It's intimidating. She doesn't know how. It's too hard. Thus, the Project is born: Flinn finds nine volunteers all who are generally insecure about cooking, and persuades them to come in for a series of lessons on cooking basics. Flinn's goal: to give them the skills and confidence to cook and turn away from fast food and processed food.
I'll tell you straight up: I learned a lot from this book. A lot. And that was listening to the audio version. I need to go out and purchase the book, so I can have it as a reference in my kitchen. She really does go over all the basics: knife skills, chicken, meat, vegetables, braising, roasting, soup, salad, vinaigrette... it's all in there. And Flinn is a good teacher. I'm sure her nine volunteers learned a lot from the classes, but she was able to convey what was taught -- with a few side trips, to Rome and some fancy dinner parties to raise money -- through her words in a way that engaged and interested me. I ended up thinking about this as a practical Michael Pollan: while he spouts ideals (and good ones at that), Flinn actually gives people the tools to use in putting those ideals -- eating real food, cooking with real ingredients -- to use.
The woman who read the book grated on me at first; she has weird pauses in the middle of sentences that bothered me. Also: listening to recipes being read aloud isn't that great, so I ended up skipping those. Even with those shortcomings (and they're not even Flinn's fault), it's the best kind of food book: useful, interesting, yummy-sounding with dozens of good recipes that are easy to use. Hopefully, it'll do for you what it did for me: inspire you to cook.