About a month ago Viking approached me about reviewing Kathleen Flinn’s newest book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks. They gave me some material from and about it to look over before making my decision. I was very impressed with both the concept and the author, and I think you will be too.
Although I don’t review cooking or how-to books, I decided to ask Viking if we could do a giveaway without a review since I really think you will love this one – and they said yes!
I haven’t read the book, which was just released on September 27, 2011, but I’m going to tell you and show you some of what I do know about it. Then you can make up your own mind. Personally I’m jealous of whoever wins this giveaway because this is a book I’d love to add to my own collection – and I’d actually use this one!
Here’s the scoop on the book:
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is essentially What Not to Wear meets Michael Pollan. Inspired by a supermarket encounter with a woman loading up on processed foods, Le Cordon Blue graduate, and author of The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry, Kathleen Flinn decided to use her culinary training to help a group of nine culinary novices find their inner cook. The students invited her into their kitchens, where she inventoried each person’s refrigerator, cabinets and eating habits. After kitchen makeovers and a series of basic lessons, where they learned to wield knives, trust their taste and improve their food choices, the women found a common missing ingredient — confidence. In this new book, Flinn follows these women’s journeys and includes practical, healthy tips to boost readers’ culinary confidence, strategies to get the most from their grocery dollars, and simple recipes to get readers cooking.
Sound interesting? I thought so. Here’s a link to an excerpt from the book. If you’re like me, you like to see what an author’s writing style is like before you consider a book. This excerpt made me feel right at home with Kathleen Flinn. It was like I had known her my whole life.
Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly says about The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: “Flinn guides you patiently in the kitchen like the mom you always wish you’d had to learn to cook from. The women gained confidence under Flinn’s wonderfully encouraging tutelage, and fearlessly faced their kitchens and grocery stores with useful knowledge.”
Below is a short video of Kathleen’s Flynn’s lesson on making all kinds of vinaigrettes. I loved it and I learned some inexpensive but delicious ways to make my own salad dressings!
A Q&A with Kathleen Flynn:
What was your inspiration for writing The Kitchen Counter Cooking School?
I was asked to do a graduation speech at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and it hit me. Who am I to give anyone advice? I’m not even working as a chef. Right after that, I ran into a woman shopping with her young daughter in a supermarket, her cart packed with processed foods. I observed her through the store and ultimately ended up talking to her. She was a smart woman who relied on convenience foods because she felt she was a poor cook and that got me thinking. Is this the real state of cooking in America? So I set on a project to find out.
Many inexperienced cooks can be intimidated by the instructional language in recipes. Can you give a couple of examples that sound complicated, but are actually easy?
The top example is the classic “season to taste.” I talk to home cooks all the time and they think, “What does that mean? What’s season? To whose taste?” It’s simply referring to adding salt and pepper until you think it tastes good to you as a cook. The other one is the infamous “cook until done.” What the heck is done? What does it look like? If you’ve never cooked something like a roast chicken then how would you know what that means? Modern recipe writers worth their salt (forgive the pun) know this issue and address it. So here’s my answer to that dilemma: If you’re using an older recipe and you run into this phrase, search out a reliable source of recent recipe for the same thing and see what they say.
What are things you always have on hand in your own kitchen?
I believe in the power of a good pantry. I always keep garlic, onions, celery, carrots and chicken or vegetable stock around. I feel lost without a basil plant on my kitchen window. I keep around various kinds of whole wheat pasta, brown rice, fast-cooking whole grains such as quinoa, good canned tomatoes, cans of various colored beans (white beans are the household favorite), tinned local clams, frozen wild shrimp, dried mushrooms, ingredients for curry sauces, anchovies and small doses of high-quality, fresh spices. Among those items, you can make almost anything.
Any three ingredients you think are the most important?
I’d venture garlic, onion and chicken or vegetable stock since they’re kind of the basis of everything. Did I mention the basil plant?
Is there a dish/ingredient you’d never spend money on? Do you think there’s one dish/ingredient that’s worth splurging on?
I can’t imagine buying a simple vinaigrette. It’s one of the most expensive things you can buy in terms of volume in a supermarket, yet so simple and inexpensive to make at home. I spend money on quality meats, poultry and seafood. I’d rather eat less and know it’s good quality in terms of being grass-fed, hormone free and so on than have a huge piece of cheap stuff of dubious origin. With that in mind, we try to keep in mind that a portion of protein is four ounces. That’s pretty small, so even the expensive stuff in small doses doesn’t have to be expensive.
What do you think is the ultimate downside to not knowing how to cook?
Studies show that the more you cook at home, the healthier you are as a general rule. If you can’t cook, you put yourself at the mercy of companies to feed you and their interests are purely financial. Honestly, do any of us want to be reliant on companies for something so critical? If you can’t cook, you’re often going from one pre-packaged item to another, starting with the corn-syrup-laced pre-packaged breakfast sandwich at a coffee shop chain to the fast-food chicken sandwich at lunch to the frozen dinner at a grocery store. As a general rule, they don’t care if they feed you well and they don’t care about your health. All they care about is that they maximize profits, often by serving the cheapest, low-quality products possible or engineering their foods for the longest possible shelf life, or even so you eat more than you need. Most companies don’t care if their food contributes to obesity, diabetes or heart disease as long as whatever they do makes a profit. It’s one downside to capitalism.
After your research, what are the top lessons that will change how people cook?
Get a chef’s knife and learn basic knife skills. Hands down, that has the biggest long-term impact. The second thing is to learn fundamentals of roasting, steaming, braising and sautéing. Learn to use a whole chicken. For the same costs as a package of boneless skinless chicken breasts, you can buy the entire bird. Once you get the hang of it, it takes less than 10 minutes to cut one up. But I think a key thing is that the sterile nature of plastic-wrapped chicken breasts often makes us forget that was once an animal; working with a whole chicken helps you remember and, as a results, I found consistently that people waste less meat when they work with this in mind after starting with a whole chicken.
Here is a link to Kathleen Flinn’s Book Tour Events.
The Kitchen Counter Cooking School was released on September 27, 2011, so it should be available through your favorite bookseller.
If you liked this article and interview, please +1 it, like it, and/or share it with your friends!
The winner will get 1 copy of The Kitchen Counter Cooking School and a kitchen magnet (see picture below)
1) The deadline for entries is Saturday night, 10/8/2011, at 11:59pm EST. No entries after that date/time will be eligible.
2) This giveaway is open to entries with U.S. mailing addresses only because we do not ship books outside of the U.S.
3) You must use the Rafflecopter form. Even if leaving a comment is part of the giveaway, you must use the form in addition to leaving the comment for the comment to count as an entry.
4) If you already follow PopcornReads on Twitter or Facebook, you must still complete that part of the Rafflecopter form for your follow to count as an entry.
5) If you do not provide a mailing address in the Rafflecopter form, your entry will not be eligible. The publisher will use your mailing address to ship your book to you.
6) That’s it – it’s a very easy giveaway, so have fun and best of luck!