I loved reading about Kathleen Flinn‘s teaching adventures in The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. I can’t recommend it highly enough for those who want, very simply, to master their kitchen domain. Flinn had the idea to start the “school” after she sneakily followed a mother and daughter around the supermarket pondering their choices, which all seemed to be heavily processed and straight out of the box. These days food and related choices are sensitive issues – that Flinn had the nerve to approach a total stranger to inquire about her purchasing decisions is amazing, that the woman confessed her concerns regarding preparing meals from fresh food is even more so. Flinn, wondering if others felt similarly, and if she could help, decided to find participants with cooking fears, looked into their habits – seeing how they are eating and what they are making- and then created a class to address common fears and issues.
Flinn found women who were less than confident in their cooking skills and spent time with them, going over what was in the cupboards and having them prepare a meal in front of her. This part of the book was interesting but became tedious because of the amount of women she had to visit. It was hard to distinguish between them after awhile, and I appreciated it a lot more when she related their situations later on in the lessons. It became apparent that many have similar collections of food in our refrigerators and cabinets. The real meat of the book is when Flinn and her co-chefs teach the women the basics of cutting up meat and vegetables, using a knife, preparing fresh salad dressings and marinades, and clearing ingredients in the fridge to make meals and stocks. Her tips and tricks gave the women confidence to make fast and healthy meals for themselves (perceptions of lack time and confidence in ability seem to be the reason that most opt for processed over fresh meals).
I already feel comfortable cooking, but I was happy to be shown a few new and simple dishes, and was grateful for the reminder that it can be really easy and quick to make healthful dishes- without a great expenditure of time, and without breaking the bank. I also like that Flinn takes the time to “debunk” some kitchen terms like braising and deglazing, etc. I saw cooking terms that I realize I perform all the time. I just don’t think of them as anything quite so fancy.
Since picking up The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, I have ventured back into making stocks and homemade soups, and have reacquainted myself with the omelette, a toasty piece of bread and a nice glass of wine as a delicious and easy meal. This is a great book for those who need to boost their kitchen self-esteem or those who are comfortable in the kitchen, but in need of a reminder of the basics. Flinn writes with an immediacy and warmth that is accessible and inviting to readers. I really enjoyed her voice and reading her stories, as will the fledgling chef in your life. Highly Recommended.