I don’t know why I’m fixating on cook books lately; perhaps it’s because this time of year lends itself to our wanting to share our best with those we love and admire? Or perhaps, being a less than stellar cook myself, I keep holding out hope that I will find the key to my inner domestic goddess. Regardless of the reason, “The Can’t Cook Book” was recommended to me from a friend (thanks, Lisa!) who knows of my struggles with culinary adequacy, and now I’m recommending it to all of you who need a little extra help when it comes to being comfortable in the kitchen. The recipes in the book run the gamut from basic (scrambled eggs and creamed cheese) to high-falutin’ (roasted striped bass and tomatoes), and are explained in a simple, straight-forward and encouraging manner. If the recipe takes more than one page to explain, then the page folds out, allowing the cook to always have the entire process available without needing to flip back and forth (that may seem like a small thing, yet who wants to flip pages with flour smeared hands, or on an already crowded counter?).
But what I really appreciated was the non-judgmental, simply expressed, beautifully illustrated and down to earth information at the start of the book, and scattered throughout. Things that experienced cooks take for granted, but we challenged cooks either don’t realize or are too embarrassed to ask about: terms for and short explanations of the various cooking pots, pans, utensils and appliances; basics about setting up your workstation; and the “how to’s”: how to prep, zest and juice citrus; how to deal with garlic (separate, smash, peel, chop); how to peel and devein shrimp; the difference between seasoning with salt and using salt “to taste”, and so on. Yes, these are basic, but they also are things that we scaredy cat cooks need to know.
So if you are nervous about laying claim to your kitchen, or know someone who is, The Can’t Cook Book may just be the best Christmas present ever, to give or to get! Happy holidays, everyone!