On a trip to my recent discovery, Elliot Bay Book Company, I picked up “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” because it sounded fun, educational and was in the bargain area. I didn’t realize until I got home and took a closer look at the cover, that I owned the author’s first book, “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less you Cry“. I read that one a little over a year ago and truly enjoyed getting a glimpse into her trials, tribulations and successes attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I loved that she was just a regular foodie who decided to be adventurous and attend one of the top cooking schools in the world. That book is a memoir and has more of a concrete narrative with a very sweet story.
The “Kitchen Counter Cooking School” is sort of the story of an experiment. Kathleen herself doesn’t know how it will turn out in the end, but takes it upon herself to give basic cooking lessons to 9 “culinary novices” to see if giving them the skills and tools to take on their kitchens will change their eating habits and boost their cooking confidence. She even had some food pros as guest teachers for some of the classes to teach on their respective area of expertise.
Growing up eating homemade, delicious, “from scratch” meals, I hadn’t really realized how spoiled I was. My mom is an exceptional cook and I was lucky enough to grow up eating healthy, fantastic meals consistently. The desire to continue those eating habits is probably what spurs my food obsession to this day.
The cooking newbies described in the book were mostly intimidated of the kitchen and had financial or time constraints that prevented them from doing much actual cooking in their kitchens. When meeting each student, Kathleen had them create a meal that they make often. These meal descriptions almost made me sick! “White Trash Garlic Bread” consisted of a hamburger bun, margarine, garlic salt and canned Parmesan cheese. “El Paso Casserole” was made up of canned tomato soup, canned turkey chili, canned cream corn and shredded Cheddar cheese. Their cupboards were stocked with cans, packaged, processed and instant “food”. I was so thankful this was the beginning of the book and that there would hopefully be some progress!
The basic skills that she taught these students were super helpful for me to read. I learned scads about knife skills, flavor profiles, baking bread, creating vinaigrettes, stocks, soups and using leftovers. I don’t think I was taught much on “how to cook”, I just really wanted to eat healthily and scrumptiously so I just tried to figure it out. I’m still intimidated by things like yeast, sifted flour and fish but after reading this book, I feel pretty confident that I should just get over my fear and try. Seriously, what is the worst that could happen!? It doesn’t turn out perfectly and you try again. Just like with anything else, practice makes (close enough to) perfect.
And on the off chance that it does turn out, I can’t think of anything better than food to experiment with. Can you?
This book had some seriously useful tips, lessons, theories and some great stories thrown in . Can I get a ticket to one of those Red Velvet Dinners!? Kathleen Flinn also has a website that is sort of an offshoot of the book and curates anything and everything that will help you “Cook Fearlessly“.