How To Cook

Sep 01 2009

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I am a minimalist.

This is especially so in the kitchen. I haven’t bought a new pot, pan, or kitchen utensil in 5 years. I just don’t need to. I know the basics.

I have a slightly more eclectic approach to cookbooks. I believe in learning how to cook things in general. I don’t follow an omelette recipe; I know how to make omelettes, and will incorporate whatever ingredients are handy and/or interesting to me in the moment.

As such, I recommend cooks buy The Joy of Cooking, and concentrate on that for their first few years.

But. An unusual cookbook can inspire the cook, and introduce an unexpected flavor or texture combination. A treasured few can do that, while beautifully illustrating methods of cooking that may be a bit too briefly covered in the venerable Joy of Cooking.

Such is the case with Delia Smith’s How To Cook. I confess that I stumbled on this large hardback in a nearby cafe-cum-bookstore, just after sampling a deliriously delicious coconut cake. As luck would have it, this book had a recipe for just such a cake, and even better, it was on sale. So I bought it.

It’s a lovely BBC production, a companion to a TV series, and the pages are laid out in an admirably clear, downright artful structure. It really shows you how to make an omelette, and roast a chicken, and prepare fish, and many other common kitchen projects, in addition to its many recipes (all lovingly photographed).

I’m trying not to lead up to a “you should buy this” finale. Does everyone need this book? Of course not. But it is beautiful and useful.

And of how many things in life can one say that?

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