My Life-Changingest Book of 2016

I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it is true. This has been a book that I have thought about, underlined, re-read, quoted, and refused to put away because I keep needing to reference something. Technically, this book didn’t even belong to me; Lindsey got it as a birthday present on our family vacation and I picked it up first. She agreed to let me borrow it for the drive home since we were going to be seeing each other again a few days later, but after reading a few chapters I texted her that I was sorry, but there was no way I was returning it. I just had to buy her a new copy. The book: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn.

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The premise of the book is simple: a professionally trained chef takes 10 self-described “bad home cooks” and teaches them basic cooking lessons. These women (the one man in the class dropped out before the first lesson) range in age, race, life-stage, and income, but the all feel equally incompetent in the kitchen.

Flinn starts her project by doing a “What Not to Wear” style pantry and fridge evaluation of each volunteer and notices some common issues like food waste, fear of under-cooking meat, reliance on hyper-processed boxed foods, and general self-consciousness about cooking. All of these women want to provide healthy, cheap, delicious meals for their families, but they are overwhelmed and don’t where to start. Flinn hosts lessons that cover basic cooking techniques like roasting a whole chicken, adding a “flavor kiss” to veggies to keep them exciting, baking homemade bread, mixing salad dressings, salvaging leftovers, and so much more. Each lesson is simple, but revolutionary to these women. Flinn also takes some of the pressure out of home cooking. She constantly encourages them to take risks–even if they fail, it’s just one meal, not the end of the world! They feel empowered and equipped to tackle the should-be-simple task of home cooking.

Now I would not consider myself a bad cook. I make meals for myself and Reggie most nights of the week, and I feel pretty comfortable trying new recipes. But this book has given my cooking new life. I regularly fight falling into a slump  cooking-wise, and this book was a right-book, right-time kind of thing. After reading it, I was re-energized to try some basic but really fun things in my kitchen. In the past few weeks I have made several whole chickens (plus chicken stock from the leftover bones), fresh bread, and mayo. I visited the farmers market and found some really great, local fruits and veggies that have added a little excitement and variety to our days. So far everything as turned out pretty good, which makes me more confident and excited to keep trying new things.

Reading The Kitchen Counter Cooking School made the necessary task of daily food preparation seem like a fun, and not overwhelming task, and if you are anything like me, that is always a good thing!

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My first batch of homemade bread!

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