The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

I started this book on Friday. I finished it today. (Granted, I had one of those lay on the couch and read days, but still. 4 days. It feels like record time for me, lately.)

Firstly, let's take a moment and remember how much I loved Flinn's first book, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. Remember? Good.

This book opens with this quote:

"You teach best what you most need to learn." - Richard Bach.

That's the prologue, and then part one opens with:

"For most people, the only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." - Julia Child

So there you go. This is Kathleen (I feel after two memoirs, I can call her by her first name) giving 9 volunteers permission to have a what-the-hell attitude in the kitchen.  You read that right: volunteers. She asked people to let her teach them basic cooking skills. Things that I feel like I know, but would still pay someone to help me hone. And Kathleen is a Cordon Bleu trained chef. Teaching these women for free. If I hadn't learned so much reading the book, I'd be much more jealous. As it is, let's just say my list of Seattle Food Writers To Stalk keeps growing and growing and growing.

She starts off with something that almost everyone lacks: knife skills. Then she moves on to some taste testing (iodized salt DOES taste like chemicals!) and approaching a whole chicken, beef (not the whole cow), soups, stocks, what to do with leftovers, and tips for planning your menu so you can shop more efficiently.

Kathleen has tirelessly researched the details she uses to motivate her volunteers and readers: Americans waste 30% of the food they bring into their homes, for example. She packs in recipes, more recipes, a hearty bibliography, and recommended reading - all of which I am grateful for (and you will be, too.)

Her volunteers all have the same thing in common: they are so removed from the process of cooing and nourishing themselves that they admit to being scared to cook. Scared of the knives, scared of chicken, scared of fish, scared of failing. They represent a lot of people out there, I think. Although they are all women, they range in age and income from early twenties to mid-sixties, from food stamps to an almost $1000 a month budget.

To help with these classes, she brings in experts: fellow chefs, nutritionists, a former-chef, a Top Chef cheftestant - they add much needed color and I found myself learning things I'd never even knew I didn't know. I also will be bringing home any bones from restaurant meals. Particularly steak bones. Hello, beef stock!

So, like I said, I know my way around a kitchen, but this book wasn't written for me, necessarily. It was written for people who have a go-to meal and then a stack of take-out menus or frozen dinners. It's a wake-up call to take back our kitchens and our mealtimes...if only to regain control of our sodium intake.

I tagged this inspirational because, well, it is, but also because I have been inspired: 2012 is the year I conquer yeast. That's what I'm scared of. Yeast. We have a fair-weather relationship and really, I just want to make it my bitch. You hear that, yeast? I'm coming for you!

Kathleen Flinn's youtube channel can be found here. It's got some helpful video tutorials in it, well worth watching. Enjoy!

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