am so high on this book, I can’t even. And some of you are going to be like, head-tilt, but some of you will SMELL WHAT I AM COOKING oh god the kitchen puns. But it came in the mail while we were staying with a girlfriend of mine who owns cast-iron skillets in six sizes and who regularly roasts a chicken, and whose son’s food allergies require her to get creative with the foodstuffs. I was primed to read it, is what I mean.
So. Kathleen Flinn is a Paris-trained chef who, through a hilarious cart-stalking episode in the supermarket, realised that people don’t eat unprocessed food because people are mostly like wtf do I do with a whole chicken. So she ran an experiment and found nine volunteers of the whole-chicken-what? category with a desire to learn, and then she learned them. She What-Not-To-Wear’ed their kitchens and then brought them together weekly to show them how to properly chop vegetables and then make those vegetables awesome and why you should get one bad-ass chef’s knife instead of a whole block of shitty knives and what spices are and how to use them to make food taste like delicious food.
And ok. I lack a basic understanding of cooking techniques (Julia Child’s Kitchen Wisdom taught me everything I know about how I’m not actually BROWNING the chicken because I refuse to pat it dry/not crowd it in the pan/get the pan really hot first, but aside from a theoretical knowledge of browning chicken, my kitchen How-To file is pretty moth-eaten) and I get that you can google things like ‘braise’ but the answer will always be all blah blah blah Dutch oven, and the only Dutch oven I’m familiar with is the kind Joel hates, and then Flinn does this too when she’s all blah braise blah Dutch oven but then there’s a FOOTNOTE saying ‘a Dutch oven is a such.’ And I get that I could ALSO google ‘Dutch oven’ but there’s only so much all-around-the-internet-bush I want to play if there are no lolcats involved, and I’d rather have someone just TELL me.
So there’s the Learning Channel aspect (back when TLC used to be about Learning, and not about Having Eight Babies Or Having Babies Super-Young Or Otherwise Exploiting Your Baby-Having), and then there are the nine women (because women still feel ultimately responsible for feeding the fam, and the one dude who initially joined the experiment was like, You know what? I’m cool, and dropped out) who range from recently-poor lawyer-types to young college kids moving in with their boyfriends, and they are SO great and Flinn is SO kind and treats them with an honesty and gentleness that made me want to hug her slash drag her to my house.
And it isn’t like cooking shows, where they’re all, Make a roux and then flambé. Flinn lomps down 30 lbs of zucchini and is like, Dice it. And the women practice dicing zucchini until they are good at dicing, and then they make a pasta dish from it and then they go home and are good at dicing and also have pasta. And I know that, in the face of people starving and the economy collapsing, being crap at dicing isn’t the end of the world but being crap at dicing is why people don’t COOK and eat STRAIGHT SODIUM out of BOXES instead and this is why we all have heart disease and diabetes and really terrible skin.
I feel strongly about foods, you guys.
I also feel strongly about lulz, and I will read Michael Pollen because he is learned but he really only has, like, one funny moment on page 3 of In Defense of Food. But Flinn (while explaining to a woman why her chicken is always so dry, AS IS MINE because salmonella is my bogeyman) is like, Cooking chicken past the recommended temperature in an attempt to kill off more bacteria is ‘like trying to get more pregnant.’ Amusing and instructive, you are my favorite flavor combination.
And it isn’t Wolf Hall or Moby-Dick or The Tiger’s Wife, but it got me fucking EXCITED in a way that those books don’t always. I just, I want people to COOK, you guys, and to feel COMPETENT and to eat TASTY THINGS THAT ARE ALSO HEALTHFUL, and I want to be a person who does this and who doesn’t eat a box of Triscuits and a Toblerone bar when Joel’s not home for dinner. Also, it comes with recipes, and if I have one PEEVE it’s books that talk about a tasty food and then don’t tell you how to make that food.
There’s also a bunch in here about societal eating jumbo and how convenience foods entered our kitchens (WWII!) and children developing their palates. Liberally seasoned with factoidal musings food metaphors are the best ones I cannot help it.