Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Good Cookbooks Teach How to Cook

Although I teach cooking classes and people seem to love them, I will tell the students that one of the best ways to learn to cook is by using cookbooks. They don't have to be beginner cookbooks (very few of exist). I also don't recommend chef/restaurant cookbooks because they are not appropriate for the home cook (most of them anyway). I usually recommend books that provide a certain cultural perspective on the type of cuisine someone is interested in. Right now, there is a resurgence in interest in classic French cuisine as a result of the popularity of the movie JULIA & JULIE and bookstores report a rise in sales of Julia Child's classic MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING. But there are other more manageable cookbooks for the home cook interested in French home cooking such as Richard Olney's SIMPLE FRENCH COOKING, any of Patricia Wells' books, Michael Robert's PARISIAN HOME COOKING, or Martha Rose Shulman's PROVENCAL LIGHT. The reason a cookbook is a good place to start is not merely because it provides "ideas" but because a good cookbook will give you the essence and confidence necessary for the understanding required to cook from a particular cuisine. You do it over and over and suddenly you will actually be able to tell someone the difference between the food of Normandy and the food of Provence. You will get not only ideas but the IDEA. I try to write cookbooks like this and my next book out in December, THE BEST SOUPS IN THE WORLD, will give you the introduction to a world of delicious soups.