Not long ago my friend Kathleen Flinn e-mailed that she was doing a book launch event in New York. Not your standard book party, though. Kathleen wanted it to be a dialogue about the power of home cooking. “A subject,” she said, “that doesn’t get talked about near enough these days.”
On the eve of my Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals launch I was delighted to join that discussion. A few days before the event, I received a copy of Kathleen’s The Kitchen Counter Cooking School in the mail. Heading to Florida, I threw it my bag, but it wasn’t until the flight home that I finally had a chance to crack it open. I had planned to skim the book. Turns out, I couldn’t put it down.
As someone who’s been teaching cooking for years, her story of transforming “nine culinary novices into fearless home cooks” was not new to me. But Flinn is a really, really good storyteller. I bonded immediately with her nine wannabe cooks. I felt their embarrassment as Kathleen gently inspected their pantries, refrigerators, and freezers. (I’d be embarrassed to have someone inspect mine!) I sympathized as each shamefully shared all the reasons she hadn’t learned to cook. Mothers who didn’t cook (or never taught them), picky kids, picky husbands, lost jobs, demanding jobs.
Why was I so empathetic? Because I had just been through a similar experience as I hired a bookkeeper to clean up my shambled finances. I shamefully presented my receipts stuffed in a manila envelope. I shared all my failed attempts at setting up a financial system, how very busy I was, how no one had ever taught me. And it was all true. I just needed someone to show me the way.
This is exactly what Kathleen does for these women. She shares her expertise, teaches them knife skills, gets them comfortable in the kitchen, demonstrates a few really basic building-block techniques, and shows them just how simple it is to make fresh all the boxed foods they had come to rely on. Most of all she creates community, camaraderie!
Besides the good tale, there are lots of simple, useful recipes in The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. I went for Baked Chicken Nuggets. I know she meant them for kids, but among all the other techniques and recipes—which I mostly already knew—this was the one thing I had never tried. Why let the kids have all the fun?