Learning to Cook · Miss Mary

Learning to cook. Where do we start?

When you Google “Learning to Cook”,  Google pulls up 101 MILLION hits on sites that talk about beginning to cook.  The sheer number of pages is overwhelming for the individual wanting to learn how to cook for themselves, for their date, for their spouse, or for their family.  We all have to eat, and picking up the phone to make an order for pickup is becoming WAY too expensive.  You really don’t have the time to figure out which link would be helpful.

There is a benefit in learning to cook, it helps one’s budget.  Cooking requires planning ahead (maybe your new year’s resolution) which could send you to the grocery store maybe once or twice a week instead of every evening when you’re starving going up and down the “pre-made” isle at Trader Joe’s spending WAY too much for your dinner.

Planning helps by looking over what’s on sale, I’m referring to all those Sunday and Wednesday fliers for all the grocery stores letting you know your stuff is on sale.  This is a whole other realm of the cooking process but if you make menus for each day, it would be helpful if you could also get the ingredients on sale while not sacrificing flavor.

I know you’re thinking – get to it woman, how do I cook.  Learning to cook starts usually with a parent educating their child in how to survive on their own.  In some cases, that may not have occurred.  So we start with an excellent beginner’s cookbook, a stocked pantry and fridge, proper utensils, proper cooking equipment, a few appliances, and a desire to learn new techniques.

We’re going to cover cookbooks for beginners.   I love the quote, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  It’s the same with cooking with a great instructional cookbook.

First off the book needs to be instructional with plenty of photos of the process and/or the end product.  Other needs in a cookbook are:   detailed information on the utensils being used, appliances – large and small, a discussion of terms, serving suggestions, possible menus, well stocked pantries, and a technique section.  The recipes should also be on trend for new American cuisine.

I personally enjoy cookbooks.  I could stand in the store and read them all day.  I cruised the internet for excellent books for virgin chefs.  The ones listed below came from various sources.  I flipped electronically through SEVERAL books.  I believe these few actually have most of the qualities listed above.

2016 DinnertimeThe Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime, by Ree Drummond who is a blogger.  I have purchased her books for my daughter, while regretting not getting  myself one.  She really likes them.  They’re very colorful and beautifully done.  I watch her religiously on TV and enjoy many of her recipes.  Her photos do show you exactly how to process through the recipe.

2016 How to cook EverythingHow to Cook Everything The Basics: All You Need to Make Great Food–With 1,000 Photos, by Mark Bittman.  Website: http://markbittman.com/  Artistically and creatively the author instructs so that you learn about what works best in your kitchen while you make something delicious. There are photos on what sautéing is, or searing.  Photographically it walks the student through what stages a soft boiled egg would look like.  Remember, a good cook book is supposed to help you be successful in the kitchen.

2016 smitten kitchenSmitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb Perleman.  Deb is a blogger.  My son’s girlfriend introduced me to Ms. Perleman.  The author admits younger readers do follow her blog.  She has a keen sense of “on trend” food.  On the blog, she details where she sourced her ingredients.  For the first time cook, sourcing is so helpful because even I ask the question – where do you pick up Truffle Butter?  The photos, the notes, and the serving suggestions are very helpful.  Her book was #2 on the NYT bestseller list.

2016 BHG new cook book 16th editionBetter Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 16th edition.  BHG.com  LOVED THIS!  The detail in utensils, and EVERYTHING you are supposed to use in the kitchen comes to consciousness.  The photos are well done. The book discusses in detail dry vs liquid measures.  For even the experienced cook we may never have been taught the significance of dry vs liquid.  Here you’re going to be schooled.2016 cooks scienceCooks Illustrated The Science of Good Cooking, by the Editors of America’s Test Kitchen, Guy Crosby, Ph.D.  This book is awesome from what I can tell online.  It goes into great detail regarding the science of cooking.  Didn’t you want to know the difference between baking powder and baking soda and their general purpose on earth?  It discusses how heat works for you and against you in the oven.  It is not my favorite because it lacks the photos for the recipes.

So I want you to start here.  Take this weekend and go to Barnes and Noble, or William and Sonoma and  look through the cookbooks.  Find one that will embrace the type of person you are.

Next it’ll be the most important equipment you need in your kitchen.  In the mean time, perhaps you have a favorite cookbook.  What’s yours?

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