After a chance encounter at a Seattle grocery store with a mother and a shopping cart full of processed food in a box, professional chef and author Kathleen Flinn decides to teach a series of cooking classes to a group of nine volunteers. Although she teaches them the basic skills necessary in the kitchen, the side benefit to the class is that the nine students earn a confidence, curiosity and knowledge of food that they did not possess before the classes began.
I enjoyed many aspects of this book, and I could definitely relate to the journey of most of the students, or volunteers as they’re called, in the book. I had just finished watching Julie and Julia for the 100th time when I picked up this book. I was pleased to find so many references and quotes of Julia Child’s sprinkled throughout the book. Reading this book made me reflect on my own journey and growth with food and cooking. Going from frozen tater tot and corn dog dinners to roasting chicken with leeks and apples with a side dish of apricot cous cous with roasted almonds…it seems like I’m talking about two different people.
Flinn, along with various guest chefs and nutritionists lead the nine volunteers through a series of classes covering everything from eggs, roasting chicken, deboning chicken, tasting, pastas and vinaigrettes. I really wish there had a been a class or program like this available when I was first struggling in the kitchen. Although I learned most of the steps on my own, (The Food Network’s How to Boil Water is by far my favorite and most informative cookbook), it would have been nice to have a professional guide the way as I learned with others on the same level as myself.
Before the classes start, Flinn visits each of the volunteers to see what they have in the refrigerator and pantry, and has each volunteer cook a typical meal. At the end of the book, she revisits each of the volunteers at their homes and we see the marked differences in the pantry and refrigerator inventory and cooking skills.
Another element that I liked in the book is the full bibliography and recommended reading lists that Flinn included at the end of the book. She references many articles and authors when providing the background information for certain foods and lesson plans, so it was nice to have the informational readily available for additional reading.