The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry: Love, Laughing, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
Publisher: Viking, 2007
ISBN: 9780670018222 / 285 pages
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In this three-part memoir, Kathleen Flinn takes us through a lesson by lesson tour of her time at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. Shortly after being fired from her work in London, her boyfriend convinces her to follow her dream of attending the famed cooking school. The book is filled with Paris, recipes, experiences and memories of a very unique time in the country of haute cuisine.
As much as I liked Kitchen Counter Cooking School, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry fell a little short. Although the book had all the right ingredients, the souffle collapsed, one would say. For one thing, she has a penchant for overly long titles with even longer and unnecessary subtitles. I had no immediate attachment to her or her story, despite having read and enjoyed her second book, Kitchen Counter Cooking School. I didn’t get into her experiences outside of the school, and even her time in class were teetering between boring and self-congratulatory.
Flinn has had a passion for cooking since childhood. She somehow got sidetracked from this passion by entering the journalism field. Despite the fact that being fired allowed her the opportunity to pursue her culinary passion, she holds a major grudge against the corporate world, and brings up being fired a few times too many. Her escapades around Paris with her boyfriend were amusing, particularly the incredibly rude house-guests. I felt really had for her at that point. I thought her time and experiences at Le Cordon Bleu to be really interesting, and had me wanting to go to some sort of cooking school in the Bay Area, or at the very least just cook more than 2x a week and make something other than stir-fry or various forms of baked chicken. A small element that I found comical is that there are two endorsements by Elizabeth Gilbert on this book, one on the front cover and one on the back.
I’d love to have her opportunities and good fortune to be able to devote that much time, effort and money into a passion of mine. I do admire her gusto, and the courage it took to set up a new life in Paris to attend cooking school. I think its awesome that she took her knowledge and used it to teach normal people how to enhance their meals back in Seattle, where she currently resides.
Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
Genre: Memoir / Cooking
Publisher: Viking, 2011
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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.