kitchen counter cooking school


I picked this up last month and have been reading bits and pieces when I have a few minutes. The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn is sort of a book version of what I wish Top Chef was. It's a book about cooking, but not so much about recipes, but just how to actually cook and become the type of person that can glance in the fridge and whip something up.

The book is structured around a series of free workshops and cooking classes that Kathleen gave to 9 women.
She profiles their personalities, their home life, what's in their cupboards and why, their emotions about cooking,  and follows them shopping. It's working, because (I am halfway through the book) and one of her students is refusing to hold a knife with the proper technique. I am on the edge of my seat to find out why she won't hold it correctly. That's good storytelling. But after all, I sometimes refuse to hold my knife properly, metaphorically speaking. I dislike new software, for example. Sometimes, I don't want to meet a new person or go to a new place. When I was teaching there was a student like this in most classes. It's interesting to me why we resist change sometimes.

OK, anyway, I've been trying it out: free cooking instead of recipe following. It is faster, it is better, it is cheaper. I want to go on about the other things in this book that I like, for example she looks at how advertising has impacted the average American's confidence in being able to cook, or the issue of food waste, sustainable and humane farming and the cultural implications of fast food, but I must get back to work.

So, two things I've picked so far:

— make a big batch of caramelized onions, like this recipe, and freeze in 1/2 cup portions. You can add them to soups or stews later for quick flavour

— don't buy the boxes of macaroni and cheese for your children (not the "healthy" types either) except for emergency pantry supplies. Boil up some pasta and add in grated cheese, olive oil and milk in the pot. The preservatives in the powder are very bad for children and the product is designed to simulate the taste of grated parmesan and olive oil on pasta anyway, so why use the powder. It's just as fast to grate some cheese. You can sneak in flax seed oil, too.

The Summer Book


We love the stories and illustrations of Tove Jansson, and we were lucky enough to grow up reading her Moomin tales.

This week on BBC 7, you can listen to her 1972 novel The Summer Book. The program will be available for seven days after the initial broadcast. However, the best way to experience the book is to read it.

The Summer Book is not a children's book. It's about a young girl and her grandmother spending a summer together on a small island in Finland. This is a good summary and review: Together they amble over coastline and forest in easy companionship, build boats from bark, create a miniature Venice, write a fanciful study of local bugs. They discuss things that matter to young and old alike: life, death, the nature of God and of love. It's a very beautiful book. This much-loved copy is a Christmas present from Judith to Robin.