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Book Review: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks by Kathleen Flinn

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Many people, busy and distracted, reach for fast food and convenience products when just a few ingredients and a little technique can provide satisfying, nutritious meals at lower cost. We’re only limited by the incentive to purchase and prepare fresh food at home. Author Kathleen Flinn quickly wins over her audience, in her second book: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Whether she commandeers a woman in the grocery store, or leads an evening class in a kitchen. Flinn, determined to get people cooking at home, inspires people to take charge, and get past the fear of handling new ingredients, as she builds knife skills and teaches cooking techniques.

If you’ve ever watched Jacques Pepin’s cooking program on public television, you know what its like to feel you’re right in the kitchen with him. You’ll get the same feeling with Flinn. Her conversational style draws you into her cooking classes, so that you’ll want to grab a pan and start sautéing.

Flinn is also the author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School combines a love of food, cooking and personal narrative that begins when the author nearly takes a hostage in a grocery store, in an effort to show the woman the benefits of real food instead of packaged, preserved, over-processed food.

Trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Flinn uses her talent to create classes that demonstrate the benefits of home cooking. The book is packed with recipes that inspire anyone to get started. Most recipes are simple, and all instill confidence.

Exercises help readers reveal the truth about all the choices we make. We have time to stand in fast-food lines and prepare packaged or frozen dinners at home, but don’t think we have time to shop for simple fresh ingredients that would provide more meals at lower cost.

Beyond creating awareness of better choices in ingredients, cooking and nutrition, Flinn is aware that somewhere along the way, people who love watching cooking shows stopped getting off the couch, turning cooking into a spectator sport.

To drive home her point about nutritious at-home meals with just a few ingredients, she reveals a pasta-Parmesan side dish has 27 ingredients in packaged form. For the class, she whips up the real deal with only three natural ingredients: pasta, Parmesan cheese and olive oil; a big improvement over what she calls ‘antinourishment.’

Examining the home freezers of the people who take her cooking class, Flinn discovers “The land of food that time forgot” and illustrates the convenience of fresh ingredients. And, in a world where some drink Red Bull for breakfast as an “energy drink,” Flinn is proof that there is a better way, by making nutritious meals at home.

With an easy style, humor and rich descriptions, Flinn satisfies the basic cook’s need for a friend in the kitchen. From learning about equipment to knife skills, and fast recipes, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School wins hands-down for a terrific kitchen companion. Like a fine meal, the book is appetizing, satisfying and leaves you wanting more.

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About Helen Gallagher