Which cookbook makes cooking novices feel less helpless?

Illustration for article titled Which cookbook makes cooking novices feel less helpless?
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Last CallLast CallLast Call is The Takeout’s online watering hole where you can chat, share recipes, and use the comment section as an open thread. Here’s what we’ve been reading/watching/listening around the office today.

The Postmates ad last week that featured a man so incapable of cooking for himself that he chopped a finger off inspired some discussion among Takeout staffers. Like, of course a man was featured in the ad. We compared stories about men we knew who were rendered helpless in the face of the simple act of preparing a meal.

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It also reminded me of a man who came into the bookstore where I was working a few years back and said he needed a book to learn how to cook. He was older, a bit nervous. What did he need to learn how to cook? He just needed to learn how to cook, he said. What kind of food did he like to eat? He wasn’t sure. What kind of kitchen equipment did he have? He was clearly getting annoyed with this line of questioning, so I picked out a few of the most basic cookbooks and left him to it. The only one in the pile I can remember now is Better Homes and Gardens, which I chose because it had a complete list of pantry staples, but I think if I were helping him out now, I would choose The Joy of Cooking because it, too, has the list of pantry staples, plus instructions on how to cut up ingredients and explanations of what everything is. Most of all, though, I like its opening instruction: “Stand facing the stove.”

Which book would you have given him?

(For the record, he never told me why he needed to learn to cook so desperately and why he had no kitchen equipment. He was the subject of discussion during our evening shelving. The favorite theory was “His wife threw him out.”)

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

anguavonuberwald
AnguaVonUberwald

Better Homes and Gardens all the way. Has every basic skill you would need, and even 20 years after my mom gave it to me, I still use it for basic recipes, like waffles or simple cake frosting. Mine is in a three ring binder, as well, which makes it lay open really easily. Includes cooking time charts for meat and vegetables, which also get referenced a lot, and a list of substitutions.