Confidence comes from competence. Over the last few decades factors both benign (the explosion of take-out and prepared foods, elimination of home Economics classes in schools) and less so (giant packaged food corporations) have conspired to create a class of insecure non-cooks.
Kathleen Flinn is a superhero empowering non-foodies to take back their kitchens. Brandishing a shield deflecting multi-billion dollar campaigns discouraging DIY meals, and arming with basic cooking skills, she unapologetically promotes pragmatic cooking.
Despite her Cordon Bleu degree and AAA Paris Food Tour guide employment history, she is refreshingly humble and unpretentious. Julia Child is her hero and it shows. There is no haute cuisine snobbery in here. If the word ramp is used, it refers to an incline.
This is a humorous and touching recounting of how Flinn stumbled into teaching classes after stalking a woman filling her supermarket cart with packaged foods with prefixes like “jiffy” and suffixes like “helper.” An impromptu non-judgmental lesson up and down the aisles taught the shopper how a few ingredients and a few minutes of prep could drastically save her time and money and prevent disease. This inspired a series of classes beginning with a visit to each pupils’ pantry. Along with basic skills (how to use a knife, how to really taste food, soups) she demystifies “the box”. The “box” being that magical, marketed, packaged mix we’ve been conditioned to believe is more than the sum of its generally less-than-healthy ingredients. Cake mixes, soup mixes, flavor packets, get deconstructed until the students can easily reassemble the real thing using fresher, less expensive, better tasting components.
To her credit this is a straight-forward adventure story, a skill-building primer told through anecdotal prose. Not a soapbox for agenda-pushing. By assuming the reader is already familiar with nutrition and the evils of sugar and white flour, she instead fills the pages with humor and encouragement. Ultimately, this is a fun uplifting way to be enlightened about our own food crutches and delight in seeing others weaned off theirs.