The publicity material for this book had the following two sentences in bold: "I have used things that I thought you will have in your house - an oven, a cooktop, a knife and a colander. My recipes represent a starting point to help you on your way but I hope that you will make up your own versions and create fresh memories."
This reviewer's first response was to write this off as marketing claptrap and a bit patronising, to be honest, but after just a few pages of this books this initial scepticism and negativity was washed away. Wow! This very heavy, extravagant, quirky book is designed for Mr or Ms Average, someone who perhaps wants to cook but doesn't feel able to do that for whatever reason. One never likes to say that one book would ever be enough - can you ever have enough of a good thing? - yet this book is a damn good start.
Over 200 recipes fill this book and it covers everything from the basics up to, what are for many, fairly complex things such as making bread, jam or cheese! Some of the things being covered might seem rather obvious, such as how to make a cup of tea, but it is easy to forget that not everybody has grown up with a tea culture and in any case the recipes are more than "put a tea bag in a cup and add boiling water." Despite the book being organised into various chapters, in a sort-of-logical order, this feels a bit like an old-fashioned scrapbook with lots of bits and pieces crammed into every possible space. This is no criticism though, the book is incredibly well illustrated with some engaging photography and a fairly consistent design. For this reviewer, at least, the design was a bit too quirky and some of the typography used started to be headache-inducing rather than "quaint". Fortunately the body text was readable!
The various instructions, words of advice and of course the recipes seem fairly well written, understandable and have sought to preempt many of the common uncertainties that can occur in less-experienced hands. You can sense the pressures that this book's designer had to make this book a manageable size, but does the type need to be so small! It is not so friendly towards those with "older eyes". You may note that these niggles are exactly that - niggles - and they do not act as a turn-off for this book. It is often noted with book reviewing that it is easy to find fault with something when you see so many similar books and even easier to put something down or write it off and move on to the next book. It is harder to still like something and find niggles with it, perhaps in part since you "care" more about what you are looking at and a feeling of frustration can begin to break out. This book is a prime example of that feeling. Small niggles perhaps are over amplified! It still remains a damn good book, quirks and all.
The end of the book is rounded off with many different menu suggestions - there is even a suggested menu in case you need to cater for a funeral (hopefully not by virtue of your competency in the kitchen!). A couple of great indices really let you dig deep into this book and its mass of recipes, whether by key ingredient or dish. So yes, the price tag might give you a little shock at the start but you are getting a lot for your money. This could really be the only book you'll need for a very long time, but if you get the cooking bug you will start acquiring more books. You just won't be able to help yourself.