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The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks Paperback – 28 Feb 2013


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"This could be the most important book you'll ever read." --Morgan Spurlock, "Super Size Me"..".[A] terrific, inspiring book...""-People" (A "People" Pick, 4 stars)"If you are going to read one book to change your diet and your life, "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" is it."-AP "Kathleen entered the kitchens of strangers and took the time to understand how they think about food before changing their cooking forever." --Amanda Hesser, Food 52, "The Essential New York Times Cookbook" "A life-changing book--entertaining, inspiring, and deeply educational." --Erica Bauermeister, "The School for Essential Ingredients" "A funny, thoroughly engrossing book...get ready to be inspired--and to eat well along the way." --Molly Wizenberg, Orangette.com, "A Homemade Life""An engaging...book on the joys of home cooking and the teaching thereof."-"The Wall Street Journal""The author''s humble approach is inviting and shows why her students were enthusiastic."-"Kirkus Reviews" (Starred Review)"Flinn guides you patiently in the kitchen like the mom you always wish you''d had to learn to cook from...the women gained confidence under Flinn''s wonderfully encouraging tutelage, and fearlessly faced their kitchens and grocery stores with useful knowledge."-"Publishers Weekly""Flinn winningly offers inspiration to anyone who cares about cooking but lacks basic tools and skills."-"Booklist""An amiable companion to cookbook stalwarts such as Mark Bittman''s "How To Cook Everything," Pam Anderson''s "How To Cook Without a Book," and Michael Ruhlman''s "Ratio," this title provides encouragement where the others offer direction. A mash-up of inspiration and reference, it will appeal to readers who enjoy a story with their instruction."-"Library Journal" -- The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

About the Author

Kathleen Flinn has been a writer and journalist for nearly twenty years. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, USA Weekend, Men's Fitness and many other publications. She is a proud member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Author's Guild. She divides her time between Seattle and southwest Florida.

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Amazon.com: 139 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
This is truly a life changing book! 12 Oct. 2011
By Dot McIntyre - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been cooking for many, many years. I have children, grandchildren and now a great grandchild! I have cooked for everyone and I thought I knew a lot about cooking.

However, as I went through this book, I learned so many things I have done wrong all my life - such as keeping too much food in the refrigerator and pantry. There is only two of us now and we do have a busy life so I guess as Kathleen says, "I buy for the life I inspire to have rather than my real life."

I used to end up with wilted romaine, yellow broccoli with flowers, and limp celery too often. After reading the book, I have changed my buying habits - I shop more often and buy less produce at a time. So far I have wasted nothing and I feel so proud.

I even put a photo at the back of my fridge which I can always see - so my fridge isn't stuffed any more. Sometimes it looks even a little bare but there is no waste.

I also learned to taste all kinds of canned goods - what a difference in canned beans when I was making chili. I even threw out one can - it was that bad. Some store brands are better than others but sometimes you have to go with the name brand for taste and texture.

I have been practicing my knife skills too and I chop things so much faster now. I like showing that off to my hubby (who doesn't cook at all by the way).

My pantry is getting bare but that's okay - I know everything I have and I am sure nothing is out of date.

The bonus is I have saved a lot of money at the grocery store and I like that. I make all my own salad dressings now and that is great fun and a real saving.

You're never too old to learn new tricks in the kitchen.

This book is not only a great read - it is life changing! I loved it.
70 of 80 people found the following review helpful
I wanted to like it. 28 Oct. 2011
By GadgetChick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I read Flinn's previous book, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry and I didn't fall in love with it, but thought it was interesting. This book came highly recommended to me by several people and so I was looking forward to reading it and maybe learning a little, and hearing about the cooking school Flinn developed. And then...I don't know.

There's something about this book I just don't like. Parts of the book seemed, for the lack of a better word, infomercial-ish. Like, she's using all this "sales language" to sell the cooking school attendees (and the readers) on why they should be doing something, and it's supposed to be really heartfelt and authentic, but all I can hear in my head is Ron Popeil saying "But WAIT, THERE'S MORE!!" It's hard for me to pin down exactly why I felt this way, but that's how I felt. Maybe it's because 99% of what Flinn talks about in the book is old news to me? I cook at home a lot - we only eat out, in our house, once a week, and I cook dinner from scratch at least four or five nights a week. I am not a "foodie" but I am aware of things like preservatives, why you should eat grassfed beef, buying organic, food waste, etc. I think maybe if you had no awareness of these things, the book would be very interesting and it would teach you things you didn't know. For me, I felt like she went on and on about things that have been very well-covered in other books and in the media and so parts of the book dragged on, while in the meantime I am hearing that chipper Ron Popeil voice in my head. At one point I got this flash vision of Flinn standing in the cooking-school kitchen, clutching a cookbook, with the same bright eyes and sincere, elated spirit of a religious missionary, evangelically preaching the cook-at-home gospel to the masses. She's self-deprecating in parts of the book, but other parts really reminded me of a cosmetic-salesperson-turned-cooking-teacher, relentlessly chipper in her relentless assault on her students' ideas about food.

The asides and backstories about the cooking school attendees were fine. I thought the story in the front of the book, about the woman she follows around in the grocery store, was strange. I didn't think, "wow, how sensitive and generous of Kathleen." I thought, "That poor woman, getting accosted in a supermarket by a total stranger who wants to talk about her shopping and eating habits." The lady Flinn approached was a lot more tolerant than I would have been - I would have listened politely for about 2 minutes before telling Flinn to bug off.

And I think that's one of the other problems I have with the book. One of the reviews talks about the author's "humility" but I didn't really think Flinn displayed any humility. She seemed to have an answer for everything and to know what was best for her students even if they didn't know themselves. No offense, but Flinn was working with working mothers and people going through significant financial hardship. Meanwhile, she has no kids to deal with, a husband who seems remarkably tolerant and supportive, and an incredibly flexible career, and a seemingly decent amount of economic security (which enables her to start the cooking school without charging anyone for lessons). Then, in the middle of the cooking school she jets off on a European cruise. There's an image presented of Flinn saying "hey, I'm just like you" but as the book went on, it became clear to me that Flinn was not "just like" me, or the students in her school. I am sorry, but until you've worked an 9-5 blue collar or corporate job with a commute where you then go home to a spouse and kids who need to be fed in between soccer practice and homework and laundry and bill-paying and the science project that's due tomorrow and etc. etc. etc., I don't think you can say definitively that shopping frequently for fresh ingredients and making dinner from scratch is "easy" for a person who does deal with that, every single day.

What I definitely liked about the book were the recipes and some of the descriptions of cooking techniques. Honestly, if Flinn had written a cookbook and put in some stuff about her students, and excised most of the long discussions on food politics, this would have been a great, five-star book.

As it is, I can't say I disliked it, really, but I don't think I'll be recommending it to anyone, unless it's someone who doesn't cook and wants to change. Because really, people do have to want to change. In order to do the things that Flinn talks about in the book, it may not take time, and you may not have to be an expert cook, but you do have to care. And my experience is that there are a lot of people out there who don't care. And I understand that that's why the food-politics thing is important - to try to make people care - but ultimately, I think it becomes more noise for people - oh, so now it's not enough that I cook from scratch, but I need organic, fresh ingredients too? and it turns people off. As much as Flinn talks about "foodie elitism" and not living in the rarefied world of the foodie, and how you don't have to be a foodie to be a competent home cook, there isn't a lot of allowance made for people who do not want to shop at farmer's markets or who can't afford organic chicken. There's elitism that creeps in that I think is totally unintended, but that I found off-putting regardless. And I think ultimately that is what is keeping people out of the kitchen, not a lack of skills.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
A Must Read for Foodies and Non-Foodies Alike! 12 Oct. 2011
By Myckyee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I'm a closet foodie and I love to cook and bake, but after working all day I don't have the energy. After reading this book I realized I'm far from alone.

For The Kitchen Counter Cooking School project, author Kathleen Flinn recruited nine volunteers who needed help. Each had something that needed improvement - they were cooking unhealthy food, buying take-out and resorting to what they thought would be the fastest and most convenient method of food preparation. All the volunteers were women and I could relate to all of them to some degree.

At the start of the book, the author introduces each volunteer by describing a visit to their homes and in particular their kitchens. There were issues with outdated food, too much food as well as content. Food labels were looked at, cooking methods discussed and even storage issues confronted. Each woman was surprised when a spotlight was pointed at their fridge and cupboards. Sometimes it takes an outsider to say, yep, storing 15 boxes of pre-made pasta dinners at this cost doesn't make sense when you can make something yourself for a fraction of the price, is much healthier and doesn't take nearly as much time as you'd think if you know what you're doing. The author rented a kitchen and once a week the volunteers learned how to do exactly that.

The book is divided into parts and each describes a food product or group and how best to prepare it. The volunteers were given the tools and instructions and were encouraged to experiment. Their delight in discovering that they could produce healthy and attractive dishes was evident. I like how the self-esteem of a person can be raised just by learning a method of cooking they previously thought had been impossible to master. At the end of the book, I enjoyed seeing how each volunteer benefited from what they'd learned during the lessons.

Each chapter ends with the recipes that are taught in the class. I found the chapter on meat to be especially instructive and after reading about how many hormones and antibiotics are fed to livestock, I want to learn how to cook more vegetarian dishes!

People may dislike cooking or simply don't cook for various reasons. Perhaps they were never taught properly, or as children they were shooed out of the kitchen. Maybe their spouses like doing it more than themselves. Whatever the reason, I recommend this book. It shows how anyone can learn to prepare nutritious and cost-effective meals even if they've always thought the task a daunting one. The recipes are simple and fast and there's something for everyone in The Kitchen Counter Cooking School.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
It's OK. 27 Dec. 2011
By A reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read the author's earlier book about going to school in France. As someone who likes cooking and France, I think I enjoyed that book more. This book, of course, has its merits; I learned a few things that I didn't know. The majority of the cooking tips, however, aren't that amazing and anyone who isn't a novice in the kitchen has learned them before. The idea is nice, too...teaching women to cook can really impact their lives; their health, their finances, their families. Just as with the last book, though, I can't say I like the author or her writing style. I don't mean this as a personal attack; we just don't click. I bought this book because of the topic, not the author. I found several parts of the book to be boring and pushed through them. The author's thoughts, comments, and explanations slowed down the "meat and potatoes" of the text. I also found the "story within a story" regarding a spontaneous trip to the Mediterranean to be exactly what it was billed as - an interruption. And an unnecessary one, at that. The other tale about raising money by hosting dinner parties with a burlesque dancer as entertainment to be odd...am I supposed to think this is fun? Creative? Interesting? Again, we just don't click. I wish her well, but don't think I would buy another book by this author.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
well written but not sure of the intended audience 13 Oct. 2011
By mikemac9 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After reading her 1st book I knew I was going to buy any subsequent ones because she is such a good writer. The writing does not disappoint, it is as good as ever. What I enjoyed less about this was what it covered. The first book was about much more than just attending a prestigious cooking school in France, although that alone made it worth reading. It was also a captivating personal story of adventure and challenge. This book is covers a more narrow ground. While she does try to bring her students alive with descriptions she of course knows far less about the students then herself and the difference shows.

My real puzzle about this book, though, is what it is intended to do. Michael Ruhlman comes to mind as an author who wrote about cooking school and then went on to write books explaining how to cook. This book goes partway there, describing the author's foray into teaching cooking skills. But even though it includes recipes and advice, it is not detailed enough (no drawings, for instance) for a culinary novice to learn from it alone. Certainly the 9 students she describes leading in class gained confidence and skills, but I doubt they would have found the same success if just handed this book instead.
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