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technique cookbooks esp. for possibly short attention spans...

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hey, so after my boyfriend admitted he knows *nothing* about technique when it comes to cooking, i thought that a good present for him for the holidays would be one or two books on technique. i did some searching on chowhound and after reading a lot of opinions pretty much settled on getting him jacques pepin's complete techniques and tom colicchio's think like a chef, if that's not too redundant. i was also thinking of possibly getting him an asian cookbook.

however... i asked his sister for advice and she reminded me how short his attention span can be. if it's something he's enthusiastic about, he can be quite a voracious reader. however, i'm afraid that books won't completely keep his attention.. i glanced through the complete techniques and have gotten the sense from people as well that it might be more of a resource than something to curl up with while drinking hot cocoa next to the fireplace. is this untrue? and more importantly, should i get him some sort of multimedia resource additionally or instead? or should i pray he reads the books, and comandeer them for my own when i move in with him, whether or not he actually reads them?

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  1. Does he cook? you don't say. It seems to me if he's not already hooked on cooking, the two books you suggest may not be the best choice. (I cook alot and like to learn about technique but both of your choices seem, well too pedantic to draw me in.)
    Perhaps you should consider giving him a simple cookbook. He can dabble a bit and get a sense for what he needs to learn (if I put this chicken breast in a pan and no crust develops . . . guess it's time to read about sauteeing, etc.)

    One of my pet peeves is that there are too many glossy cookbooks w/ fancy recipes and few simple "how to cook" books that appeal. How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman is my preferred gift book for non-confident home cooks. Or perhaps Home Cooking by the CIA which explains techniques yet provides plenty of recipes to get satisfaction from.

    1. think like a chef taught me a great deal when i first got into cooking... the way that techniques ramp up into more complex preparations is very well conceived in that book. another book, albeit one that is more specialized, is "let the flames begin" by chris schlesinger and doc willoughby. men who don't spend a great deal of time in the kitchen will often enjoy cooking over a grill a little more (at least at first) and those guys do a great job of teaching proper grilling technique while appealing to the more "macho" sensibilities of grilling. indeed, much is made of drinking beer around the grill, etc; but the recipes are top notch. i yet haven't found one that wasn't a hit. granted, if you don't want to buy him a grill on top of a bunch of cookbooks, then it's a moot point. (although i might suggest it...)
      i also agree, however, that if he doesn't have at least a nascent interest in cooking, then perhaps you might want to start by telling him how much it would mean to you if he learned to cook...

      1. I love Harold McGee's food science books, but I have a technical background. "On Food and Cooking" is sort of the complete bible of anything you'd want to know; it is however more a reference book than a technique book. He explains everything from the different ways of fermenting booze from Chinese rice wine (fungal starch conversions) to beer and wine (enzyme/yeast) to how to temper chocolate.

        Most sections are just a few pages long and are crammed with information, but the way it cross references other sections in the book also lends itself to longer reading sessions. It was our favorite bathroom book for the longest time because it's perfect for short reads...

        1. Maran Illustrated Cooking Basics is an easy-to-follow instructional book that demonstrates all of the techniques with full colour photos, step-by-step. The descriptive words are concise and to the point. It's available at amazon.com, indigo.ca, Barnes and Noble, etc.

          Check it out at www.maran.com/cooking.htm

          1. How about Alton Brown's "I'm just here for the food" director's cut? He is all about good technique, simple tools, non-fussiness, a little science and plain good eats. His directness appeals to a lot of male wannabe cooks

            1 Reply
            1. re: Kishari

              I second these books. I haven't used the recipes in them, but I think they are some of the most accessable technique books.

            2. well, he really likes cooking, but there's some stuff he doesn't really think about when he's doing it... for example, that he should pan fry chicken before putting it in sauce rather than cooking it in the sauce if he doesn't want to wait a while for it to cook. i don't really need to implore him to learn, because he's actually the one who brought his lack of knowledge up first, kind of like he was lamenting this lack of knowledge. he's really not too "macho" to want to cook, and i know that he'd like to learn how (i've already suggested that he watch cooking shows on PBS because that's probably largely how i learned).

              those all sound like good suggestions.. i've thought of getting him something on the science of food since he might be interested in that aspect. maybe i should give a little more background on his personality, because although he's got a short attention span at times, when he becomes interested in something, he goes all out. examples: when he decided that if i went to sweden next year that he'd go with me, he started reading more on sweden than i probably had (and i was applying for a fulbright), including about the culture, language, geography, weather, etc. he's also very much into beer, and spends a lot of time reading about styles, what breweries are coming out with what soon, what the distribution of different breweries tends to be, what beers he should probably make sure to try if he finds it in the store, etc, and he really wants to try homebrewing. similar with photography, music, juggling, headphones... he's kind of a collector of (sometimes random) information and skills as far as his personality, so the more simple cookbooks would be good, but he probably could handle more, as long as it's not ridiculously dry.

              i'll definitely take the suggestions on the books since i /am/ thinking that i'd rather test the waters to see how far he's going to take this, and they all sound like good places for him to start.