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Daughter, age 23, now living in her own apartment, struggling to survive on a low income. She only keeps vodka in the fridge, nothng else. She ignored all the school home economics classes and home cooking influences. Now I think she is finally receptive to learning the art of cooking and the joy of eating what one prepares. Any suggestions for the one best cookbook or book about food, to help her down this noble path? Thanks!

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  1. "Kitchen Sense" has everything she needs to know without being overwhelming. It's a very good foundation, and all of the recipes I've tried have been very good, if not cutting-edge.

    1. Good for her! Betty Crocker and Fannie Farmer were my first loans via the library cookbooks. They still hold up today on basics. I also recommend finding cookbooks with color photos; they can be a visual help and great inspiraton.

      1. Joy of Cooking. The new edition, or the 1973 one if you can find it.

        1. Mark Bittman's _How to Cook Everything_ is indispensible and utterly reliable. Whenever I have a question about cooking basics, I go to this book, and it never disappoints.

          3 Replies
          1. re: butternut

            I second How to Cook Everything. It was my first cookbook when I graduated from college five years ago and it is still my go-to reference.

            1. re: butternut

              Yup, Mark Bittman is the man. So many easy recipes, and relaxed in suggesting variations, and excellent techniques for beginners. And the results always taste great.

              1. re: butternut

                A third for Bittman. It's indispensable to me, but not necessarily for the recipes. It works like an accessible food encyclopedia. For example, recently made a dish that called for chickpeas; I only had dried ones on hand, and turned to Bittman on chickpea basics to quickly learn about cooking them, difference from canned, pros/cons, etc. You get this "basics" treatment for just about every ingredient and food group. The Joy of Cooking does this too, but I find Bittman more accessible, more straightforward in his advice.

              2. How 'bout The all New Good Housekeeping Cookbook.http://www.amazon.com/New-Good-Housek...

                It's got a wide variety of recipes and simple tips on basic cooking. My wife and I still use it regularly after almost 8 years.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Ace_Mclean

                  I second this recommendation. I always go back to this cookbook for basic knowledge.

                  1. re: dustchick

                    Third! My copy is stained, dogeared, well used...

                2. Joy of Cooking if only for the cross referenced index. Reliable and you can FIND recipes.

                    1. i'd say the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook...it's still relevant though updated to modern tastes and speaks to the cook who has no idea what they are doing in the kitchen

                      1. If your daughter is as visual as I am, I second the suggestion about pictures.

                        Has anyone found a good "how to cook" website for even younger kids?

                        1. Lora Brody's Kitchen Survival Guide. She wrote it for her sons when they were moving out and into their own places. Lots of good advice and recipes.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Candy

                            Second Lora Brody. Love this book.

                          2. The best how-to cooking book with visuals, in my opinion, is Maran Illustrated Cooking Basics (www.maran.com/cooking.htm ). It's got step-by-step colour photos for all prep and cooking techniques, easy 10 ingredients and under recipes, and is very affordable.

                            My daughter's away at university, and she uses it all the time.

                            1. I'm a fan of Julia Child's "The Way to Cook." Lots of photos of the food in process, detailed instructions, and she starts with a good, basic Master Recipe for a type of dish and then gives ways to change it up.

                              That, paired with a Better Homes or Betty Crocker cookbook that has time tables for roasting meats and a substitutions/conversions index, and she'll be covered for basic cooking with good techniques.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: weezycom

                                I second this - I love this book, and the way it is set out, with base recipes and variations, is very useful for beginning cooks. Couple it with a good basic cookbook (my pref would be Joy or the Bittman) and she's good to go.

                              2. If she can cook a little at all, I very highly recommend Bittman's How to Cook Everything. My son (24) has it and uses it all the time. If she is really a total beginner, have a look at Clueless in the Kitchen which is specifically aimed at young people who are starting out on their own. Kitchen info, shopping info, menu planning and all kinds of basic recipes. Very lighthearted.

                                1. One that teaches all the basics (many good suggestions here) and one that doesn't but is filled with interesting recipes for a cusine she likes. The first will help her learn, but the second will be the one she'll want to cook from.

                                  1. Sauce Pans and The Single Girl was re-released this spring. I still have my 1 ed. 1965 copy. I learned a lot from that book.

                                    1. Besides "Joy of Cooking," I'd highly recommend "Easy Basics for Good Cooking," by Sunset. It's hardly encyclopedic, but has many excellent recipes and good, full-color illustrations. It's out of print, but I see is available through Amazon. Don't be worried about getting the "paperback" edition. It actually has vinyl covers and ring binding. I've had mine for 30 years with nary a tear.

                                      1. One more comment and then I'll shut up. Do not get her a book that overwhelms her with details. I find Joy of Cooking and the like too too much. If she cannot thumb through and look for some inspiration she is not going to use the book. Lots of pictures are good. She does not need an encyclopedic book. She needs a book to get her started and inspires a "I can do that" attitude not something that makes her feel inadequate or that her equipment is inadequate. Start with something that inspires and will build self confidence. Books like Joy and How to Cook Everything really do assume a certain knowledge that may not be there with a total beginner. As my DH says "those books are over kill." They might even stiffle an enthusiastic beginner with too much detail.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Candy

                                          I totally agree. When I first started to cook, the JofC was scary, so stern, and all those printed words. My go-to was BH&G and Betty Crocker. Needed the pictures and step-by-step instructions. JofC and Julia came into play years later after I overcame the fear!

                                        2. i'm a young professional that does not know ANYTHING about cooking. i found a lot of recommendations (such as joy of cooking, how to cook everything, etc) very intimidating and frustrating. a lot of cookbooks assume you know how to prep and use the ingredients. i am really kitchen-challenged and need exact, step-by-step instructions. like, you can't assume i know how to cut up a chicken, or steam vegetables, etc.

                                          the first cookbook i got that was really helpful was "betty crocker's cooking basics: learning to cook with confidence." it's very basic - it's not overwhelming at all. i'm sure other seasoned cooks think it's very sparse, but perfect for a first time cooker. sections are very obvious: beef, pork, chicken, bread, sides, dessert.

                                          there's huge pictures of every dish. there's even smaller pictures that show you how to prep everything. in the beginning of each section is a "how to" guide to doing the very basics, from how long to cook vegetables, how to prep meat for grilling/frying/broiling/etc.

                                          from here, i really did gain more knowledge in the kitchen to expand onto other recipes.

                                          another thing: the INTERNET!! is so helpful. i went to bettycrocker.com, kraft.com, borilla.com, etc for other ideas of easy recipes.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Linda

                                            And a relatively recent development is all the videos available on the net. These little, short takes clear up so much.

                                          2. I started with The New Basics and found it inspiring and approachable. I think I started using it when I was in high school and got my own copy when I was 20. It may be a little dated, but certainly more up to date than joy of cooking, which I have never found useful except for pancakes. The text sections and reference tables are very very helpful.

                                            1. I love my Betty Croker Cookbook. It is the same one that my mom has had for years it was just a newer version (its now over 30yrs old!) Not real over whelming and has the basics for everything... great starter

                                              1. Joy of Cooking, Bittman's How to Cook Everything, Jamie Olver's The Naked Chef, and Donna Hay's Off the Shelf. Most of the recipes in these books replace the fear and anxiety of the kitchen with breathless enthusiasm because many of these recipes are failsafe and are pretty easy and straightforward, yielding fantastic, and often very quick, flavorful meals, while acquainting the novice with a wide variety of herbs, spices, vegetables and meats.

                                                1. I taught myself to cook from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking at the age of 14. I liked it, even though it had intricate recipes, because it had explanations for how to fix it if you did something wrong. It kind of set the pace for me in cookbooks.

                                                  I think if I were to give a novice cook a book today, other than the Julia Child volume referenced above, I'd go with Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. It's a great starter book -- covers, well, everything, and does it well. I personally never liked the Joy of Cooking type of book, which had lots of recipes, but little personality and a lack of detailed explanation about how food works. I always liked the books that had an author's personality and which contained explanations about how to do things right, and what to do when they went wrong. Bittman does that, as does Julia Child and Marcella Hazan. Bittman does it in an all-purpose book, while the other two focus on French and Italian, which is why I'd say Bittman over the others for a novice cook.

                                                  1. My standard recomendations are:

                                                    Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni
                                                    Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells
                                                    World of Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey

                                                    All have great simple recipes from a variety of cultures and very good instruction for a beginning cook. My first cookbook was a simple little chinese one (from a healthfood store back in the 70s), then Moosewood (which I still have), then Julie Sahni.

                                                    1. La Varenne Pratique. Despite the seemingly snooty name, it's invaluable and and my standard gift to new young cooks. Excellent visuals and explanations, and good recipes.

                                                      1. After many tries (Joy of Cooking, Fannie Farmer, Julia, Cookwise, and even Jacques Pepin's La Methode and La Technique) I have settled on a go-to compendium which, while dated, remains my basic reference: James Beard's "American Cookery". You can still find used copies on Abebooks.com....

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: mgdevine

                                                          Well, that's my foundational book, too.

                                                        2. My first cookbook was my mother's very dog-eared and tattered (held together by rubber bands) "The I Never Cooked Before Cookbook" by Jo Coudert. No, it doesn't have pictures and some of the recipes are outdated, but it's extremely pragmatic and written in a way that people who have never even approached a stove can understand. It got me going.

                                                          Personally, I'm also fond of the "Moosewood Cooks at Home" cookbook, and my roommate's first was "The New Cookbook" which has alway been a good reference guide. The "Idiot's Guide to Cooking" is also pretty decent. I like the Bittman and use it a lot, but I don't know that I would give it to a complete beginner.

                                                          1. You should give your daughter some credit - the JOC is not as daunting and impenetrable as people make it out to be. Heck if I could teach myself how to cook using it then anyone could.

                                                            A suggestion: Pick her up an Asian/Pan-Asian cookbook. If she is on a budget then learning the best ways to cook rice and noodles will be vital. Plus she'll be able to save a large amount of money by going to Asian Markets.

                                                            1. I put up the original posting two days ago. I want to thank you all your throughtful suggestions! Although I probably have overdone it to start, I have ordered Kitchen Sense, Sauce Pans & The Single Girl, Lara Brody's Kitchen Survival Guide and How To Cook Everything, to be delivered to her tiny apartment in Austin. If these meet with a postive response, I will roll out the others--Betty Crocker, Julia Child, JOC, etc. For myself, I ordered Bistro Cooking and Beard's American Cookery, due to your reviews. You hounds are great, thanks!

                                                              1. Larousse Gastronomique without doubt the best food companion I Ive ever bought...and second best Ma Cuisine by Escoffier...brilliant.

                                                                1. When my friend moved I got her "Help! My apartment has a kitchen!" and she enjoys it, but still doesn't really cook. She says she re-found it and is going to start.
                                                                  It's got good, inexpensive basics.
                                                                  Also, a subscription to Cooking Light might be just as helpful for her!

                                                                  1. my mom bought my the bittman "how to cook everything" when i moved out of the dorms in college. it's great for teaching you basic cooking techniques and ideas, but i found its best feature is the detailed descriptions on almost all fruits and vegetables in american markets (and many others), including how to pick them in the store, how to keep them in good shape at home, and a variety of ways to prepare them. I also really like the information on meat and poultry, such as how to cut up whole birds.

                                                                    My roommates and I always used this book (and I still go to it regularly). A friend of mine liked it so much he got it for his mother for christmas, and asked for it as his present!

                                                                    1. My first cookbook was The New Basics Cookbook (Lukins and Rosso). I find it easy to use and has a lot of explanation of food terms. I found the glossary of terms helpful. Has a lot of basics but some other stuff that's a bit fancier as she gets progressively more experienced.