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Book review

Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking

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Book review

New to cooking? This guide is essential for beginners who'd like to improve their skills in the kitchen.

Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking
By Sarah Elton
Owl Kids, 2014, 96 pages, $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-926973-96-8

Celebrity chefs make whipping up a delicious, nutritious meal look like a cinch. The kind of effortless expertise we find on cooking channels can be especially intimidating to first-time cooks.

It’s worth remembering, though, that even the pros had to start somewhere. And, while producing plate after plate of edible goodness takes know-how, the only way to learn is by doing.

Those who are new to world of garlic presses and potato peelers now have help in the form of a book by Sarah Elton. Called Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking, it covers everything from measuring ingredients properly to knowing which basic items every pantry should contain.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that Starting From Scratch is published by Owl Kids: this upbeat guide is not for wee ones. Best suited to tweens and up, it’s also a boon to beginner cooks of all ages.

Starting From Scratch boils food and the cooking process down to the basics. In a straight-up voice that’s never condescending, Elton explains the science involved in cooking. She describes, for example, the way heat and cold affect food. She talks about the way taste buds work and how all five senses work together to create flavour. She details how substances such as fat and acid are used in cooking.

There are only a handful of recipes in the book, but it’s the so-called math that’s especially useful, as Elton provides the building blocks for basic recipes. For instance, cookies need one part sugar, two parts fat (such as butter or coconut oil), and three parts flour. A basic salad dressing requires three parts oil, one part acid, and a little salt and pepper. What could be simpler than that?

Adding to the book’s appeal is Elton’s warmth. She encourages creativity and is reassuring about missteps and snafus. “Make sure you give yourself lots of time to make mistakes, to fumble, and then to create your masterpiece,” she writes, adding that it’s okay if a dish doesn’t look or even taste like a masterpiece.

“Remember that whenever you mix together raw ingredients to make food,” she adds, “you are feeding your stomach, your heart, and your soul.”

That’s something even the pros on TV would agree with.

Buy now at Amazon.ca

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