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This is a happy blog. I’ll describe a serious problem and then give you a wonderful solution to it. And, the problem is one that I think many of us share to various degrees

My version of the problem is drastic to the 10th degree. I love to eat, yet my cooking skills do not match my love. As a busy professional male with no formal culinary training, I’ve learned and evolved over time. I can cook. If it’s brownies, I do great. If it’s a rack of lamb, I’m in trouble. If Suzen is here, I’ll beg, whine, or bribe to get the new dish I crave. If I’m by myself, well, it’s time for a new version of meat loaf.

My deficiencies are deep. First, I’m not really strong on fundamentals. If the recipe says to braise, I’m reaching for my dictionary. If there are knife skills involved, I’m a wreck. Give me a roasted chicken and a knife, and sometimes the results are respectable. Sometimes it looks like a bad felony. I can’t learn and I can’t remember. I know the Beatles broke up but can’t somebody just hold my hand.

James Peterson, author of the masterpiece Sauces, has written a new work, Cooking, that can serve as the bible many of us need. Cooking is complete, comprehensive, exciting, and even I can understand it. The subtitle really says it all: “600 recipes, 1500 photographs, one kitchen education.” Yes, this is a book to pick up time and again, learn from, use, reuse, and enjoy.

Cooking is, first and foremost, a beautifully presented education in the techniques of cooking we all need. The recipes range from the simple to deliciously complex [Fillets of Striped Bass with Cockles and Oysters]. There is an encyclopedia of recipes here that can satisfy almost every craving and that expand in sophistication as you leaf deeper into each chapter.

The twenty-one chapters, spanning from starters through meats and fish and vegetables up to cookies, provide a wonderful array of dishes that can be combined into thousands of meals.

And the pictures! Have you ever read a recipe through three times and still been quite puzzled about just what you have to do. Have you ever read about how to French a rack of lamb? Telling you is hard. Showing you is dramatically easier. Cooking’s rack of lamb recipe has a sidebar with 18 step-by-step pictures of how to create that rack. I can do it. And, the next time I need to do it, the pictures will be there to guide me through it all again.

I don’t have time now to go to cooking school. If I did, I’m not sure I’d remember or absorb it all. But now that I have Cooking on my bookshelf, centered in the prized middle section for key books, I am calmer man. There is life beyond meat loaf. Suzen baked the Brioche recipe and it was simply perfect. Try it.

I’m much happier to have this book in our collection. So is Suzen.