I love to cook. Give me a free weekend, and you’ll find me in the kitchen tackling one of Martha Stewart’s overly complicated multi-page recipes. To me, the more challenging the process, the more fun it is to do. I can decide later if it was worth the effort.
But not everyone likes this level of intricacy in cooking. Some just want to make a good meal simply and quickly, without all the fuss. Enter “The Anti-Cookbook: Easy, Thrifty Recipes for Food-Smart Living.” I recently flipped through this book and found myself hooked. It is thoroughly entertaining and filled with practical information for newbie cooks of any age.
The book was written by two working moms, a lawyer and a veterinarian who were college roommates and now are helping their adult children embark upon their grown-up lives.
“We’re both trying to pass on some essential values as we give them cooking crash courses, often via text message,” says Rebecca Bloom in the introduction. She co-wrote the book with Shelley Onderdonk. “We want them to see it as an expression of family, tradition and mindfulness. Not to mention that they’ll go broke if they don’t reckon with the fact that they can flip their own damn omelet.”
So the directions to make that basic “damn omelet” are two sentences. Easy peasy.
This is how the book flows, which makes it so much fun to read and use. Cute stories are followed by easy recipes. The format is set up as if you’re reading someone’s text message.
One of the recipes is for Pong Pong Sauce, a peanut butter-based Asian sauce “that was delicious on noodles or rice,” they write. Onderdonk and Bloom “lived on” it when they shared an apartment their senior year of college. And years later, Onderdonk’s son texted her for the recipe.
Here’s the recipe, which I made and loved. It was ready in less than five minutes.
“Anytime you have about one-quarter jar of peanut butter left, add about 3 tablespoons each sesame oil, tamari and rice vinegar to make a pourable sauce,” they write. “Add chopped scallions, garlic, and ginger.”
“The Anti-Cookbook” presents cooking simply as the act of feeding yourself at home. Cooking can be as simple as making a yummy bowl of dinner from a can or a jar of something topped with pre-shredded cheese and mixed into a pile of herbed brown rice, veggies or pasta.
Here are some things I related to in this book:
• Grains make an excellent base for a meal. Just add herbs, veggies and/or legumes.
• Eggs are inexpensive and an awesome way to turn leftovers into a fresh meal.
• Toast is an easy comfort food. Whole wheat naan toasted and doused with olive oil, a good balsamic, onion powder and salt hits the spot.
• It’s important to teach cooking and share recipes with your kids in a documented way, such as taking photos of dishes and writing out the recipes to keep family memories alive.
“The Anti-Cookbook” makes a practical gift for anyone in your family who needs simple steps to follow as they learn to feed themselves. There is even a guide with all the tools one needs to set up a kitchen, which also makes this a good housewarming gift for young adults. And who knows? Learning to make the simple omelet might lead to weekends spent cooking elaborate preparations worthy of posting on Instagram.
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