Another book I just remembered -- "How To Cook" by Delia Smith.
I'm guessing you're writing from the States, Nessin, so you might or might not be familiar with Delia who's an institution in England. I got familiar with her watching her show on BBC Prime which we get here in Greece.
The reason I'm suggesting her is not only that this book is really aimed at people like you -- just learning about cooking -- but also because it sounds like her taste in cooking fits with you. She often cooks what I'd call "comfort food with flair" -- very basic stuff we all really love and sounds like you grew up with, but she adds in some unusual tastes which modernize things a bit (she likes Thai influences, for instance). I suppose that sounds like what I'm critical of in my first post, i.e. people adding in funky ingredients just for the show-off value, but I guess I feel she's one of those cooks who really know what those tastes are all about and blends the traditional with the unusual with a great deal of talent.
She's almost the opposite of Jamie Oliver, by the way, who you probably do know -- she's conservative and reserved and traditional. But she's a **** of a cook too. You could truly do worse than to put yourself in her hands initially.
Here's the link to her book. Of course you can probably just hop out to a bookstore and see it (unlike some of us!) which is even better, although maybe the reviews will be of interest?