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Old 11-08-2006, 10:54 AM   #11
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The Joy of Cooking is great for beginners and can help you get started. Remember that cooking should be fun and not overwelming. Take your time and you can prepare anything.
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Old 11-08-2006, 11:07 AM   #12
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I suppose it also comes down to what the person wants to learn. If it's someone just looking for a few new recipes, then they might be better off with a couple Magazine subscriptions that arrive each month with new inspirations (I subscribe to Fine Cooking and Eating Well).

For someone looking to get a firm foundation in actual cooking skills though, a text-book is perfect. After-all, thats what the most respected cooking schools use. Something that is structured and organized to start a person with the basics and progress on from there.

Thats why I like TPC from the CIA. It begins with basic kitchen sanitation/safety, descriptions and photos of kitchen equipment, and ingredient identification (including how to examine products for freshness). From there it teaches you all the fundamental cooking techniques through example, and then offers a multitude of recipes that use that technique in each section. The latest edition (8th) also has a nice section on the culture and regional differences of ingredients and techniques.

Learning anything new (especially when self-taught) takes time. The same is true for cooking. If someone genuinely wants to learn how to cook and is willing to take some time to read and practice, then I think a book that follows a "curriculum" is an excellent choice rather than just a book of recipes. Many cookbooks also take lots of shortcuts. Thats great for someone that wants to use shortcuts, but for someone that wants to really learn how to cook, I think taking the long road is an important step and instills greater understanding which leads to a better cook.
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Old 11-08-2006, 11:35 AM   #13
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This is a college kid who needs the basics in a simple format. He can add to his library later. I would recommend something very simple and easy to follow, like Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping, or Joy.
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Old 11-08-2006, 11:50 AM   #14
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As a college student, I'm assuming that your first priority is feeding yourself, not learning technique. So you need to actually go to a bookstore and read the suggested books from this group, to figure out which one(s) would work for you.

Questions to ask:

Can you understand the instructions? Do you have the suggested equipment? Do the recipes cover what you really want to eat?

I recently read an on-line column which reviewed several cookbooks, including most of those mentioned here. The reviewer gave the books to her non-cooking husband, and he had to make one dinner from each book, over a week or so, struggling through the recipes as best he could. The most successful meal, with the least stress, came from Marcella Says by Marcella Hazan. A focus on Italian cooking, only about 120 recipes, with lots of motherly advice.

Hope this helps.
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Old 11-08-2006, 12:01 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexanFrench
As a college student, I'm assuming that your first priority is feeding yourself, not learning technique. So you need to actually go to a bookstore and read the suggested books from this group, to figure out which one(s) would work for you.

Questions to ask:

Can you understand the instructions? Do you have the suggested equipment? Do the recipes cover what you really want to eat?

I recently read an on-line column which reviewed several cookbooks, including most of those mentioned here. The reviewer gave the books to her non-cooking husband, and he had to make one dinner from each book, over a week or so, struggling through the recipes as best he could. The most successful meal, with the least stress, came from Marcella Says by Marcella Hazan. A focus on Italian cooking, only about 120 recipes, with lots of motherly advice.

Hope this helps.
But remember the poster's question: "I've gotten basic ingredients and spices but I honestly have to look up how to cook a baked potato, lol. Could someone recommend a beginners book that I could buy that would include american recipes."

I have all Hazan's books and love them, but I think this college kid is looking for a basic American-style cookbook.
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Old 11-08-2006, 05:18 PM   #16
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While not exactly what you asked, I would recommend you start watching the Food Network, or the cooking shows on PBS. If all you are after are recipes, everything you could want is also on the internet. Just type in something you like and add recipe and see what happens.

There was a lot of good advice here, but I would like to echo what Nicholas Mosher said, and I also see suzyQ3's point.

BUT if you start learning the fundamentals of prepping and cooking food, the better off your future cooking should be. What good is having recipes if you can't execute the recipes properly? Yes, its a trial and error situation, you get better as you go along. But the sturdier your foundation is at the start, the easier your cooking future should be.

So I agree with Nicholas Mosher that you should look at text books like the PC.

I also like the following cookbooks for your situation ..
The Essentials Of Cooking by James Peterson
This book has lots of nice color photos showing you how to do many "essential" kitchen tasks. This is a very easy book to follow and would make a good addition to any home cook's library. There are no meal recipes in this book, however, you will probably find it quite interesting and very useful!

Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques by Jacques Pepin
Awesome book! A VERY useful intermediate cookbook that will teach you a great deal. Lots of black and white photos that demonstrate the "techniques". There are some nice recipes but this book isn't about recipes, its about learning.

La Varenne Pratique by Anne Willan
This book is very much like "Complete Techniques" in that it is very thorough, but imo this book is much easier to follow, like "The Essentials Of Cooking". I own all the books that I talk about and this one is a favorite. Much more useful everyday cooking information, good color photos displaying all the steps, and there are lots of recipes that I like. GET THIS BOOK!!!

How To Cook Everything "The Basics" by Mark Bittman
This is an easy cookbook to use. Lots of everyday recipes that you would probably enjoy. Buts thats all it is, a recipe book. To learn proper techniques, look to the above.

If you want American recipes you could look at An American Place by Larry Forgione, but imo that might be a little over the top for you, not so if you have good culinary fundamentals. ;) The Joy Of Cooking is also a cool book, but I wouldn't jump into that one so fast.

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Old 11-08-2006, 05:41 PM   #17
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The Joy Of Cooking is also a cool book, but I wouldn't jump into that one so fast.

While I certainly agree that technique and process are fundamental, I'm not sure I understand the trepidation about a book like Joy (or a similar book), which gives both technique and recipes, both basic and a bit beyond. After all, they are commonly given as shower/wedding gifts, or at least they used to be when it was more common that a person was setting up house for the first time.

I'm speaking on the assumption that our college student would probably not want to invest in many books but would like to try one that might suit all his purposes for now. If he finds that he enjoys all this toil and trouble , then hey, he can expand his library.

He mentions an interest in Southern cooking. I have quite a few cookbooks in that genre, including all of Edna Lewis's books. Her last, "The Gift of Southern Cooking," which she co-wrote with Scott Peacock, is a joy of a book.
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Old 11-08-2006, 06:30 PM   #18
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Try the Starving Student Cookbook - good cooking techniques w/affordable ingredients!
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Old 11-22-2006, 02:18 PM   #19
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My first cookbook was Betty Crocker, my mom's was Better Homes & Gardens (the latter was the first cookbook I ever cooked from). I love my Joy, but agree with some that it probably isn't the best first cookbook. I still look up things that I only cook once a year (i.e, twenty pound turkeys) to get a general idea of time & temp and Betty is an easy format, plus the binder allows you to add your own recipes and it lies flat on the table or counter.
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