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Cookbook Reviews

"Cooking FOR DUMMIES", 2nd Edition
by Bryan Miller and Marie Rama

Reviewed by Mike Givens

This book contains very useful information and tasty recipes, but the "Dummies" reference in the title can be a little misleading. Yes, there is basic information to help inexperienced cooks create a foundation of cooking techniques and terminology. However, there are also more advanced techniques, specialized kitchen tools, and more involved recipes that might be intimidating to the novice chef. I've been cooking for many years and there are a few things I learned from this book that have made my cooking experience more fun and efficient. There is a humorous tone throughout the book accompanied by a cartoon at the start of each section. When I first picked up the book, I thumbed through it to read all of the cartoons. But don't stop there or you'll be missing a lot of useful information.

Containing over 400 pages of text, divided into seven parts, this book covers a large number of topics from cooking terminology and kitchen utensils to food and herb descriptions. The first two chapters set the stage with information on the setup of your kitchen. Next, five chapters go into detail on cooking techniques followed by six chapters providing information on egg dishes, soups, salads, pasta dishes, and meals that can be prepared in one pot. The remaining chapters cover information on basic spices, low-budget meals, menu preparation, and meals for special occasions. The Appendices include a glossary of cooking terms and common substitutions, abbreviations, and equivalents. In the middle of the book are color plates highlighting recipes from the book. They look delicious and make one want to look up the recipe and give it a try.

Recipes are scattered throughout the book as examples of cooking techniques and types of food. Very helpful to novice cooks is the "Tools" section of the recipe, pointing out useful kitchen tools to have handy while preparing the recipe. Also the "Preparation time", "Cooking time", and "Yield" are very useful in preparing a menu for guests or the family after a long day at work. An "Improvise" section follows most recipes with recommendations on modifying the recipe for a different taste or texture, such as using chicken or vegetable stock and/or a combination of herbs and lemon juice to add flavor to rice.

Additional sections are titled "Tip", "Warning", "Remember", "Essential Skill", "Toque Tip", and "What If?". "Tip" provides information on shortcuts and easier ways to do something. A "Warning" steers you clear of dangerous situations or preparation disasters. "Remember" provides tidbits that all cooks should remember such as using a meat thermometer to accurately judge when a roast is properly cooked. An "Essential Skill" is a fundamental cooking skill or technique such as zesting an orange or how to carve a turkey. A "Toque Tip" provides advice and secrets from world-renowned chefs. "What If?" offers solutions to cooking problems such as salvaging overcooked roast beef by making it into roast beef hash or beef pot pie.

I highly recommend this book to all new and experienced cooks. Novices can focus on the basic techniques and recipes to get up to speed quickly, then move on to more advanced recipes as their cooking skills increase. For more advanced cooks, there are a number of more enhanced, yet easily prepared recipes and cooking techniques. Over 100 recipes are included from simple everyday meals to special recipes for dinner parties. This book, as well as the other "DUMMIES" series of books, can be purchased online from by going to "Cooking FOR DUMMIES".



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