Until recently, I have had a non-cooking husband. When I’ve had to be away from the family, he’s coped with the things I leave in the freezer, simple meals, takeaway and salad. (Everyone can make a salad.) There was a lot of scrambled egg sandwiches – mostly with burned eggs.  The kids would all cringe when they saw his "cooking" coming. After a while, they offered to cook just so he wouldn’t.  He didn’t use recipes, and thought that cooking was either something you were good at, or bad at, and that he was simply bad at it.  It was hard to argue with him, standing there looking at another ruined pot of food with the smoke detector blaring, but I managed. 

I won’t post the whole nature of my arguments, nor his defences. They were mostly rooted in my firm belief that anyone who uses ? every day at work is totally smart enough to learn to cook if they care, and that he should care, because he’s a adult male in his 40’s, who should be as able as his wife to care for himself and others.  He did not need to become a chef, I said – but it is way past time for him to learn the basics of following a recipe. I put it in engineering terms. The same way he has learned to write and work electrical schematics, wire stuff and calculate sound waves,  design circuit boards… making a decent mac and cheese, I maintained, was nothing in the face of the mathematical stuff he breezes through.
Besides, I said. It’s not fair. We’re in this together. Dude should be able to put dinner on the table now and again.  

Joe set about learning. He got some recipes, and he started trying. The first few weeks were nuts. Joe made a fabulous black bean espresso chili. It was delicious, but it took him about ten hours, and the kitchen looked like he’d been fending off a pack of wild dogs while stirring.   Then one night day he made tian and socca, and made breadsticks. From scratch!  Yes, it took about nine hours, but he’s new.

(My favourite thing about that picture is that Joe had to look up not just how to do all this, but how to set the table properly. He made it look just like the instructions, so despite us only having one course, no soup, no desert and no salad, all the utensils are there for it.  Just in case someone busted in with a cake I guess. Mercy, he’s charming.)

He bought a pasta making attachment for our mixer, and that was like the power tool of cooking for him.

It turns out that Joe is an amazing cook.  He’s not an inventive one, or one that has enough experience to trust his instincts, but he can totally do what the recipe says, and make great stuff.  I’m feeling super proud of him.

There was one thing that made this possible… while he was learning to follow the recipes, he’d find them missing information.  Joe would be in the kitchen and he’d shout out "What does it mean if it says to dice?" or "What’s al dente? It says to make this al dente…" or "What the hell is the difference supposed to be between braise and boil? Don’t I just put this ^&*(^!! in a pot?" "Do we have a crepe pan?" "Do you think a tart is the same as a pie?" "Is this searing – or sauteing?"  "What’s a simmer? Should there be bubbles?"  Straightaway, we realized that Joe was going to need either a more patient wife, or a reference book.  He tried looking things up on line, but every site had a different definition, and he couldn’t have confidence in that. We set about getting him a proper book, a great one, and now he goes through the recipe, looks up everything he needs to know, reads about it, and then goes back to the recipe.  He’s looking way less stuff up every time. He’s gaining skills.

I realized when I was reading the comments last night from yesterday’s post, and some people made a connection between recipes and patterns, that it was a great way of saying simply what I was trying to say in that really long post.  Recipes don’t tell you how to saute. They might say to do it, but you have to go find out to make the  recipe work. Similarly, patterns  might tell you to perform a technique, but not how to do it. You need separate skills to make the pattern work – just like a recipe.  Great way to explain.  The book we got Joe is How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  (There’s a version for carnivores too.) It’s got actual detailed instructions and diagrams on how to chop an onion, and how you’re supposed to identify a tart pan.

I thought you might want to know my favourite knitting books that do the same thing.

Finishing School
Knitter’s Handbook
The Principles of Knitting
The Ultimate Knitting Book .  (Not pictured, currently on loan from the collection.)

There are definitely others, but these are the ones that I know to be accurate and helpful, and that I turn to again and again when I come to the knitters version of an instruction like "blanch for three minutes" or "caramelize the onions." Solid books all, and they keep me from having the knitterly smoke detector go off.

(Most of the time. Sometimes I’m still me, despite everyone’s best efforts.)

188 thoughts on “References

  1. He may want to check out Good Eats on youtube. Alton Brown set out to create a cooking show that was equal parts Julia Child, Monty Python, and Mr. Wizard. It’s all about the science of cooking, as well as technique and reasons for things.

  2. “How to Cook Without a Book” is another great one. It teaches you how to do a lot of basics and has both recipes and jumping-off points to make up your own.
    And I’m in the “Don’t tell me how to do the basics unless there is a very specific way it has to be done for the pattern to work” school of knitting pattern thought. 🙂

  3. Great analogy! And in both knitting and cooking, the skill you know will be ‘easier’ than the skill you haven’t learned yet.
    Way to go Joe on tackling cooking! The older we get, the tougher it can be to face learning something completely new.

  4. Oh yay, new books to check out! I think making his own pasta has moved your husband way beyond beginner, that is some skill!

  5. Those are definitely the ones I’ve picked, having looked at a lot of basic references lately. Katharina Buss’s “Big Book of Knitting” also has a lot of fans.
    Principles of Knitting reads (and hefts) like a college textbook. “Comprehensive” is an understatement. The one complaint I had is that she uses some idiosyncratic terminology, so that we don’t get confused by the four different things “front” can mean when knitting a sweater, so there’s a little bit of translation to do.
    Knitter’s Handbook and Ultimate Knitting Book both seem to be aiming for the same goal: a beginning knitter who needs a moderately comprehensive reference. I’d personally pick Ultimate Knitting over Knitter’s Handbook – that might be as much a case of preferring the layout.

  6. Congratulations to Joe on learning to cook! He’s light years ahead of my hubby who once boiled water and had to call the fire department to “clean up.” Also, those are great knitting books you’ve mentioned. Love them all!

  7. Yup, good analogy. (My husband is an excellent and inventive cook… who never follows a recipe exactly. He always has to “improve” it. Now if he could just figure out wiring diagrams.)

  8. I agree that recipes are like knitting patterns. I think it should be up to the pattern designer to decide what instructions to include and what to leave up to the knitter. And it is then up to the knitter to decide whether or not to knit the pattern based on the skills he or she has, or is willing to acquire.
    Or mostly I just think that there doesn’t have to be a hard and firm answer. It is knitting and designing – both creative arts. Why impose hard and fast rules?

  9. Add me as another vote for “Good Eats”. The books are awesome too. (And How To Cook Everything is awesome too!)
    The Joy of Cooking is a wonderful reference that lays things out. I’ve given my teenage daughters copies of “Clueless in the Kitchen” which walks through some simple techniques and good solid recipes.
    Another one, since he’s got an engineering mind:
    The site’s recipe section actually breaks the recipes down into engineering grids (you have to scroll past the standard instructions and pictures to get to the grids). They’re *amazing*.

  10. Yes. Exactly.
    But I don’t use recipes, which probably explains the mess my knitting is currently in. 🙂

  11. I’m a huge fan of Cooking for Geeks. It has a fair bit on meat, so it would seem like a huge waste, but it gives such a good explanation of the principles of cooking, and how to cook without recipes, how to be an instinctive cook (yes, that can be taught) that it’s worth it.

  12. How to cook everything is the most stained and bookmarked in my collection.
    You need to get Joe some Marcella Hazan books, with Marcie and Mark you can go amazing places.
    Molly : )

  13. Also? Anything by Michael Ruhlman ( Granted, some of his stuff is waaaay out there (think The French Laundry Cookbook) but _Ratio_ , _Ruhlman’s Twenty_ and _The Elements of Cooking_ are fabulous. He’s also a smart and funny writer.
    Congrats on making the connection between cooking and knitting. I like it. And thanks for sharing.

  14. Joe rocks!
    I once gave my starving university student nephew a book called “The Bachelor’s Guide to Ward Off Starvation.” That was over 10 years ago and he still mentions that it practically saved his life – or at least taught him to cook!

  15. Husbands who are fond of ‘inventive’ cooking are a mixed blessing. Mine made a sort-of pesto sauce…well, we decided it might best end up as a pesto sauce, even though there were no pine (or other) nuts or parm cheese in it…out of cooked radish leaves.
    It was better than either of us expected, which is not the same thing as saying it was that good.
    The thing is, he expects wild praise for inventive cooking, and refuses to throw anything out.
    I would strongly encourage you to be very grateful that Joe is dedicated to making food that’s at least recognizable ;o)

  16. My 11 year old is a really good cook (and she IS adventurous and good at improvising) but I TOTALLY know what you mean about what the kitchen looks like when she’s finished doing anything. I basically have to clean the entire room floor to ceiling. I suppose I should learn to do so without whimpering out loud.

  17. “Clueless in the Kitchen” by Evelyn Raab is a great book for teens and other kitchen newbies. In addition to recipes and techniques, she walks the reader through care of kitchen appliances and why you shouldn’t pour fat or oil down the sink! Very practical, and it was my gift to my son when he first moved out on his own and was voted Cook in an entirely non-cooking male household!
    Big Book of Knitting by Katharina Buss is VERY good, very practical and comprehensive. One that I found extremely helpful is from dear Interweave Press and is the Deluxe Edition of Knitters Companion by Vicki Square – it has DVD’s so you can actually see what she is going as well as read about it. Pretty basic stuff, but doesn’t talk down (or up, is basic enough for a beginner but interesting enough for an experienced knitter too.

  18. My hubby was a very competent cook when we met, you’d expect that of a chemist. Still, it is one of my strengths, honed over the years. When I stopped working outside the home, I asked him if he would miss cooking. His reply, “I think we should each play to our strengths, your cooking, my eating.” I like knowing he can still whip up a ‘bachelor casserole’ when the need is present.

  19. Great analogy! My first knitting ref book was your Knitting Rules! and I loved the way you described your ‘basic sock recipe’ because I can cook and you made knitting far less intimidating to an almost 50 year old newbie. Can’t even say how every time I realized I really have gained a new skill – like knowing whether I want to K2tog or ssk, and can spot a mistake/figure out how to fix it – I feel so accomplished! I wouldn’t trade that feeling for any number of detailed instructions. But that’s just me…

  20. Go Joe!
    When my husband and I were dating, I would cook dinner at his apartment because I was a college student with no money and he could afford the ingredients and so we worked together on it. One of his roommates sighed, Someday I’m going to have to find a wife who can cook like Alison!
    I guffawed. Richard is the one who’d taught me, right there in those sessions.
    Our favorite cookbook now is The Passionate Vegetarian by, I kid you not, Crescent Dragonwagon. Child of the ’60’s who never changed her name back from what she gave herself at 16.

  21. Great analogy. It is the same in both. After looking things up so many times you forget that you ever didn’t know the things that you know. I couldn’t live w/o both reference materials!

  22. My boyfriend, and a few of his friends, also learned to cook from the How to Cook Everything books. THey are GREAT! Now he does the majority of the cooking in our house.
    Jamie Olivers site as well as his books are also a great resource for the grown man finding his way in the wilderness of the kitchen.
    We also have a clean as you go attempt going on. As the cooking bomb that also went off in our kitchen wasn’t awesome. So the new first step to cooking is – fill sink with hot soapy water.
    Good luck Joe!

  23. So proud of Joe too! And major cutiepie points for the table setting. THANK YOU for providing solid reference books (for vegetarian cooking and knitting).
    Soooooo…..where does Joe stand on cilantro? 🙂

  24. That is the story of my life. I think it is time for my husband to get comfortable in the kitchen too.

  25. Like several have mentioned about “Good Eats”, they are in book form also. My husband and I both use them as reference books much like my knitting reference books.

  26. Another good food reference book is The New Basics, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins of late 80s Silver Palate fame. It’s not vegetarian, but very useful for figuring out what exactly is the best way to cook whatever you’ve got in the kitchen. Also vote for Joy of Cooking, my mom gave it to me when I first moved out and over 30 years later I still use it.

  27. LOL Joe and I are on the same wavelength! I find recipes to be frustrating, but at the same time I don’t have the desire or wherewithal or memory to just throw something together the way my husband can (I’ve made dozens and dozens and dozens of pies in my life, and every single time I have to look up the crust recipe). I do the same with knitting actually – no matter how many times I’ve K2tog tbl, I’ll look it up at the start of a new pattern because I don’t trust my own memory.

  28. I just bought The Principles of Knitting based on your recommendation– in ebook form because I tend to lose books really easily. Loving it so far! Thanks!

  29. I was reading this post to my husband and we wonder how you manage to write an essay every day that is so intersting that we want to check it out every day!! Amazing. And thank you!

  30. All I can say is WOW! And Good Eats with Alton Brown is worth looking up. My girls (15 and almost 21) learned how to cook from him (they’ll listen to strangers before their parents). Very informative and fun.

  31. Oh, also bought Knitting Rules in ebook form because I lost my copy, which I had been carrying around with me from bedroom to kitchen to living room to car to work…Love that one, too. Definitely worth the second buy.

  32. I meant to post this yesterday but work got in the way. However, you’re absolutely right — not a lot of difference between following a pattern or a recipe. And for both you should have at least one good reference book. I have the carnivore (makes it sound like we sit around knawing on bones) version of How to Cook Everything and it is a wonderful book for everything from soup to desert.
    Anyway, my point is that I think if something is labeled for beginners (knitting, cooking, whatever) then it should have more detailed instructions and not assume knowledge. I recently made a simple pullover that was labeled for beginners. I’m fairly advanced so that wasn’t why I bought the pattern — I just wanted a plain v-neck go-to sweater. The pattern was pretty detailed until it got to the sleeves (ran out of energy?). It said increase at the beginning and end of the rows (it did tell you which rows). If I didn’t know that you should use a different increase on each end of the row to make it pretty, not to mention how to increase, I would have been in trouble. I doubt that a beginner would even know to look for instructions on left-and-right leaning increases. I don’t think that’s fair.

  33. LOVE those men who cook….even if it isn’t the greatest at first. None of us were born cooking proficiently. My husband has several dishes he does, and does them well. Good luck to Joe on his culinary journey!!

  34. Thank you for listing these! I’ve been interested in tilting my diet more vegetarian, and this will help me get a good start.
    The knitting references will be great, too!

  35. I’ll have to try that with my husband. If he is making something that didn’t just come out of a box, he spends a lot of time asking me about every possible step. It is an act of will not to step in and take over, but he won’t learn if I do that.

  36. My husband is a scientist. He can cook anything, as long as I write the recipe out in the same format as the instructions for a Chemistry Lab 🙂

  37. Everyone should have basic life skills…cooking, cleaning, sewing, changing a tire, checking oil, balancing a checkbook, hanging a picture, driving a nail, etc.
    Not a requirement that you actually DO it…but you should know how to do it correctly (efficiently?).
    And that is one of the skill sets that parents are responsible for passing on to their children.

  38. That is a brilliant analogy. Spot on. Everything is a learning experience, and “I Can’t” should be striken from your vocabulary. 😀

  39. I’ve always been fascinated by people who say they “can’t cook”. While I’m dreadful at the “throwing things together” variety of cooking (my mom is awesome at it though) I can follow a recipe.
    I hadn’t ever considered that maybe those people weren’t even trying to use a recipe and were just putting stuff together thinking that it should somehow just work.

  40. And you’re learning to construct a sound board, in the interests of justice? Admirable woman …

  41. Good for him and you! Wish my mother had pushed my father to cook and participate in daily maintenance. She didn’t want to argue with him on anything, so when she got sick he had to cope without any experience plus deal with a dying spouse. It just didn’t happen. Two years later he still only makes frozen meals or eats out. He did learn to do some of his own laundry and find things in the grocery store, eventually…..not that he cooks.
    The pasta looks amazing and is tempting me to splurge for a pasta attachment…..must resist….need blender first for green smoothies!

  42. Am I the only one who noticed that Joe REALLY got into cooking when he was provided with his own toys and when he was allowed to handle and play with the food????

  43. My husband is also an engineer (mechanical) and teaching him to cook when we started dating 9 years ago was the best decision I ever made. Yes he still needs recipes (a lot come from Alton Brown), his fancy knives and appliances. However, I now only have to cook once a week (Sunday) and am treated to a variety of cuisines every night of the week! Curry, Thai, Portuguese, typical Northern ON food, it doesn’t matter he makes it delicious!

  44. Way to go Joe! My husband still makes me come look at the chicken he’s cooked to make sure it’s done, and makes me smell all the ingredients before he sets out to fix dinner. Steph, you’re a lucky woman! Handmade pasta, wowie!

  45. Got my non-cooking husband to accept one night a week – he chose our Date-Nite Friday. He plans the menu, shops and prepares. Haven’t gotten out of the crock-pot yet, but I’m not complaining!!!

  46. Good on Joe! I have cooking (and knitting) skills at my fingertips, so I sometimes have to show certain restraint from ‘taking over’ when my b-f does the cooking. (and effectively, er, emasculating him.) One of the books that got him going was a Jamie Oliver cookbook– and I agree, one of the things that we should be passing on to our kids is that this ain’t just one parent’s domain. I like JO’s ‘hands-on’ enthusiasm for that. In the food blog world, I love Smitten Kitchen, Molly Orangette, Montreal’s …endless banquet, Clothilde at Chocolate & Zucchini, etc. Everything Moosewoody (& Mollie Katzen’s vegetable cookbook that I picked up at a sale table in a very large bookstore….) just the freedom in having good hearty soup, popovers & salad for supper. It’s not (too) complicated– it doesn’t have to be, anyway, and it can even be fun.

  47. I have a sock pattern that says to “work” a row. What I didn’t know then, that I do now was that if you were on a knit row you should knit and if on a purl row, purl. I don’t think there’s a book out there to explain that, so a BIG thank you to all the ladies (and men) who work in yarn stores and help with all the stupid questions that knitters ask.
    Ditto for quilt shops !!!!

  48. I love your humor. And Joe’s perseverance. And Mark Bittman’s practicality. Pound for pound, one of my favorite books of all times.

  49. So true. I hope he continues to enjoy it (for both of you).
    Thank you for great blogposts that always make me think.

  50. My dad decided to learn how to cook when he was 80 years old. It’s never too late!

  51. Totally just gave myself a pat on the back. I own 3 or the 4 reference books! I agree, they are great “go to” books when I have questions.

  52. OMG I love Joe so much right now. I love that table. That’s how I was when I was learning to cook. I was trying to make garlic bread and my boyfriend tried to help me (he was a great cook) and he was just, you know, buttering the bread and then putting garlic on top. I told him he was doing it wrong. Oh, man. He was super patient with me and my “Everything has to happen exactly like this recipe is telling me!”
    Also, I love James Beard’s Theory and Practice of Good Cooking. It’s got recipes, but it’s organized by technique, and he explains things from the theory on up, and it’s marvelous. There’s also a concordance at the back, where he covers the less basic things. So useful for someone who is trying to learn WTF “dice” means.

  53. The absolutely most infuriating cooking direction is “cook until done.” My questions are: how will I know? Give me an idea as to how long this will take. Should I start checking in 30 sectons, 5 minutes, or 4 hours. The one thing I have determined is that when you can smell dinner, it is already starting to burn.
    My motto is, where there’s smoke, there’s dinner.

  54. *sigh* I am currently living your previous life in which my husband won’t (I refuse to say “can’t”) boil water and has absolutely zero interest in learning how to feed himself. Or anyone else. There are days when I feel like he is a baby chick with his mouth open begging me to feed him. Engineering will not be the winning argument in this house, I’m going to have to think of something else (or go on strike).
    Love Bittman!

  55. Thank you so much for this post. I needed a laugh this morning more than I realized and this did it! My dad is an electrical engineer and, while he can make pretty basic stuff (his mom insisted he learn), I can totally see him approaching the problem just like this. I nearly fell out of my chair on the table setting! (no offense to Joe!)

  56. I’m still inspired by your Joe stories. It’s great to see that he’s taken on a new skill. In the dating world, I’m a huge fan of the men who cook. But there’s also something great to be said about a non-cooker who migrates to the cooking group. All thanks to your hubby for letting us hear about his journey!

  57. Buy the man his own knives! It will make him feel like a chef. If you want to see how inept people can be at cooking, watch ‘Worst Cooks in America’. It is scary when someone puts a slab of cheese on a griddle. We started teaching my grandsons how to cook when they were in middle school. They got to plan the whole menu. The oldest is now in cooking school.

  58. I guess I’m lucky, my husband was a 46-year-old bachelor when we married, so he’d learned to cook in self-defense. He also does all the cooking — I cooked for picky kids for far too many years, I’ve always hated cooking and now I don’t have to do it, so whatever he cooks is just fine by me.
    I’ve gotten him multiple interesting cookbooks, and he always finds interesting recipes to try, but he never, ever uses them exactly. He always has to change something (which is why his baking is awful; you just can’t decide, as an example only, to use cilantro in a pumpkin pie instead of cinnamon and have it taste right!) He also makes fabulous marinades, but again? No recipe. Sigh.
    But you should taste his gumbo. When we lived in New Orleans, he learned how to cook a true gumbo. Oh, my… die for delicious!

  59. Bittman is great! But my current favorite is Get Cooking by Mollie Katzen. It is a fabulous basic cookbook with simple but thorough instructions, including suggestions in the margin for getting creative. I wish I’d had the book when I was just starting out! It isn’t completely vegetarian, but she often explains how to make a recipe vegetarian or even vegan.

  60. Got hubbo the carnivore version 2 years ago. He doesn’t think he needs it. He’s wrong. Sighhh

  61. hmm. i’m a big fan of reference books, however, i enjoy a book much more when the technique and directions are all there together – whether it’s for knitting or for cooking. especially in cooking, i love when the author writes about the technique and how it all came about. love this with julia child, charles williams, etc.

  62. Hang onto Joe…he’s a keeper! You are a lucky woman and he’s a lucky man. Thanks for the suggested books, I will be looking for them in my book store. Learning to knit @ 64 years old is a very enjoyable thing for me. After crocheting my entire life I ask myself what took me so long to learn to knit?!

  63. I love How to Cook Everything (carnivore version in our house) and your analogy. Just so you know, I have the iPad app version of HTCE and it’s marvelous. Even includes timers preset for everything in the recipe, bookmarks, shopping lists, etc.
    I have knitting reference books but I find myself most often using (also available as an app!) because I want to SEE what to do.

  64. Agree on some levels with associating cookbooks with knitting patterns… except…. I’ve never seen a single recipe published for $6, $7, $8. Cookbooks typically include HUNDREDS of recipes, for $20 to $30 depending on the format and style of the book. When a knitting designer/pattern writer charges full price for a pattern, I expect a full product. Just my two cents….

  65. Love the analogy. Kudos to Joe for braving a new skill, and the man sets a sweet table.
    Like many things in addition to cooking and knitting, watching someone who knows how to do it can give the false impression it’s simple. (My husband’s exact words the first time he saw me practice my profession: “Companies pay you to do this?”) It’s hard to realize how much you’ve internalized until you watch someone try who doesn’t have the knowledge.
    After knitting for about 1.5 years, I still turn to “Knitting for Dummies” for things I know are basic. I may outgrow it eventually, but it’s a good starter reference. Thanks for the links – all on my Amazon wish list!
    The level of detail in a reference book often depends on the audience that the writer (and even more, the publisher) envisions for the book. If you make a book longer by adding more instructions, it takes up more space on a shelf and the publisher can justify a higher price. Price wasn’t a factor for patterns written down by an ad hoc designer (aka a knitter making something up) and given to fellow knitters. Probably most of the people they knew, knew what they knew, so it wouldn’t have occurred to them to explain it.
    And whether knitting or cooking, how many of us do what we’re “supposed” to and read the whole thing before starting? (Asks the woman who just added lemon juice to the wrong part of dinner, but knows it will still be edible.)

  66. I know I keep commenting. I’m sorry.
    My husband is this way. He programs computers for a living but has to follow thorough instructions to the T to make anything work in the kitchen. When he does, though, it’s delicious.
    Mark Bittman’s books are my desert island cookbooks. The Vegetarian one in your picture is really great. So is “Best Recipes in the World” – trust me on this. It’s not vegetarian, but there is plenty of stuff in there without meat and it’s great. Worth it just for the falafel 🙂

  67. I own that Bittman book too! (And the carnivore version) and while I disagree with his assessment of strawberries (clearly he has never had fresh local grown just picked them berries) the tomato soup recipe in that book and the cherry crisp recipe (add the cocoa to the crumble) are simply to die for.

  68. My son sets the table that way, He knows it isn’t necessary, but he puts out the extra things because he likes the way it looks!

  69. Oh, Darn. Even with several shelves full, I don’t have a single one of those books. Darn and darn. Guess I’ll have to smack my credit card hard this time… And mercy yes, your man is charming.

  70. 1. Well done, Joe.
    2. My favorite knitting reference is Elizabeth Zimmermann’s “Kintting without Tears”. It’s gotten me through a number of crises.
    3. In reference to yesterday’s discussion of “experience”, Frederick the Great once remarked that experience was very over-rated – after all, a pack mule might have made twenty campaigns with Prince Eugene and not be any the better a tactician for it.

  71. I think it’s so wonderful that he is learning to cook. I would love for my husband to do the same and there are times when he does try. I think a reference book is a wonderful thing too! One I love for my knitting is the Knitting Answer Book
    because it’s small enough to fit in a knitting bag so if you’re out you have a chance to figure out the issue and keep going.

  72. I desperately want to say “way to go, Joe!” But if I do, does that mean I have to learn how to cook, too. It is so boring, and take-out so easy.

  73. Okay, you’ve totally won me over. Yesterday, I was appalled at the gall of knitting patterns to do anything but explain in the most thorough of ways. But now that you couch the same concept in the world of cooking, okay. I would be extremely annoyed if a cookbook took the time to explain braise, caramelize, or poach. Point well made!

  74. My husband learned to cook the basics when he was raising his two young boys alone. Meat, potatoes, salad, breakfast. He got excited – and inventive – when he started buying cast iron pans at antique (junk) stores and refurbishing them. It’s amazing what he’s put on the table since.

  75. Have you read Deanna Molinaro’s “The Very Bad Chef”? I think it’s appropriate to honour of Joe’s accomplishment. 😉
    (because links in replies don’t always work, I’ve entered the link to the free ebook in the URL blank so that clicking on the “JLS” in my signature will take you to it … Deanna’s stories are hilarious and she deserves to be far better known than she is)

  76. Hmmm…this sounds oddly familiar. I bought the carnivore’s version of the Bittman book for my husband a few years ago and we’ve both used it so much it’s actually falling apart. The ‘simple apple tart’ is good – especially if you get creative and add cranberries and ground almonds to it.

  77. LOVE “How To Cook Everything Vegetarian”!
    Also, for a beginner cook, try “Clueless in the Kitchen” by Evelyn Raab. Very clear style, very easy (yet delicious) recipes. Yum! Highly recommended. There’s 2 more book in the series: “Clueless Vegetarian” and “Clueless Baker”. (Bonus: it’s Canadian! Evelyn Raab is/was a food columnist for Today’s Parent magazine.)

  78. Dear Joe,
    FYI, a pat of butter is approximately a tablespoon, NOT a whole stick. As a wife who was delayed in learning to cook, I thought I’d pass the info along. Luckily, my husband managed to stop me vefore I stuck a whole stick of butter in the skillet. 🙂 Best wishes on this new adventure (watching cooking shows also helps, if you’re visual like that – it worked for ma, at least)!
    Sending some warm from Texas

  79. Fantastic analogy. 🙂
    I agree with some of the other comments – it’s up to the designer what assumed knowledge they put in, and up to the knitter to choose a pattern based on whatever level of detail they want.
    Thanks for exploring the topic.

  80. My boyfriend and I are visual learners, so we found The Great Courses DVD “The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking” was perfect for us. It comes with a cookbook, too. How brown is brown? How bubbly is bubbly? We can actually see how much is correct. The instructor, Chef Bill Briwa is from the Culinary Institute of America and he is awesome.

  81. Cooking is the PERFECT analogy. I saw your tweet that started this whole spiral, and my thought was just “Yep. Sometimes you’re just too tired to think. It’ll wait for tomorrow!” I wish I could be surprised at the “please spoon-feed me” mentality that followed!

  82. What a great post, Steph. Just got through making dinner, spaghetti Putanesca if you must know, and feel quite smug that I own and love your stack of books. Thanks for your great blog! Braise on Joe!

  83. May I also suggest Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone?” It’s brilliant. James Peterson has a wonderful book called “Essentials of Cooking” that has great instructions and beautiful photos for pretty much most techniques one would need, including all the ones Joe cited.

  84. I have The Principles of Knitting, but not the others though I have some other sources.
    Recently, I knit a vest. The center area was cables but the sides were finished in reverse stocking stitch.
    Generally I rely on mattress stitch for my side seams. But here, I was flummoxed. I wanted a good diagram to guide my seaming and some tips on how to do it as beautifully as possible (and, sadly, though with good intentions to improve, seams have never been a strong point). I looked in all my books [and did an Internet search] but there was no guidance or help. [Just doing the seam from the inside didn’t seem to be the answer.]
    Any thoughts on this particular issue or where I might look?
    Really glad to hear that Joe is becoming a great cook. You must both enjoy that. Setting the table that way – following the pattern exactly…
    And learning any new skill entails the new vocabulary and the layers of meaning with this. I remember my Mom being totatlly fascinated by dad’s carpentry magazines, while she had her vocabulary for flower arranging. Equally, I remember being puzzled by the valley and mountain folds of Origami.
    We learn the terms; then we master the skills that go with them and see the nuances that the experienced artisan had before us.

  85. RUN to your nearest bookstore or Amazon website and order Finishing School by Deborah Newton…now!!! I promise you that this will become your absolute bible for finishing all your knitted items.
    I attended a small seminar in Providence, Rhode Island with Deborah and she is a gem! I hear her voice over and over as I read her book. She is very down to earth and a designer, knitter, finisher extraordinaire! Her directions are clear with multiple illustrations – and she’s right there holding your hand the entire way – and the results are perfection! You know you want it – give yourself a fabulous gift right now…and all for the cost of lunch tomorrow!

  86. Joy of Cooking taught me to cook. My earliest edition is duct taped together and spattered beyond belief. My later edition only has pages falling out and some spatters, so far. I love to cook but my mother never let me mess up her kitchen. Bless you for letting Joe mess up your kitchen!

  87. I am exactly like Joe. I am the least intuitive cook I know, but give me clear, specific instructions and I will follow them to the letter. I’ve really been enjoying The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester. I’m not even vegan (though hubby’s vegetarian) and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve made so far. And her instructions are very thorough…so far there hasn’t really been anything that made me go “what the heck does she mean by that?” I will also be getting a copy of the book you recommend because I really do want to get better at cooking!

  88. Go, Joe! Just wait until you find out all the other things those kitchen power tools can do!
    I’ve always believed that the best how-to books/patterns/recipes — knitting, cooking, home repairs, woodworking, whatever — always provide complete information on the subject. And they do so without insulting the reader’s intelligence.

  89. I give The Knitting Answer Book to all my new (or nearly new) knitter friends. It’s terrific, complete, accurate, and well illustrated. I wouldn’t like to be without this tool myself!

  90. When I was a late-teen, I asked my mom to teach me how to make spaghetti. I asked so many questions like Joe’s that she eventually gave up and said she’d call me when it was ready to eat (the water had not yet come to a boil).
    I did eventually learn how to do it, but it was one of my few successes. Nowadays, my fiance does the cooking most of the time (unless we want spaghetti, or some processed crap that ends up being burnt on the outside and frozen on the inside).
    I am a crochet pattern designer. As a crocheter, I like patterns to give me the gist of what’s going on and I’ll take it from there. I don’t like to have to sift through a bunch of information I don’t need.
    However, in the same way that I love baking recipes (none of that “dash of this” or “season to taste” crap in baking recipes!), I understand that there are people like me in the crochet world, and so I strive to make most of my patterns as informative as I can so that anyone of any skill level can work them.
    Keeping crocheters like me in mind, I tend to keep the bare bones of the pattern to a page or two by itself, with the extra information coming after, so that those printing it out can choose to print only the pages they need.
    There are exceptions, though. Some patterns are too complicated for a beginner to handle. I get them down as much as I can, but don’t sacrifice the design.
    I think we should do away with “beginner” and “advanced” labels and go with lists of skills needed – skills you’ll need to know already, and skills you can expect to learn directly from the pattern.

  91. I think inventiveness in cooking is not as important as being able to recognize a good recipe BEFORE you start cooking. Go Joe! And lucky you!

  92. If you folks don’t mind Indian food, check out “Everyday Vegetarian” by Madhur Jaffrey. Good recipes from many different regions of India, and the spiciness ranges from mild to crazyburn. She also gives very clear instructions, I love her work.

  93. Once he has his feet under him, he might really enjoy “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” by Harold McGee. While McGee gets some of the chemistry askew, it’s a really great cooking reference book that appeals to engineers and scientists – it explains what chemical reactions are taking place when you cook and why.

  94. I’ve never heard anyone say I bought this cook book, the picture looks amazing, but it tells me to sauté and I have no idea what that means, what a rubbish cook book!
    I totally agree, we can never know how much knowledge a knitter has when designing a pattern, so name the technique and hope they buy a decent reference book. To a certain extent I think designers have enabled knitters to be spoonfed by including every tiny detail and technique when actually there are great books that would describe it better and the knitter would learn more.
    Thank you for inspiring me to buy a suitable reference book for my husband who is an awful cook, who asks what dice means if I give him an onion to dice! Perhaps he can be turned into a useful cook too with the right book!

  95. I got the carnivore version of that very book for a wedding present! And yes, I agree, best book ever for new and uncertain cooks. I learned how to make frosting from scratch for my husband’s birthday cake from it, and my very first apple and pumpkin pies (homemade from-scratch crust included!) and all sorts of other things. Great book, and Joe’s food looks tasty! Good luck in his future cooking!

  96. If your husband’s a geek, I’d also recommend a good dollop of Harold McGee, supplemented by a soupcon of Jeffrey Steingarten.
    And of course there’s the indispensable “learning to cook” by Marion Cunningham, I’ve tested that one on some really refractory characters with great success..

  97. “What’s the difference between m1l and m1r? Don’t I just put this $^#+ on the needles?”
    I found How to Cook Everything Vegetarian at a used book store and felt like I hit the jackpot. I have the carnivore version in app form. Love Mark Bittman!

  98. I’m pretty sure Joe must have areas of competence that contribute to your home. So which of these areas are you now going to become competent at?

  99. BRAVO, JOE!!!
    And, BRAVA, Harlot – for giving him the time/space to do it in his own good time.
    A very good friend of mine, also vegetarian, described the process of her non-cooking husband learning to cook… She said the hardest thing, was to just LET HIM DO IT, w/o taking-over…and being “happy” to eat, whenever the meal was ready.

  100. Wow! That’s a lot of comments! Don’t know if you’ll even see this one 🙂 I HIGHLY recommend Cooks Illustrated. If he likes science, he’ll love it. They take a recipe and break it down and find the best way to cook it. I’ve never had a bad recipe from them. Ever. They have a big cook book that is our family go to book, or a magazine. With no ads! Good for him learning to cook, Yippee!

  101. I would love to know which is your Favorites book that describes the whys and hows of sleeve cap shaping.

  102. I did the same thing when my former husband said he couldn’t cook – I replied “Well you can read can’t you?” and purchased Joy of Cooking for him. Turns out he’s a great cook. (His new wife should thank me!)

  103. I will second the recommendation for books by Marcella Hazan. My favorite is Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Mine is so used the binding is falling apart. Her recipes are distilled down to just the essentials. One of her best is the recipe to make spaghetti sauce with just these ingredients: pureed tomato, butter, and a halved onion. And you take out the onion and salt the sauce to taste at the end. I make it all the time and it is always terrific.

  104. I’ll say it as Presbytera seems a bit distracted – doesn’t this man deserve a gansey?

  105. I agree – any of Madhur Jaffrey’s books for Indian food – my original one is probably thirty years old, and smells like a good curry….and I have all her books. Also, Joe might like Nigel Slater, very simple, rather ‘bloke-y’, but very well explained – I use his books a lot for ideas. My husband uses both books. Go for it, Joe!

  106. Congratulations to Joe for the skills he is gaining. Thank you for your blogs and the loving descriptions of your very busy knitting and family life

  107. Beautiful post, Stephanie! I thought of you when I just bought two copies of your fellow Canadians’ book “The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook” edited by Mairlyn Smith–one for me and one for my grown son. Joe might enjoy the recipes, which are splendidly organized and delicious.

  108. I love the knitting and recipes analogy! I don’t even think about what a ‘saute’ is or what a ‘scant cup’ means…just as, I suppose, I don’t think what ‘bind off’ or ‘ssk’ means anymore (and there was a time when anything beyond a yo got me trembling!).
    Harold McGee’s books are also really good reference guides – On Food and Cooking is very technical and scientific, which might appeal to Joe!

  109. Patterns and recipes hold the same place in my mind. I often refer to patterns as recipes. For me both are guides or inpiration, not something I follow to the letter.

  110. i hated cooking beyond mac n cheese (and even that i kind of resented)and was afraid of the oven until shows like Top Chef started coming on. between that and the Ina Garten/ Bobby Flay/ Emeril contingent i learned a lot about how to do things. i’m still super cautious about the oven (some things die hard) but at least i don’t think i’m going to blow myself up using the gas stove anymore. and since i became a stay at home wife recently my wife is super stoked to make all her coworkers jealous with the homemade lunches i pack for her. the recipe correlation is a smart one. my confidence in both skills has increased exponentially in the last 10 years because of handy reference books/ shows. glad Joe is finally having some fun in the kitchen!

  111. Bravo Joe!! I have to admit that I was laughing so hard I was crying. Kudos to you as well for your patience, I know it’s not easy, but now you can look forward to meals not cooked by you. I always find that they taste better this way. The setting of the table was beautiful and I am so glad you took a picture. Give Joe a pat on the back for me! He is aces in my book and you are a saint!

  112. LOVE KNITTING! HATE COOKING!!!!!!!! Luckily, I married a man who loves to cook (doesn’t want to learn knitting). But when he’s not around, I rely on mac-n-cheese, box form, or something frozen to throw in the oven. I’m limited by time and an unadventurous 6 year old who is accustomed to my dreadful choices. Does anyone have a recommendation for this problem?
    I’d rather spend my time knitting, which you can do while water boils. Can cook, just not interested.

  113. When my husband cooks, his go to book is “Vegetarian Express” by Lillian Kayte. The recipes are well laid out, with lists of ingredients to have on hand, and should be on the table in 28 minutes! Even though he is a chemist (now used bookstore owner) he will always change something in the recipe…….usually with great results!

  114. YAY! You picked a FANTASTIC reference cookbook. We have Bittman’s How to cook everything (which is the carnivore version–it’s “the Yellow Cookbook” in our house. While we still use it to look things up, it’s used more now as a jumping off point.
    Yay for Joe and his cooking skills!!

  115. This was exactly the confirmation that I needed that I’m not crazy for buying a lot of books to help me do anything important. I was adopted by two stray cats this week. Having never owned a cat, I immediately bought a book about how to take care of cats, and was mocked for it. Good to know that there are some kindred spirits out there! When I was first learning, and still for more difficult things, I do like the videos at and a little book called Knitting Rules!
    A friend (who doesn’t cook) and I have a running joke that the “catch phrase” for my cooking show would be “People, this is not that hard!” Looks like Joe is having a good time and learning a lot!

  116. You are my boyfriend. Joe is me. My boyfriend is a foodie and does all the cooking. I have a smattering of recipes so that I don’t starve to death when he’s out of town.

  117. First, the iPad is a wonderful kitchen companion for those moments that need a definition (or a quick recipe too).
    Second, I think that Joe may be the cleverest person in the world! Because of his known cooking incompetence he was absolved of that daily grind of family cooking for years. Now that there are fewer of you at home he can step in and he has a great audience that is both receptive to his attempts and will eat what he cooks (unlike a toddler). Are you sure he didn’t plan this all along?

  118. 1. Go Joe! Congrats on leveling up. Also go you for convincing him he can do it.
    2. I also recommend Good Eats with Alton Brown, especially the first few seasons, but all of it is good and science-y and cooking. Alton has made books too, they are also science-filled and cooking mishmashed.

  119. Love this post. Thanks for the tips on both knitting and cooking. Now my turn to step up to the plate.

  120. I am not a knitter, so some of this knitting discussion makes no sense, but the how and why apply to most skills. I like the comment of someone earlier who suggested that patterns have a comment about: “These are the skills you will need to know or learn…” and then list them. Then it is up to the knitter to decide to tackle that pattern or pass.

  121. You are the best!!! I’m headed out to purchase a copy of Finishing School from my LYS.

  122. The three most used books in our house are Bittman’s, How to Cook Without A Book, and The New Basics. About 4 years ago my husband decided that he needed to start doing some of the cooking, it took some time to get him to realize that a good part of the drudgery of cooking is figuring out what you can make from what you have on hand. These books helped him not only learn techniques but also to be able to say “Honey, I know what we’re having for dinner tonight.” Instead of “I guess I’ll start on dinner, so what are we having?”

  123. Another vote for Alton Brown. Great info. And the thing about the tools and gadgets…when my husband decided he wanted to try to make etouffee (many years ago, before were were married, or about the same time) we had to go buy him a chef’s hat. Yes, really. But if the costume and gadgets make a difference, I’m all for it.
    Also, I just got a pasta attachment for my Kitchenaid for my birthday, earlier this month. Making pasta is so fun!

  124. I so agree with your response to the comments. I teach at a community college. Our program has a large “hands on” and “skills” component as well as stressing decision making. When students are first presented with a new topic, they want a cookbook, a recipe. We try to encourage them to use their textbooks, and their brains to think it through. However when it comes to knitting, and golf, as someone who often feels unsure, I often want to resolve my uncertainty by having someone tell me exactly what to do.
    When I first started knitting, I think that I actually went into a yarn shop, and said something to the effect of I want to make a hat, what yarn and needles should I buy. I simply did not understand all of the options and variables. Most of my confusion was due to my lack of knowledge, not the shop owner’s lack of cooperation.
    Thanks for the reference list! I’ll borrow them from the library and see if they work for me.

  125. Have the knitters Handbook. A Personal Favorite and every time it gets shelved, it is unshelved quickly.
    I am lucky. My hubby is a school teacher and usually gets home before I do. He makes dinner during the week and I do weekends. I am a better cook. He is more into the quick and the easy and if I suggested that he make pasta from scratch, he would think I had lost my flippin’ mind. The only “out of the ordinary, follow the recipe” thing that he makes is seafood linguine. He and the kids love it. I tolerate it.
    However, I cannot complain when I get home and the dinner is just about ready to go. And, better yet, I am making my son set the table. Of course, it is never done when I get home but only after I tell him.

  126. It’s great that Joe is learning to cook. My ex cooked but he made such of a mess (which he never cleaned up), it was just easier to do the cooking myself.
    As to comparing cooking instructions to knitting, to boil just means one thing but there are several different ways to decrease (increase, etc.) while knitting.

  127. Great job, Joe – I’m seriously impressed. My go to reference, when all else fails, is Joy of Cooking. More than you’d ever want or need.
    Stephanie, one word.

  128. You got him the perfect cookbook! My own (carnivore) version is so well-used the pages are no longer attched to the binding. It is my go-to recommendation for beginners, with enough variety to be fun for non-beginners too.

  129. Yay for Joe!!! He’s more evolved than my engineer dad, who died refusing to acknowledge that the recipe and/or directions mattered. Think anise flavored red and green icing on banana nut bread.
    Yeah. And he wondered why we wouldn’t eat anything he made expect pancakes. He did make a good pancake.
    I could snark a bit about sexism and cooking, but not needed here. I’m very happy that you now have someone who can spell you on the cooking.

  130. Stephanie, I don’t know about Canada, but in the U.S. most school systems dropped Home Economics from their classes as soon as computers came into being. Basic cooking skills, sewing (even sewing on buttons!), budgeting, etc., were things that USED to be taught in home economics classes and they should have been for girls AND boys. We now have a couple of generations out there that don’t know the “basics” because their parents weren’t taught them, either. I’ve taught my husband to cook, too. Told him if something happened to me, I didn’t want him marrying the first woman who came along because he couldn’t take care of himself. But it amazed me (and still does!) that he didn’t know some of the very basic terms. Then I remember where I learned them: Home Economics classes!!! 🙂

  131. I’ve been looking for a book with this sort of detail for my 13 year old son (who thinks he loves to cook, but doesn’t take instruction well haha). Thanks for the tip!!!

  132. Second the cooks illustrated mention. I have never hsd a recipe from them not work.

  133. My Italian-descent dad feels that when cooking, as long as the food is swimming in extra virgin olive oil, crushed pepper flakes and garlic, it surely must taste great.

  134. Joe is like me when I started knitting. I didn’t know enough to avoid really complicated projects; I just went by what I liked. Two of those projects are still unfinished after weeks or months of work and years of neglect. The advantage to cooking is that the time frame is much shorter than with knitting.

  135. Completely agree! There are going to be people who always cook from top to bottom of a recipe without making any changes while other people read a recipe and then swap ingredients to make it their own. Similarly I hear from yarn store staff that many people want to knit a pattern in the exact yarn and colour shown in the pattern, while others are excellent at swapping yarns or collars/heels/necklines.
    I am amazed when new knitters start with lace or fair isle (or when Joe makes socca and breadsticks) – perhaps they don’t know those are supposed to be difficult projects (it’s all new after all).
    I am trying to improve my lace and stranded colourwork skills. Maybe I will make socca and breadsticks too!
    Thanks for the post.

  136. Congratulations to Joe on his new accomplishments!! I also have a non-cooking husband and am totally jealous at the moment. Hopefully Joe learning will change something in the cosmos and stir other non-cooking husbands into the kitchen!

  137. Good job, Joe! Even if we like cooking, it’s nice to not have to do it EVERY night. Keep up the good work!

  138. My mother frequently complains about the fact that my stepfather “can’t” cook, not even something like tea. Personally, I think it’s that he “won’t” cook as opposed to “can’t”!

  139. Way to go Joe! Stephanie, you have a real gem there…anytime you want to rent him out, let us know 🙂 You two are the cutest couple I “know” and an inspiration.

  140. But you know, the question is still there. The cookbook doesn’t just show you a picture and say “Do the necessary things to produce this dish.” It also doesn’t tell you how to boil water. Someone had to decide where on the continuum the directions should be.
    A pattern may assume the knitter already has certain skills, but it won’t just show a picture of the item with the notation “Do what is necessary to produce this garment” and figure the knitter will have to go find out what that is. Nor will it tell you how to make a knit stitch. The question remains, how much should it tell you?
    I agree that if you pay several dollars for one pattern, it should tell you a lot. No one every paid $6 for a recipe.

  141. I read a novel once about a young couple learning to cook, the recipe they were following said, “Cook until done.” and I remember laughing hysterically when they looked at each other and said, “If we knew when done was we wouldn’t need this &^%^*&^&% recipe!”

  142. Knitting rules is on my go-to list of knitting references for those occasions when I feel like knitting socks or hat, etc. & don’t feel like using a pattern.

  143. Yay for YOU and JOE!!
    My hubs is the chef at home – he’s a huge fan of Alton Brown and America’s Test Kitchens (Cook’s Illustrated Mag is tops at our house and they have a DE-VINE veg burger recipe).
    My hubbie also likes Jacques Pepin and for a beginner (me!), The Joy of Cooking (very thourough instructions!)

  144. I’ve got the carnivore version of the Bittmann book and I love it! And Montse Stanley’s Knitters Handbook is the reference book I keep going back to. I picked it up when I was a beginning knitter, and I like it so much that I’ve given it to several new knitters. Also — fending off a pack of wild dogs while stirring! Made me laugh out loud!

  145. Flashback! The pasta attachment shot reminded me of the time I was going to make my own pasta but not the plain stuff – heck you can buy that – so I chose spinach. I’d never seen “raw” pasta before and I rolled it out as thin as I thought it could go. But when it hit the boiling water it swelled up to about 1/4″ thick (about 0.5cm). Absolute yuck but we had to choke it down as that was all there was for supper. Donated the machine to a thrift shop.
    Also spaghetti sauce for heaven’s sake. I had no idea there were different types of canned tomatoes and bought the “wrong” kind. It never tasted right and I kept adding dried herbs to it hoping it would magically save itself. Never happened. Another choking-down-supper episode.
    Sometimes you are so ignorant you don’t realize you should have asked more questions, or found another person to ask because the person saying it’s so simple doesn’t know any more than you do.

  146. Great discussion and great comments! I have lots of reference books to look into now. Yeah for Joe! My husband was much more confident in the kitchen than I was when I got married. I started out following recipes slavishly, using the basics I learned in Mrs Nelson’s 6-7th grade home economics classes (Which the boys also took.) Now I have confidence to try pretty much anything. Joe is obviously fearless, staring with homemade pasta–Awesome.

  147. I know it’s not vegetarian, but Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” gobsmacked me with all of the basic how to advice. Julia teaches not only how to cook, but a million little things that no one teaches you but good cooks already “know.” My husband was the “only make eggs” guy when we got married, now thanks to Julia he’s a fantastic, fearless cook. Good for me, since I hate cooking.

  148. Julia Child’ Mastering taught my generation how to do stuff in the kitchen that our parents and grandparents just didn’t know much about. That ,with its careful illustrations, is still a wonderful teaching tool. It’s not just about French cooking, or even about omnivore vs. vegetarian, or about following the recipes, but about knowing enough to get inventive, to get past the recipes.
    Bittman’s books are today’s equivalent, and he is my new Cooking Hero. Another good teaching book, with many wondrous things to do with veggies and grains, is A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider.

  149. I think for knitting a big part around your question has to do with the fact there are Many many knitters of recent vintage. Because of the Stitch N Bitch book (it’s how I started) and YouTube and the web, new knitters get launched into more advanced projects quicker than the used to. The flip side of this is that more of the new knitters start as adults rather than kids. So a lot of us have not spent years working on projects and developing our techniques slowly. We tend to jump in. After all, it’s just knitting what’s the worst that can happen? Then we run into an instruction like you did and get slammed into a wall of incomprhension. I know that’s why I tend to write out steps and cross them out one by one when doing mitten reductions for instance. As you say, late at night, not everything makes sense.

  150. You may have created a monster! I have a cooking, erstwhile chef, husband who complains that he does all the cooking but when I do get into the kitchen first (in my first marriage I was chief cook and bottle washer – #1 did a mean Sunday brunch but that was it!) he complains that he’s bored because he’s not cooking!
    BTW, we prefer to be called omnivores!

  151. I love this post. Can totally picture a 40 yo man following instructions but having quite developed the cooking instincts yet. And a power tool?!?! What else could make a man live cooking but… A power tool!

  152. We recently transitioned to a vegan diet and I’ve been cooking a lot from the same cookbook. It’s been very helpful!

  153. So fun to see Joe jumping right in! Another really fine resource for techniques and science of cooking is America’s Test Kitchen. They publish the magazines Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, and have several websites with pictures and videos.

  154. I love this post, & while I’m not super-familiar with the cookbook you provided Joe, we like “Joy of Cooking” for much information about food, cross-references for basic sauces, etc.! Love the photos, too! (& the questions from the novice!)

  155. I learned to cook by watching Julia Child’s (original) series on PBS and following along in Mastering The Art of French Cooking. That cookbook was like sewing from Vogue Patterns (showing my age here). If you followed the directions, you could not go wrong, AND you had skills you could do again. I’m not an inventive cook either, but I do a darned good job.

  156. Those are my favorite books and I have at least three of them (maybe the fourth too but can’t check right now). Love a great technique book!

  157. Having read this I thought it was really enlightening.
    I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this content together.
    I once again find myself spending way too much time both
    reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

  158. Good on ya, Joe! Cooking is a skill every human should learn. Every mate should be as able to perform all the household skills so that one mate isn’t shouldering more of the burden than the other. It’s why women tend get less patient when they get older. We spent out patience banks on all the damn household stuff.
    I prefer Omnivore since I do not just consume meat and animal products.

  159. Being an omnivore my go to cookbook for at least 15 years has been Bittmans How to Cook Everything. Much loved, bookmarked, annotated and falling apart, but my go to book for solid everyday cooking. This is the book I give to young people as graduation presents.
    I was thrilled to discover when I bought my iPad that he had a How to Cook Everything app. Well worth the $10. Complete with links to show how to do things. Now I can take the cookbook with me to the market/grocery. Joe being an eniginerring type, he might enjoy that. I think there are videos for some of the stuff.
    Can’t argue about the basic knitting books either. I have the new POK in hard copy and was delighted to find Amazon selling it as an ebook too. Again this means that I’m never without a key reference source.

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