The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, a 5 Minutes for Books Review & Giveaway

by 5 Minutes for Books

Author and cook Kathleen Flinn was intrigued one day in a supermarket, as she watched a woman fill her cart entirely with processed food—frozen meals, dinners in a box, etc. She started talking to her and realized the woman was completely intimidated by her kitchen, and didn’t trust herself to know how to roast a whole chicken or prepare a sauce for pasta.

From this encounter, a cooking class was spawned. Flinn found volunteers who let her into their kitchens, where she inventoried their pantries and fridges and ate a meal they prepared for her (one woman served frozen lasagna and something she called White Trash Garlic Bread, bread spread with margarine and sprinkled with garlic salt). They agreed to come to a class teaching basics of cooking.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School follows the 9 volunteers into their kitchens and we learn a little of their relationships with food. It’s interesting to note how often their own mother’s attitudes toward cooking is reflected in these adult women; for example, one woman’s mother wouldn’t let her in the kitchen at all, and the woman lacked any confidence that she could successfully chop an onion, much less make a cake from scratch or dress a salad.

Flinn ropes in several friends and acquaintances to help teach the class, and each brings their own expertise and flair to the various lessons. As Flinn discusses what each class covers, her readers learn too—about nutrition, processed food, and more.

Read more about how moving to Africa made me rely more on cooking from scratch and how I’ve changed now that I’ve moved back to the U.S. over at 5 Minutes for Books.

Flinn’s class devotes an entire evening to salads and dressings. Not only are home-made dressings cheap and easy, they are better for you, and you end up wasting less food. That’s another theme that comes up in the book—how much food Americans waste (we tend to shop how we will ideally eat, and then throw away crispers-full of fruit and veggies.) The point is, cooking yourself is not only cheaper, healthier, and better for the planet, it also tastes better!

In Morocco, getting bread was easy. We had a bakery a 2-minute walk away, and I would send the kids to pick up fresh warm baguettes for about 50 cents. I miss that! But one of the best things about The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is that readers practically experience the classes themselves; each chapter has recipes and simple instructions. The volunteers learn to make something called “No-Knead Artisanal Bread.” The recipe is unbelievably simple. I’m planning to make some tonight.

Flinn visits the participants several months after the class has ended to see what, if any, changes were permanently made. She finds that the women have new-found confidence, that they tackle new recipes without fear and that overall, they are eating healthier.

There are lots of things to take away from the book, even for someone like me who sometimes has too much confidence in the kitchen (just ask my kids. I’m not afraid to experiment). I’m already rethinking how I use (or don’t use) leftovers, and how I can cut down on waste and expand my repertoire. I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes. And I’m inspired to make some changes that I hope will last.

Please leave a comment here if you’d like a chance to win this delightful book and a magnet (U.S. shipping addresses only). We’ll announce the winner on October 17.

5 Minutes for Books team member Elizabeth loves to cook and you can kind of tell just by looking at her. She is raising kids who are fearless in the kitchen, and leave messes to prove it. Read more at her blog Planet Nomad.

Email Author    |    Website About 5 Minutes for Books

5 Minutes for Books is the 5 Minutes for Mom sister site devoted to reviewing books for adults -- fiction, memoir, and nonfiction -- and kids of all ages. Managed by Jennifer Donovan, other contributors are Dawn, Lauren, Nancy, and Elizabeth. Follow us @5M4B on twitter and subscribe to our feed or like us on Facebook so you don't miss a thing!

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Liz October 3, 2011 at 5:19 am

For a family reunion, I brought all of the ingredients for chicken salad, including two whole chickens. Thankfully my sister taught me how to debone them. Who knew cooking was such a challenge.


2 katklaw777 October 3, 2011 at 7:28 am

Luv a good book about food…tanks for the great giveaway!


3 Pam M October 3, 2011 at 7:47 am

Sounds like a great book! Count me in. :0)


4 dianne October 3, 2011 at 7:48 am

I loved her cooking memoir! I’m sure I’d love her cookbook too (I love to cook but like you, perhaps too confident sometimes . . . and I could do better with leftovers!)


5 Sandra K321 October 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

I always wondered if the people who go to cooking classes actually use any of the new recipes and methods of cooking they learned in the classes.


6 Mary October 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

Sounds like an awesome book! I would love to add that to my collection. Thanks for the opportunity!


7 debbie October 3, 2011 at 10:10 am

I have collected cookbooks since I was young. I would love to add this to my collection.


8 Jennifer October 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

Sounds like a great book! Count me in!


9 Jen E October 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

Oh I would love to win this! As much as I enjoy cooking, there are a lot of basics that I don’t really grasp and would love to tackle. This book sounds great!


10 Jennifer October 3, 2011 at 10:42 am

I’d love to win this book!


11 LT October 3, 2011 at 11:11 am

This sounds like a great read, thanks for the chance to win!


12 cory October 3, 2011 at 1:16 pm

i would love to check out this book
mychancetowin at gmail dot com


13 Liz October 3, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I love cooking and love reading other people’s adventures. I always find it inspiring.


14 vanessa October 3, 2011 at 4:55 pm

please enter me!. thank you!


15 Heather S October 3, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Such a fantastic book! I would love to win and use this with the kiddos!


16 Milcah October 3, 2011 at 7:58 pm

I can cook, but I could use more diversity in my kitchen because I don’t mix it up enough.


17 Jen October 3, 2011 at 8:09 pm

I would love a copy of this!


18 Tammy Gordon October 3, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Sounds like a great book!


19 Some Lucky Dog October 4, 2011 at 2:54 am

Since I retired I’ve really enjoyed having the time to cook from scratch. I’d love this book!
someluckydog at gmail dot com


20 Justine October 4, 2011 at 11:41 am

This looks like a fabulous gift for some folks I know.


21 Cassandra D. October 4, 2011 at 11:44 am

I love reading the articles you gals post on your blogs. So inspiring…This book sounds great. Thanks for the chance to win.


22 JUNE October 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Cant wait, sounds great-


23 Idaho Jill October 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm

We cooked ALL the time with my mom when we were young – loved it! I try to let me daughter help with as much as possible, too.


24 Brook October 4, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Wow this is a great looking book, and fabulous idea!!


25 Ellen C. October 4, 2011 at 11:10 pm

I’d like to win this. Thanks for the chance.


26 Anne October 5, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Thanks for this lovely giveaway which would be treasured.


27 kristin October 5, 2011 at 9:24 pm

I could really use some help in the kitchen


28 Debby October 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Ever since I was in high school, I have always loved to be creative in the kitchen. I was heart broken at the tender age of 16 when I made green cornbread during Christmas season and nobody would eat it!! LOL


29 mrsshukra October 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Very good book, please count me in!


30 Patricia October 6, 2011 at 8:50 pm

This sounds terrific. I know I would learn a lot from this.


31 semi-crunchy momma October 6, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Would LOVE to win this as I’m always looking for meal ideas for my family!


32 Staci A October 7, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I would love to read this!


33 melissa n October 8, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I love a good food book :) Thanks for the chance!


34 Kerrie Mayans October 10, 2011 at 7:32 am

I don’t have alot of confidence in the ktchen and would love to learn more about cooking. This seems like a great book for me to read.


35 riTa October 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm

A wonderfully practical book!~


36 Marci J October 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I’d love to read this – thank you for the chance to win!


37 Laura Lane October 11, 2011 at 11:01 am

Count me in!


38 Sarah October 11, 2011 at 1:14 pm

I would love a copy of this book. I have been wanting to read it.


39 Kimberly B. October 12, 2011 at 8:48 am

This would be a fun book to read.


40 Patricia R. October 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this giveaway. I love cookbooks; this one looks like a good one to share with my daughters.


41 Mercedes October 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm

This looks great! I’d love to see how other people react in the kitchen!


42 Alison S. October 16, 2011 at 12:56 am

Sounds like a fun book.


43 Angela October 16, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Sound’s like a perfect book for me.


44 Candy October 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Cooking was passed down by my Grandma and now I’m passing down “the family secrets” to my son and daughter. We would love to share this together.


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