Ok, so it’s official. Here’s the cover and the final title of the new book. Although originally titled Changing Courses, it has been shifted to The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How Nine Culinary Novices Transformed Into Fearless Home Cooks. The book will debut in October 2011, and I’ll be on book tour most of the autumn. The book follows a project in which I tried to understand why people don’t cook at home. I enlisted a group of volunteers who let me pry into their fridges and cupboards and then, after a series of cooking lessons, agreed to a year’s worth of follow up. The results were both intriguing and surprising. But more than that, the project pushed me to think about what I believe not as someone trained in a culinary school, but as a home cook nourishing people I care about.
If you’re a journalist or blogger and you’d like to be added to the review copy list, drop an email to the KCCC team. We’re developing a full web site to go hand-in-hand with the book, including videos and lessons for home cooks. I’ll be announcing more events as they develop.
"A Mother's Dream"
While doing research for the next book, I stumbled across a story in today’s Brandweek magazine about a clever new campaign by Chef Boyardee. They claim that by adding a small amount of whole wheat flour to the pasta in its canned products suddenly makes them incredibly nutritious! It’s great for your kids. Hence, the new tagline: “Obviously Delicious. Secretly Nutritious.”
Says Brandweek: “…. the TV ad shows a father being pleasantly surprised as he finds out that Whole Grain Beefaroni contains ‘whole grain pasta.’ His wife tells him to “zip it,” or else their daughter—and her friend, who is visiting—would ‘never eat it.’ Bewildered by their behavior, the girls shoot each other funny looks across the table, and the guest remarks: ‘Your parents are freaks.’ “
I don’t think they’re freaks. They’re well-meaning types unfortunately deluded by a transparent marketing sham.
The “whole grain” version has roughly the same nutritional value of the previous incarnation, which earns a “D” grade from CalorieCount.com. One can of the “whole wheat” Beefaroni still contains 62% of the recommended daily sodium intake — for an adult. Depending on the source, the recommended sodium intake for kids is about 1,000 mg to 1,500. Just one cup of Beefaroni has 750 mg.
Then there’s the saturated fat (nearly 30% of an adult’s recommended daily maximum) and trans fat (36%). There’s also a dozen grams of sugar likely from the high fructose corn syrup listed on the label, the ingredient that comes directly after pasta.
Here’s what would be even more nutritious. Make a batch of your own one weekend, and then freeze small single servings for quick meals for your kids. Hey, maybe you can have them make it? It doesn’t even have to be a secret. You’ll cut down on the sodium, eliminate the high-fructose corn syrup and you can use whatever whole grain pasta you want.
I’m hoping that the name of my second book says it all: Changing Courses: A Mission to Get People Off the Couch and into the Kitchen. Like my last book, this is a memoir with recipes. This time, instead of the classic and complicated French cuisine that I learned at Le Cordon Bleu, the recipes are all straightforward numbers designed for home cooks. Most of the recipes incorporate a lesson, from knife skills to roasting to mastering a simple saute.
If you didn’t figure it out from my last post, I want people to cook more from real foods and rely less on process, takeout and fast food. Why? It’s better for you, it’s better for family, your wallet, your waistline and the environment. I’m not suggesting an hour or more every day. Most of my own meals are pretty basic affairs that take less than, well, 30 minutes. (Sorry Ruhlman.)
I am assembling a small army of volunteer recipe testers from all walks of life and with all levels of skill to test the recipes and offer feedback to help make them clear enough that even cooks without much experience can follow them with success. The best testers will be acknowledged in the book. You up for it? Email me.