As of October 22nd, 2010, The Un-Cookbook: The Art of Cooking without Recipes is available for sale. It will take a few weeks before it is available through your local bookstore or Amazon.com. It will be produced in hard-cover, soft-cover and electronic editions. You can save yourself 20% off the RSP by purchasing direct from the publisher using the following link and get the digital version here(also at a discount)
I can almost read your thoughts: “Just what the world needs, another cookbook!” The truth is, we ourselves have a cupboard full of them at home. And in our always-connected world of today, whenever you need something in particular, you can just go to the Internet and search for it. So exactly why did I write this ten years ago? And why did I call it the Un-Cookbook? And what has possessed me to produce a second version?
I’m sure that most of you had heard that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Well, that is the theory behind the Un-Cookbook. Cooking is 40% art and 60% science. If you don’t understand the science first, all the art in the world won’t turn your food creation into a true masterpiece. Even when you are following a recipe, you have to understand enough of the basics of cooking to make any necessary adjustments for your own unique environment and ingredients.
Although our book does indeed contain recipes, many of them do not include precise measurements or exhaustive preparation methods. Instead, the first section of the book is devoted to explaining the basics of the science of cooking methods, tools and ingredients. Then each section is prefaced with an ‘About’ page which explains the peculiarities and helpful hints pertaining to its particular subject. Our personal cooking style involves our only reading a recipe when we attempt something brand new to grasp the concept behind it. We then use this as a guide for our own creation. Are we always successful the first time out? No, definitely not! But neither is everyone successful the first time that they exactly follow a recipe. Making mistakes is part of the process of learning.
Making bread with our breadmaker is a perfect example of this. We have learned, for example, that we must invariably increase, by 10% or more, the liquid called for in almost any recipe but especially those from the book that came with the machine. Anyone who always sticks strictly to the letter of almost any recipe will likely have more failures than successes. The real secret is to turn today’s mistakes into tomorrow’s accolades.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-cookbook. As I stated at the outset, we have a large collection of them and I often give them as Christmas gifts. The Internet has its place, but so does the hardcopy. Many of these are works of art. And besides, many of us prefer to be able to touch and feel our written materials. A single sheet printed off the computer is no place for a true culinary masterpiece. One of the most gratifying results from the first edition of this book was when I came across my daughter’s copy and found notes written in the columns of some of the recipe pages. It was primarily this plus encouragement from a few others who had received one of the original batch that persuaded me that there is indeed a definite need for a text such as this.
As a result of all of the above, this second edition is largely an exact reproduction of the original. Where significant updates or revisions have been made they are duly noted as well as the reason for them. Perhaps you are just starting out and want to learn the basics of cooking? Or, maybe, would you like to wean yourself away from the necessity of always needing a recipe on hand and the exact ingredients that it calls for before you will begin any culinary exercise. It may also be that you know of a friend or loved-one who can’t boil an egg! In any of these cases, this book is for you.
I always thought the art/science mix in cooking was 50/50 – shows what I know!