Mark Bittman is a much celebrated American food writer with more than a dozen cookbooks to his credit. He is a regular journalist with the New York Times and has oft graced the US TV screens on such programmes as The Today Show.
How to Cook Everything is in fact Mark’s second shot at the subject. No, dear reader, the teacher didn’t say do it over again, it’s just that the culinary and social world has moved on from the launch of the original How to Cook Everything in 1994. Mark has added recipes and revised the content to reflect current trends for fresh produce with low food miles.
This tenth anniversary edition of How to Cook Everything boasts 2000 simple recipes for great food. By the size of the tome one can well believe it contains that many recipes. It is cover-to-cover food-related wisdom. There is not a raft of glossy colour photographs but there are plenty of detailed illustrations on, for example, preparing an artichoke, shaping dough for a baguette, and carving a leg of lamb.
The author has a conversational style which encourages the novice cook and this is indeed a book that would be a good investment for any would-be home chef. The advice is always straightforward and clear and downright sensible. I am so tired of hearing the worthy (not necessarily my opinion) of the food industry pontificating on such subjects as cooking risotto. “Daaaarling, one absolutely muuuust use oooonly that siiiiply diviiiine rice from thaaaat particular village.” It is refreshing to read that Mark has successfully used cheap and cheerful short-grained rice. This costs a fraction of the price of the classic Arborio and the results are pretty good. I confess I have used the cost-busting alternative and it would fool everyone but an expert. Cookbooks should allow the audience a bit of freedom. We all need to know about the culinary classics but there are hoards of folk out there who equally need some credit-crunching tricks as well.
How to Cook Everything is a masterwork of huge proportions. Its size is striking and that alone would make it a handy book for propping open the kitchen door. But this is a culinary classic that could be renamed A Sensible Book for a Sensible Cook. Mark Bittman has his finger on the pulse of modern society. Even the most enthusiastic cook has less time available to spend in the kitchen, and when he is there he wants good solid recipes and advice. This volume will not disappoint.
Cookbook review: How to Cook Everything
Author: Mark Bittman
Published by: John Wiley and Sons
Price: $35.00US, $39.00CAN, £18.99
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018