Summer's just about upon us, and even the latest high school and
college graduations are finishing up. Each year, I wonder:
how many of those new graduates are getting cookbooks as presents?
And how many of those cookbooks have names like "Clueless in
the Kitchen" or "Teen Cuisine" or "Teens Cook" or "Awesome Recipes
for Teen Chefs" or "Where's Mom Now that I Need Her"?
The most recent version I've
seen is The Ultimate Student Cookbook, from Tiffany
Goodall. It's got the two elements I think these cookbooks
have to have: 1) an emphasis on "serves 1" recipes; and 2) lots and
lots of process photographs. It uses "just 20" pieces of
kitchen equipment. (Though how many students even have a kitchen
for those 20 pieces? How about "How to Cook Dinner with 1 Rice
Cooker and a Swiss Army Knife"?) Still, it makes a nice
package, and I predict it will sell if only because of its canny
But (except for the issue of
scaling down a recipe to serve 1, which isn't terribly difficult)
do you actually need a "student"- or "teen"-focused cookbook at
all? Won't any basic cookbook do? Young people are quick
learners and - having probably been slicing and dicing organic
chemistry textbooks not that long ago - entirely capable of parsing
a well-written recipe, without a lot of "don't worry, this is so
easy!" and "Even you can cook this!" commentary on
the side. Wouldn't it be a better investment to just get a
big Bittman book like How
to Cook Everything: The Basics or Jane Hornby's What to
Cook and How to Cook It? Or - as so many cooks in search
of photo and video instruction do - download an app?
If you're an EYBer, chances are it's been a while since you had
to worry about buying a how-to-cook cookbook for yourself.
But what are you buying for your younger friends, or your
friends' kids? Do you go traditional, with a Deborah
Madison book or Julia
Child or Joy or Bittman? Or do you go
for a just-for-you, easy-does-it cookbook that's marketed straight
to the demographic?