Back to school cookbooks

Cookbook collage

As the days begin to get shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, state fairs and festivals ramp up and parents eagerly count down to the first day of school. For many college students, back to school means their first real independent living experience. After the first year, lots of students opt to move off-campus into an apartment, where they will need to prepare their own food, often for the first time. This can be a daunting proposition, and many of these young people will turn to a cookbook for assistance. But which cookbooks are best suited for the task?

Laura Reiley, food critic for The Tampa Bay Times, offers suggestions for cookbooks that will help these students explore the world of cooking. She suggests some quite simplistic books, noting that while millenials "can talk about sustainability and the merits of GMO labeling...surprisingly few of them can roast a chicken and whip up mashed potatoes." Reiley first pick is Mug Meals, by the author of Mug Cakes, touting the book's short ingredient lists and its "clearly described techniques for making single-serve lasagnas, soups and such."

Other tomes are The Single Guy Cookbook by Avi Shemtov and blogger Jessica Fisher's Good Cheap Eats: Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!) Reiley likes that the latter book "does not steer away from canned beans and chickpeas (absolute staples for first apartments)." The final recommendation is Elena Rosemond-Hoerr's The No Time to Cook! Book, which "presents a whole lot of no-cook ideas that will keep your college kid entertaining in style."

Although Reiley laments that young adults don't know how to roast a chicken, it doesn't look like any of the books she recommends will solve that problem. Mug Meals seems more appropriate for dorm living than a fully-equipped apartment kitchen. Perhaps a book like Cal Peternell's Twelve Recipes would be a better choice for someone beginning to cook. I am partial to Joy of Cooking, which I received as a young college student beginning my cooking journey. Which cookbooks would you recommend for someone in his or her first apartment?


  • adrienneyoung  on  8/14/2015 at 9:42 PM

    Mark Bittman's How to Cook Anything Plus, for someone who might actually be interested (I wasn't at that age), some fun, fast, not-always-expensive-ingredients food porn: Jamie's Food Revolution And maybe a Nigel: Real Fast Food?

  • Jane  on  8/15/2015 at 11:36 AM

    My son has finally (at 22) got interested in cooking and eating healthily. He is a vegetarian so I recently bought him Eat Your Vegetables by Joe Yonan which is ideal for people cooking for one. I'm going to buy him the two Plenty books by Ottolenghi for Christmas as he is into spices and interesting flavors. He was a really fussy eater as a child - hope this gives hope to anyone with a picky eater child.

  • sir_ken_g  on  8/16/2015 at 8:37 AM

    I bought my daughter five cookbooks when she got her first university apartment; Joy of Cooking Joyce Chen Chinese Cookbook Classic Indian Cooking Delicioso by Penelope Casas (Spanish) Japanese Cooking a Simple Art. She now has 3 shelves of cookbooks, a husband to likes to cook and bake and is a Registered Nutritionist.

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