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The Secret of Cooking: Recipes for an Easier Life in the Kitchen

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by Bee Wilson
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For a limited time we have copies signed by Bee Wilson.

Well known and highly regarded for nimble, serious, and accessible cultural investigations such as Consider the Fork and The Way We Eat Now, Bee Wilson turns her attention here to practical kitchen work. There are abundant, appealing recipes but equally interesting is Wilson’s point of view.

There’s no dogma here. Wilson’s first words to her readers are:

You can drive yourself crazy with the complexity of deciding which cooking oil is the “right” one to use. But the answer is simple. Decide which one you like best and use it up while it's fresh.

Elsewhere she notes:

I sometimes think how crazy it is that we spend so long talking about cooking as a problem (it supposedly takes too much time, costs too much, is too difficult) and so little time talking about all the things to which it provides cures (soothing a busy mind, bringing friends together, helping us eat more vegetables). Consider cooking not as a problem but as a remedy, and it becomes easier to find the motivation to do it.

So if she’s speaking your language–or one you would like to learn–you may still wonder what else Wilson offers. Her chapters have titles and subsections which invite us to rethink assumptions, beginning with “Cut yourself some slack,” a fortyfour-page discussion divided into “Take the easy way out,” “Have a backup plan,” and “Teach yourself to cook with a carrot.”

A recipe may follow the familiar format of a list of ingredients and their quantities followed by instructions, while the next, more informally composed, has everything in just a few lines of text. WIlson’s insights are not all about state-of-mind. She offers a lime and spice pound cake in which she advocates not preheating the oven in order to achieve a dense, pebbly texture, and then loops the fact that lime and cinnamon are cornerstone flavors of Coca-Cola.

What else might you end up making from The Secret of Cooking? How about

  • No-knead herb garden focaccia
  • Grated tomato and butter pasta sauce, perhaps with shrimp
  • Burmese chickpea tofu
  • Celery root and white bean bouillabaisse 
  • Smoky lamb chops with not-romesco sauce

A beautifully insightful book.

Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.

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