What would Julia do?

Kathleen Flinn
Kathleen Flinn

The Julia in the title of this blog post is, of course, the passionate cook and unlikely doyen of US television chefs and millions of ordinary Americans, Julia Child. Since the global success of the 2009 Hollywood movie of Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep, ‘Julia’ has become a household name and is often used as shorthand for helping out with a cooking dilemma.

The title of this post “What would Julia do?’ is taken from a chapter of a book I have just discovered by Seattle, USA-based writer and cook Kathleen Flinn called ‘The Kitchen Counter Cooking School’. Passing a public library as dusk fell in my hometown last night, I popped in for some inspiration. Despite having one book of short stories, one autobiography and one non-fiction book to finish at home, I spotted Kathleen’s book on the shelves and began to browse. I can’t say exactly why this particular paperback book caught my eye in a bookcase full of richly illustrated cookery books, but I opened Kathleen’s at a random page and dived in.

kitchen-counter-paperback-final-aug2012The page I landed on had a photo of students at the workstation of a cookery school, and, having recently spent a great afternoon at a workshop devoted to versatility of California prunes at Rosemary Shrager’s Cookery School in Tunbridge Wells Kent, I was intrigued.

‘What would Julia do?’ is the title from the second chapter of the book and lies between ‘We’ll always have Paris’ and ‘The secret language of kitchens’. A Le Cordon Bleu graduate, Kathleen was inspired to pass on practical cooking tips and simple recipes through teaching in her home city and beyond, for reasons you discover in the first chapter. An experienced journalist, her writing style is welcoming, engaging and inspiring. Concerned about the lack of basic cooking skills in kitchens of singles, couples and families she set about helping nine ‘hopeless’ cooks to let her reorganise their kitchens and teach them the skills they needed to have confidence in the at the stove. The book follows Kathleen and she chops, peels, cooks and teaches her way through the lives of her students. It includes practical cooking tips … from steaming vegetables and trussing up a chicken to spicing up a steak and choosing the fish at the shop counter … to simple recipes …

… liven up cooked vegetables with flavour splashes by ‘mixing the ingredients together in a small saucepan, heat briefly, pour onto vegetable and toss to coat. Each recipe coats enough for about four servings’.

Asian Ginger Lime

  • Warm 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, then add 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger, or a couple of pinches of dried ginger, a few squeezes of fresh lime juice, and ½ teaspoon of soy sauce. Heat through for about 3 minutes.

Garlic Citrus Butter

  • Heat 2 tablespoons of butter, add 2 small cloves of minced garlic, a bit of fresh thyme or mixed dried herbs and 1 teaspoon of lemon or orange juice, and sauté for a couple of minutes, until the garlic softens.

Thai-style

  • Heat 2 teaspoons of peanut oil, then add 2 finely chopped green onions, 1 tablespoon of crushed peanuts, a couple of squeezes from a fresh lime, and a bit of hot sauce. Gently heat through.

It might be unusual to highly recommend a book having only read a couple of chapters! But I feel I can with this book and will write again when I shut its pages for the final time. I have a feeling my other books at home are going to remain unread until ‘The Kitchen Counter Cooking School’ is back on the library shelves.

  • ‘The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, by Kathleen Flinn is published in the UK by Penguin Books.
  • Kathleen Flinn’s website can be found here cookfearless.com.
Bruce McMichael

I am freelance journalist and published author focusing on food and drink; business startups and enterprise; culture and travel. I have also written about the global upstream oil and gas industry, shipping and current affairs. Based in London, I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur.

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