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Unlike most cooking books, Laurie Colwin's little book about cooking basic food doesn’t try to teach you everything. Colwin doesn’t preach so much as reassure. Anyone can cook, she says. If you learned some things about cooking as a child, she says, so much the better. Don't worry. You can do it.

"I am no superwoman," she writes, "but I like to cook and…while I like a nice meal, I do not want to be made a nervous wreck in the process of producing one. I like dishes that are easy, savory, and frequently cook themselves."

This was the cookbook I'd always been waiting for.

The confidential tone of a big sister about to make your life so much easier makes this is a great little book. I'd recommend it as a gift for any one making a change in their life: going off to college, moving into their own apartment, or about to be married, perhaps. I'd even give it to someone in the wake of a separation. The advice and the recipes are simple and easy to follow, and Colwin's voice is encouraging and friendly. Just don't make the mistake of flipping through the book for the recipes. You won't get to meet Colwin that way and that's what makes this book special. You can collect recipes anywhere, but only here will you be told that most kitchen utensils are frills. In a pinch, she says, you can always use a wine bottle as a rolling pin.

Colwin writes about scrambled eggs and fried chicken and making bread. She includes stories about kitchen disasters of her own, of parties and recipes gone wrong, of simple pleasures now easily accomplished. You don't have to rig your kitchen with every utensil ever made. Colwin shows that you can do just fine making do with what you have and a few essentials, like "sweet butter and really good olive oil." A reassuring nudge to those of us who look at kitchens with trepidation, Colwin's book is a keeper.

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