Everyone who cooks has a cookbook that they will tell you changed how they cook, or how they look at cooking. Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver is that book for me. I’ve always been pretty good in the kitchen and referred to many great books for fancy recipes to wow guests or impress a lady but found myself bored of making the same every day recipes on a regular basis. To this day the mere smell of sheperds’ pie makes my right eye twitch violently. That’s the problem with a lot of cookbooks right? Often you either need to go on a scavanger hunt to find this rare specific herb that only grows in the spring on the east side of a mountain while monks sing praises to it or you say “hey this recipe looks good let me…oh wait, I need to start this one three days ago?! What the hell??” Don’t get me wrong I LOVE my books that have fantastic fancy recipes that I love to make but what do I do when I have to get my kids to dance class in an hour, help with homework, and feed them dinner? Sure you can crawl into the corner, huddle in a ball and cry but when your kid says “Papa when you are finished crying can we eat?” you still gotta suck it up and cook so what to do then? Get this book!
The idea behind Food Revolution is to get new cooks into the kitchen and to help people who have already started cooking to keep at it and make every day eating more exciting. Oliver’s philosophy here is that if you learn a recipe from each chapter and pass them on to two people it can quickly turn into a movement and entire communities can change their mentality towards cooking and eating. Lofty goals yes but speaking from personal experience (kind of dumb to say personal experience no? it’s not like I can have someone else’s experience..or can I? Mind blown!) I offered this book as a gift to a couple that were not fans of spending much time in the kitchen and I have created a monster. The guy has become a full on food addict whose life now revolves around the question I also ask myself first thing in the morning: “What’s for dinner?”He credits this book with opening his eyes to the immense world of possibilities of what can be accomplished in the kitchen. His wife credits me with making her second fiddle to his kitchen. You’re welcome!
I’ve always believed that it is full on horsesh*t when someone tells me that they hate to cook. Hate to fail? That’s more like it. This book brings things back to basics and gives any new or moderately skilled cook all of the necessary tools to succeed in the kitchen. I love Jamie’s writing style in all of his books. He has a way of making it feel like he is talking to you directly and coaching you through every process. There is no recipe in here that is too intimidating to attempt. Don’t feel pressed to match the time limit he gives in his opening chapter Twenty Minute Meals either. Every recipe in that section is dead simple and delicious. So what if it takes you 35 minutes instead of 20 because you are still working on your knife skills? Having ten fingers is just as enjoyable as making a great meal. If you are brand new to the cooking scene stick to the first three chapters(20 minute meals, Quick Pasta, and Tasty Stir Fries) for the first little while. These sections will help you manage time more efficiently, give you a ton of confidence (you will be real proud when you can bust out a fantastic pasta dish all in the time it takes to cook the pasta!), and get a solid understanding of how flavors and ingredients compliment each other. This stir fry right here? I made it in 27 minutes with all prep work included all while I was alone with my kids. They both loved it AND it is healthy!
Once you are comfortable with some of those recipes move onto other chapters and start exploring and experimenting. One of the most fantastic things about this book is that none of the recipes are set in stone. They can all be adjusted and adapted to suit your tastes. Jamie openly encourages it in many instances. The salad chapter highlights this beautifully. Each salad can be considered ready to eat after a few steps or you can evolve each recipe with further suggestions of his. Love potato salad but not the bacon garnish? Don’t add it! Then when you are done eating that salad drive yourself straight to a doctor and confess your bacon hatred so they can see what the hell is wrong with you. Never EVER trust anyone who doesn’t like bacon.
Another strength in this book is the fact that any and all ingredients can be found easily enough. That is a welcome relief and it make sense really when his goal is to get us all cooking on a daily basis. Take curry for example. Many think of a curry dish as basically a standard chicken dish with a bunch of that yellow powder thrown into it. That’s what I thought for the longest time growing up. Then I moved to the city and discovered Tikka Masala, Vindaloo, Korma curries and on and on and on. So if you are new to curry then this book is worth it just for that chapter alone. If you already love the intense, enormous, expansive world of curry dishes but have thought that they were too complicated to make then this book will bring you much joy. You can start off making these dishes with a store bought paste(great time saver and the pastes are actually great quality too) and once you are comfortable with that he has a section in here that teaches you how to make the curry pastes from scratch too. I challenge anyone to find a better aroma to walk into than a house that is toasting the seeds for a curry paste.
I consider myself to now be pretty handy in the kitchen and I have slapped many a friend in the taste palate with some pretty zazzy meals but can you guess which cookbook I reach for the most? This one! Good answer! How did you know? This is the book that works in real life more than any other I’ve used. It’s a blast, and heartwarming to see, when my kids go through it and decide what we are eating. The main challenge there is getting a 7 year old and a 4 year old to agree on the same thing. Sadly, this book doesn’t seem to fix that. I’ve suggested to my girlfriend before that we have the kids wrestle for dominance and the winner would choose but apparently I am “an idiot”. Also, I am not sure it is legal for me to encourage you to make your kids fight.
Also of note, and a tremendous help to newcomers, is the introduction to this book where all necessary kitchen tools are listed and a full out list of essential ingredients for all pantries is given too. This book gives you no excuse to avoid cooking. If you have never cooked anything more than toast I guarantee you that within one month you will not only blow your own mind but you will be begging people to come over so you can cook for them! So join the revolution!