Title: How To Cook Everything
Author: Mark Bittman
Publisher: IDG Books Worldwide, Inc.
While the book was published in '98, it has only really begun to become famous recently, perhaps due to winning the Julia Child Cookbook Awards and the James Beard Foundation/Kitchenaide Cookbook Awards.
Attractive enough because of its cheerful yellow cover, the book is also delightful for its 1500 + recipes, as well as the philosophy behind it.
Quoting from the introduction:
"Anyone can cook, and most everyone should. It's a sorry sign that many people consider cooking "from scratch" an unusual and even rare talent. In fact, cooking is a simple and rewarding craft, one that anyone can learn and even succeed at from the get-go.
"Until the last half-century, every household had someone who cooked from scratch all the time. It was only during World War II that "convenience" began to drive the American food industry. And following the war, mass-produced canned goods, originally developed for the GI, were marketed to civillians; frozen foods became de rigueur, and manufactured foods, like oleomargarine, began to replace real ones, like butter."
Bittman continues in this vein for a while, examining the decline of cooking as an allowable skill (especially in light of feminism), as well as discussing his hatred for the words "convenience" and "gourmet".
Then he goes on with an entire book for the entry level cook (or even just your every day cook who wants to get their hands on some decent recipes and diagrams).
The meat section includes diagrams of the animals the meat comes from, the different sections possible, as well as how they are normally cooked. There are chapters covering Technique; Equipment; Appetizers; Soups; Salads; Pasta; Grains; Breads; Pizza, Bruschetta, Sandwiches, Pitas, and Burritos; Fish; Poultry; Meat; Beans; Vegetables; Fruits; Desserts; Pies, Tarts, and Pastries; Cookies, Brownies, and Cakes; Eggs, Breakfast, and Brunch Dishes; Sauces, Salads, and Spice Mixtures; Beverages, Menus, and a number of other useful features. Newer editions also come with a CD-Rom with a couple thousand recipes and a supposed easy-find feature, though that hasn't gotten very good reviews.
The pages stay open fairly well, which is something you certainly want from a book you're going to be using as a source while cooking. The text is straightfoward and quite explanatory, especially for somebody like myself who is new to cooking, but very interested.
One of the best things about it is the attitude Bittman has that anybody can cook...and as such, he approaches the book as if he was talking to anyone. So the book doesn't sit in the midst of cooking jargon, but continues like it was trying to describe something to a neighbor who had come over to borrow sugar, and gotten swept up in the process of discovering just how easy it actually was to not have to hit Burger King this evening...