The Austin Chronicle

Book Review: 'Learn To Cook' by Hilah Johnson

By Jessi Cape, December 19, 2012, 4:19pm, On the Range

Written in her signature down-to-earth lingo, Hilah Johnson's Learn To Cook: A Down and Dirty Guide to Cooking (For People Who Never Learned How) (Hilah Cooking, 308 pp., $20) is a good beginner's guide to cooking and a great gift for the drive-thru addict in your life.

A national lack of cooking skills is something food culture experts like Michael Pollan and Raj Patel are deeply concerned about. Eating fresh, seasonal, organic, or local is only relevant if a person knows how to prepare the food he or she acquires. That knowledge gap is precisely the problem local cooking celebrity and YouTube sensation Hilah Johnson attempts to mend with her new cookbook. Focusing on individuals who simply never learned how to cook, Johnson presents a slew of useful information for a burgeoning cook ranging from "measuring crap" to Pasta Primavera.

Grocery store tips, herbs/spices charts, an extensive glossary of terms and tools, tips on "How to Cut Stuff Up," and 150 recipes (many with matching website videos), make this book a great starter course. Johnson employs humor and casual inspiration to give a hand up to individuals looking to make the leap from microwaveable meals and junk food to eating real food prepared at home.

Johnson's sharp sense of humor and best buddy teaching style is what draws thousands of fans to her website for short-form cooking videos. Learn to Cook is assuredly not for a seasoned veteran of the kitchen (although, who doesn't like sneak peeks of other cooks' recipes for salsa, marinara, and sangria?). It is, however, a nice way to give the gift of an important life skill, such as cooking, without sounding like a patronizing jerk. Just let Hilah be the one to teach your sister-in-law or college buddy how to make a Chick-Fil-Gay Sandwich or "Perfectly Good Fish." They'll thank you for it.

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