Beginner cook book for a single mom?

Joined Apr 3, 2009
Hello again,

A friend of mine who is a busy single mom who can't cook to save her life so I thought I would get her a beginner cookbook so she can get comfortable with basic understanding about making simple meals. To be honest I don't have a beginner cookbook myself as I learned by doing lots of research and just committing a lot of time to food which she can't do with a young child (who I think is being raised on the blue box of mac and cheese).

So what which cookbook would you recommend to someone who really has no understanding on how to cook and is afraid of the kitchen?


Joined Feb 1, 2007
Have you discussed this with her, or are you just assuming she has the desire to learn? If she isn't interested in learning how to cook, no book is going to change her.

Assuming the motivation is there, for learning techniques I recommend Cooking At Home, first volume in the CIAs series for at-home cooks. Frankly, the recipes leave something to be desired, but the how-to-do-it stuff ranks among the best.

You can see my review here:

Frankly, I wouldn't pay publishers list for the book, because of its faults. But it's readily available, both new and used, at considerably lower prices. Last time I looked, for instance, Amazon had it for about 15 bucks.

There are numerous cookbooks oriented to the beginner, such as Joy of Cooking. But they tend to take the traditional approach of being recipe oriented more than techniques oriented. And that is often frustrating for somebody who lacks the basic gestalt.
Joined Apr 3, 2009
Thanks for the reply KYHeirloomer,

I think she is interested in cooking but just does not know where to start. She does send me email asking me how do i cook Cod or how do i make Nachos or I had some great mashed potatoes at Outback how do you think they make them. Stuff like that I am asked often so I do think the interest is there.


Joined Nov 5, 2007
Just a thought, which may or may not apply since I know nothing of the actual situation.  Would it be possible for you to cook for her in her kitchen, say, once a month or so?  She could see first hand how to make simple yet tasty meals.

Joined Sep 5, 2008
Hi Brian,

While not exactly answering the question you asked, if she has time to watch a couple of videos here and there, rather than a cookbook, you may want to consider a subscription to - very detailed and helpful for beginners and not too focused on recipes, a bit more focused on techniques.

But you've got to figure out if the video format is going to suit her lifestyle obviously.
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Joined Apr 3, 2009
Teamfat, I would cook for her but not to get too personal with boring stuff but we used to live very close to each other in Connecticut and thats how we meet but then I took a job in Seattle 7 years ago so now we just talk on email so cooking for her is not an option.

French Fries, I am going to send her that link as they have free sample lessons and if she gets into the online lessons she can go ahead and sign up for a account.

Thank you,

Joined Aug 21, 2009
I'm not sure if it is still available but years ago I was given a copy of "Easy Cooking for Today" by Pol Martin and I used that book almost exclusively for a while when I was learning to cook.  I liked it so much that I went and got a copy for a friend who was getting married and I put together a kitchen package for her shower.  If you can get ahold of that book, or anything written by him it would be helpful.  Many of the recipes are accompanied by step by step photographs and she will be able to see what things are supposed to look like.

Hope this helps
Joined Dec 23, 2000
Okay- I'll give you a really retro suggestion-

Tell her to find a copy of Adelle Davis' long-out-of-print book Let's Cook It Right,   published by Harcourt, Brace in 1947. She was probably the first to bring together excellent recipes, nutrition information, techniques, and real insight into the value of good food. It's subtitled "Good Health Comes Fron Good Cooking". /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif

My wife raised three healthy kids using this as her cooking bible. It is still a go-to in our now very extensive cookbook collection.  It's tattered and torn (as is our copy of James Beard's American Cookery, another  extremely useful reference.) but we still use it frequently.

If she's lucky, Amazon may provide a lead to this and Davis' other excellent books.

Joined Jan 29, 2010
Mark Bittman's books helped me a TON a couple years ago when I was learning to cook - How to Cook Everything/HTCE: Vegetarian both have lots of great recipes, that are easy to follow, with ingredients that you can actually find. Mostly. :p And he has lots of basic tips on how to grill/saute/etc mixed in too. I much prefer bittman to Joy of Cooking - I have it, but I can't think of anything I've actually cooked out of it, and keep contemplating giving it to the goodwill... 

That said, my most recent cookbook purchase is Bon Appetit's Fast Easy Fresh cookbook, and thus far its GREAT! As the title suggests, the recipes are designed to be cooked quickly, are pretty darn easy, and, once again, have findable ingredients!! I've only had it for a week or so, but everything I've made so far has turned out great!! It uses some prepared sauces (maranara sauce, teriyaki sauce, etc), but you could easily make your own and sub them out, though to be honest, if she's just starting out requring that everything be made 100% from scratch would probably be super daunting!! So, that just might be a good thing!!
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