If you love to eat, you should learn how to cook. Because no one cooks or eats exactly like you do. You have your own tastes and needs. Maybe you need school snacks and after-school snacks. Maybe you want to cook for sleepovers or video game parties. The things you’re into aren’t always what grown-ups are into. Your tastes may change and evolve, but you definitely have strong opinions about what’s good. And learning how to make food YOU think is good is what this book is about.
Making the food I wanted, when I wanted it, was why I baked my first cake without any help at the age of eight. I desperately craved a purple layer cake with rainbow sprinkles, and there was no way my mom was going to make it for me when it wasn’t my birthday. So I dug out the Joy of Cooking and made a floury mess, dyeing the batter with red and blue food coloring. It turned the batter a lovely shade of lavender—and I ate so much of it that my tongue and fingers turned lavender, too (yum). But when I took the cake out of the oven, it baked up into a scary shade of gray. And, apparently, I forgot to add the baking powder, because it was flat as a flip-flop. But I frosted it in violet-tinted buttercream and topped it with sprinkles. I was psyched to share it with my best friend, Kimmy, who lived down the block. We thought the gray flip-flop cake tasted amazing.
So, yeah, I’ve come a long way since then. I write cookbooks and recipes for The New York Times
for a living, and now most of what I cook turns out pretty well. When it’s flat and gray, it’s flat and gray on purpose.
But ever since sharing that flip-flop cake with Kimmy, I realized that one surefire way to make myself—and my friends and family—really happy was to make (and share) the food I loved to eat. Cooking never fails to bring joy. I strongly believe that everyone who loves to eat should learn to cook.
That flip-flop cake taught me another lesson, too: Cooking isn’t about getting things perfect—it’s about having fun (and licking the bowl) while you do it.
You do have to learn some basics to get going. Every dish has a few fundamental steps that will make it work. In this book, I take you step-by-step through the process of understanding and making a recipe. You’ll find a set of rock-solid starting points that will help you cook exactly what you want to eat. The Tips & Tweaks will teach you how to adapt each recipe to suit your current mood or that of the people you are cooking for.
So I hope you’ll mess around with these recipes, hack them, hype them, make them yours. As long as you’ve got the basics and you’re having fun, whatever you make is bound to be delicious!
Now get in that kitchen and own it!
—Your friend, Melissa
Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Clark with Daniel Gercke. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.