Chow Bella Book Club Interview with Kathleen Flinn from Kitchen Counter Cooking School

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Jennifer Woods

​You probably know by now all about the Chow Bella Book Club and our partnership with Changing Hands Bookstore. If you need to get caught up, I wrote all about it a few weeks ago.

While you're reading October's selection, Kitchen Counter Cooking School, I thought you might enjoy getting to know more about the book's author, Kathleen Flinn, whom I got to chat with for a bit over the telephone this weekend.

Flinn was in Austin this weekend and will head our way November 3rd, then she'll be heading back home to Seattle. This will be her first time in Phoenix.

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Jennifer Woods
I saw that People Pick, too, at the doctors office while waiting to give my kid a flu shot.

​I asked her about the initial response to the book and it seems like it's been pretty complimentary. She mentioned that People gave the book was rated four stars and a "People Pick." The AP (Associated Press) wrote a "beautiful review," in her estimation (mine, too) as did the Wall Street Journal.

Flinn admits she wasn't sure what to expect -- she handed the project over to the publisher back in 2009. The book was already on its third printing by the third week after its release.

I asked what her opinion was about celebrity chefs and cooking television versus the plight of the home cook. She says, "there's more information than ever. There's two 24-hour channels dedicated to food and more food blogs than you can count -- yet there's an increasing lack of food knowledge." It's the food knowledge and tips that Flinn shares in her book, as well as the personal stories of 9 home cooks at varying levels of kitchen fear.

As she's met people on her book tour, so many have come up to her and said "that sounds like me." One woman was brought to tears by the book knowing that she wasn't alone in her fears of cooking at home.

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Jennifer Woods
Flinn, as depicted on the inside back flap of the book's jacket

​Flinn wrote this book initially for two groups of people. First, for people who didn't feel confident in the kitchen and second, for other food writers. So many food people are "hanging out it farmers markets talking about ramps. But that's not getting to people." They are still buying Hamburger Helper, and she wants to know why. She'd like it if more food writers focused on issues surrounding home cooking.

She says a third audience has since emerged. "People who can cook, but who realize they're doing a disservice to their friends and family" by not sharing their knowledge. They're buying the book and helping their sisters or friends learn to get over their fears in the kitchen.

She had a hard time keeping the book to a certain size, because current food issues are so complex. She suggests we check out a report titled Apples to Twinkies about subsidies of junk vs fresh food. She wants to acknowledge that local foods, while all the rage, and important, aren't the most sustainable food challenge. She thinks what's most sustainable is "if people start actually cooking at home."

She says she continues to observe/stalk supermarket shoppers as she did in the book. Flinn prefers to call it "action research," as one of her friends suggests. She's more interested in observing what people are putting in their carts "it's not like I'm handing them a chicken as they go through checkout," she jests.

I wanted some of her food book club suggestions. She had two. First was Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by a woman who examined which foods are worth making at home (time and money) and which foods are worth buying. The second is one she's already pre-ordered. It's Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals: Recipes and Techniques for Part-Time and Full-Time Vegetarians by her fellow IACP friend Pam Anderson.

She'd love to start more "center aisle discussions," where we're examining the boxed food value propositions -- "looking at what's available in boxes, who buys them and why."

Her wish is our command. She'll be at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe on Thursday, November 3rd at 7 p.m. to do just that -- and whatever else strikes our fancy. She mentioned that some book tour visitors have started bringing camera phone snaps of their pantry or refrigerators to spark discussion. If you've read the book and feel like sharing your kitchen story, we'd love to see you there.

Don't forget, you can be a Pie Social judge by posting a comment on our first Chow Bella Book Club "meeting" - details here. Also, you can buy the Chow Bella Book Club monthly selection for 20% off by using the coupon below. You can also order a copy at 480.730.0205, or pick up a copy at Changing Hands Bookstore, 6428 S. McClintock Dr., Tempe, 85283.

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