Former Sacramento Bee food editor Corn (Gooey Desserts) wrote a series for noncooks that led to this snazzy book.
The layout is perfect: Recipes are in fairly large print in the center of each page, with additional information in the margins. Illustrations show techniques, such as separating an egg. The beginning of each recipe lists not only the ingredients necessary, but also the best equipment to use (note "best,'' not "only''- -Corn suggests but never admonishes). Instructions are broken into sections and then into numbered steps, which include when to clean up (e.g., while the potatoes are baking) and which tools to use. Corn even covers basics like making coffee and which gadgets are must-haves, and she cannily inserts some simple recipes like egg salad right up front so that those eager for hands-on encouragement can learn as they go along. Corn provides straight talk about straightforward American food (updated somewhat--Corn admits that she's "cut back on fat to some degree, but not enough to get it into the title of this book''), and if several of the recipes are nothing exciting, well, that's the point: Even the novice can thrill at creating puffy biscuits and crispy French frystyle potatoes. One little flaw stands out because Corn is so fastidious: A recipe for Red Chard in Olive Oil and Garlic refers to the "white ends'' of the leaves, while red chard has red stems.
There are no more excuses for cooking phobia.