Since tomorrow's a big ol' holiday, unless something really important comes up, I'm taking the day off. But before I go fishing, I thought I'd review this awesome (and at $8 incredibly inexpensive) cookbook that Lisa Jervis just put out and sent to me: Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy, Local Eating. It's about making simple, mostly vegan food based around ingredients you can buy in bulk or from local farmer's markets, to minimize packaging and maximize sustainability. But what's really awesome about it is that Jervis writes it for anyone at any level trying to start cooking in this way. If you are used to microwaving your food and don't even know the difference between a stock pot and a sauce pan, Jervis has a section explaining most of the basics that you'll need to know to cook vegan/vegetarian food.

I like cooking, but breezing through the short, incredibly easy-to-understand chapter "tips and techniques" made me realize how much I didn't know that's actually pretty simple, like how to use salt while cooking. And even for people that are hip to things that I just never picked up on like that, I think this book is really useful because it teaches you, in the space of about 15 minutes worth of reading, how to cook vegetables, which a lot of people don't understand. Don't fear the greens! You can cook them so they'll be edible. Grains also intimidate a lot of people, but after reading Jervis, you'll realize it's not that scary. And tofu! It wasn't until over the Christmas holiday that another vegetarian friend showed me the secret to making good tofu (drain it), but if I'd read this book sooner, I would already have it down. Plus, her technique is easier than the one my friend showed me. Once you eat really well-prepared tofu, I promise you'll never crinkle your nose and say "yuck, tofu" again. To make it all that much easier on you, she also has a chapter on what to stock in your kitchen, both in tools and food to just have on hand. The tools section is really helpful for people who don't know where to start, and Jervis makes sure to explain what you can feel relatively at ease buying for nothing at thrift stores, and what you probably need to spend money on, or ask your mom to buy you for your birthday.

Seriously, the problem I run into with so many cookbooks, even the ones that purport to make it easy on you, is that they assume that you know things that you may not know. Jervis assumes nothing, and even for people that are used to trying out new recipes in the kitchen, that's helpful. To make it even better, she has a section on just quick things to whip up when it's just you eating, or you don't feel like cooking. Not many popular chefs out there are really in the business of giving you ideas for quick, simple stuff to eat for lunch or breakfast, even though a lot of people would really appreciate those ideas, particularly if they're trying to cut back on their meat and dairy consumption but are left with the question: but then what do I eat for lunch?

So, $8. Get the book. It takes like half an hour to read the main parts, and then you have some recipes on hand and a huge section telling you where to find more, particularly online. And enjoy your 4th of July, dirty hippie patriots!