Why rewrite How to Cook Everything?
A couple of reasons. First of all, many elements that made the original How to Cook Everything so popular were last-minute additions: A devotion to the basics, and almost nothing but the basics; making the master-recipe-and-variation drill the core of the book; and loads of lists and substitutions. Much as I loved and love all of these, ten years ago some of them were produced in a mad scramble.
Since the new book incorporated these features from the get-go, the results are much more visual, with charts and tables to show how even the simplest recipe can be expanded in many different ways. Almost all of the basic ingredient information has likewise been transformed into at-a-glance graphics. I make use of master recipes and variations at every opportunity, including “Essential Recipes” at the beginning of each chapter. And throughout, I introduce hundreds if not thousands of substitutions (why not use cauliflower and broccoli, or different meat, poultry, or seafood, interchangeably in the same recipe, at least most of the time?). There are also scores of new lists; pretty cool ones I think.
For this edition, I completely reconsidered the organization and recipe content. When I wrote the original (published in 1998 but mostly completed before 1995), a lot of the thought and content was firmly rooted in the 80s, when the American food revolution really got going. Back then, it was still difficult to get real international ingredients, and many people didn’t appreciate cooking much beyond French and Italian food, which I think limited the options in The Big Yellow Book. Now you can find whatever you want in most supermarkets, and most people have a hankering for Thai, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Spanish, and many other cuisines. In the new How to Cook Everything (which we might call The Big Red Book), I incorporated as many of those recipes and flavors as I knew how.
Is the new book “better?” It’s more contemporary, and it more accurately depicts how I think in the kitchen. It remains basic, but with a wider scope; and—I hope—it’s even more accessible. So to me, the answer is, “yes.” But ultimately you’ll decide.