In discussing this post with Trish, she decided that the cookbook she owned that best suited my personality, was Michele Evans, Fearless Cooking Against the Clock: Great Gourmet Menus in Minutes (1982). The advantage of this cookbook is that it works at the menu (in contrast to dish) level. The recipes in the book are divided into 15 minute, 30 minute and 60 minute “quick and easy” preparation times. Each recipe has been timed, so that the cook can plan accordingly.

Chapter 1, The Larder, begins with: “A well-stocked larder is essential for convenient and efficient quick cooking.” After a short introduction, it is divided into eight sections, named below, along with the number of ingredients in each section in parentheses: Herb and spice shelf (34), Canned products (11), Miscellaneous baking, bottled and packaged ingredients (43 – sometimes with many separate items listed under each ingredient), Dairy products (7), Fresh foods (6), Frozen foods (7 – but with 5 separate types listed under vegetables), Wines, spirits and liqueurs [solely for cooking] (13), and Kitchen supplies (7).

Chapter 2, Cooking Equipment, is similar in arrangement. There is an introduction, followed by five sections, named below, along with the number of items found in each section: Implements and equipment (53), Pots and pans (31), Miscellaneous (5), Knives (9), and Serving essentials (20).

Chapter 3, Strategies for Quick Cooking, will have all ten of its rules quoted here. 1. Select a menu. 2. Make a shopping list of those ingredients not in supply. Keep an ongoing shopping list in the kitchen. 3. Shop for first-quality ingredients at a convenient time. 4. Set table in advance, if possible, and have serving dishes, coffee cups and saucers, etcetera ready for immediate serving. 5. Read each recipe thoroughly before starting to cook. 6. Set out all ingredients needed for each dish on the menu, unless they require refrigeration or freezing. 7. Set out all pots, pans, cooking equipment and utensils needed for preparing meal. 8. Work at a steady pace; don’t poke or race. If there are others present who can help by washing and drying lettuce or chopping vegetables, welcome their assistance. 9. Keep waste basket near the work area and clean up as you work, when possible. 10. When it is convenient, serve main courses and vegetables in same serving dish or platter.

The chapters after this are: 4) 15-minute meals, occupying 64 pages. 5) 30-minute meals, using 76 pages. 6) 1-hour meals, over 98 pages. All three of these chapters are subdivided by main ingredient, typically a meat category, such as seafood, poultry or beef. 7) Holiday meals, has 56 pages, after an initial dinner party planning section, holidays appear chronologically through the year. 8) Cocktail parties has only 16 pages. After describing the bar, it looks at the topic by season. The last chapter, 9) Children’s parties, is only eight pages long. The book ends with an index, with 31 pages of entries.

While most menus and recipes are for four people, exceptions are made for celebrations where holidays typically involve 6, 8 or 12 people. Valentine’s day provides a menu for two. Cocktail parties are huge affairs, involving 12, 25 or 50 people. Birthday parties are for 12.

Evens has also written:

  • The Salad Book (1975)
  • The Slow Crock Cookbook (1975)
  • Fearless Cooking for Men (1977)
  • Fearless Cooking for One (1980)
  • Fearless Cooking for Company (1984)
  • Fearless Cooking for Crowds (1986) [8 to 50 people]

This is the third of an unspecified number of posts about cooking instructions for people who eat to live. All of these posts (will) begin with cook, which can be used as a search term to find previously published posts.


A double page from Rosemary Wadey’s Mexican Cooking Step-by-Step (1994).

My son, Alasdair, commented that he liked the style of Rosemary Wadey, in her Mexican Cooking Step-by-Step (1994). While this offers something similar to the numbering of steps in a cookstrip, the colour photographs show what is to be done, and what the final dish should look like when served.

The recipe starts with a general description, putting the recipe in context. It also explains what the dish is expected to be served with. The preparation of these items is not described in the recipe.

After this is a statement about the number of servings the recipe will produce, typically this is 4. This allows people to adapt the recipe to accommodate the number of people expected, or to give an indication of the quantity of left-overs that will be produced.

Next comes a list of ingredients, with conventional names. While I am content with metric units, this cookbook also provides quantities in American/ British units. The condition of the ingredients as they are to be used is also provided here.

This is followed by procedural steps and timings. All of these should be read in advance. In the bean soup recipe depicted, croutons, for example, can be prepared two days (48-hours) in advance. This also comes with advice as to how to store the prepared food until it is needed.

The author also acknowledges that specific products can be difficult to purchase in certain markets. A variation box provides the name of other products that can substitute for the original.

Some of the other books written by Rosemary Wadey in the same style are:

  • Continental Cuisine Step by Step Cookbook (1987)
  • Step by Step Cooking for One and Two (1996)
  • Step by Step Wok Cooking (1996)
  • Step by Step Vegetarian (2001)
  • Step by Step Italian (2001)

This is the second of an unspecified number of posts (currently seven) about cooking instructions, all beginning with Cook… Yes, you can use that as a search term to find previously published posts. If you have a favourite way of interacting with cooking information, and would like to have that presented in a weblog post that, in a good week, reaches ten or more people, send your proposal in an email to:


Len & Alex Deighton’s first (relaunched) cookstrip that appeared in the Observer/ Guardian, 2017-04-23.

I imagine that if someone asked my wife, Trish, the name of the cookbook I appreciate best, she would look at that person with amazement. There is none. My name is totally dissociated with the act of cooking.

Part of the reason for this, is my childhood culinary education. It was limited to learning how to prepare a pot of tea, and serving it with milk and sugar. Through observation, I also learned to fry an egg. I would however, like to thank my maternal Grandmother, Jane Andison (nee Briggs, 1880 – 1972) for teaching me how to bake bread. Another part of this challenge is an inability to understand the details of a meal preparation timeline. I have a theoretical appreciation of it as a process with several finishing lines, commonly involving the serving of courses, as in appetizers, main course and desert with coffee or tea. A main course may involve up to several distinct dishes, using an assortment of animal, vegetable and fungal (mushroom) ingredients. Each dish has its own duration, in terms of preparation time and cooking time.

Over the past forty years, I have learned some basic skills. Main courses with three dishes, are no longer an insurmountably problem. Typically, at least for someone with my qualifications, there will be, at most, one desert. No appetizer will be offered.

This complexity means that for a given meal there will be numerous start times for the various dishes, and a limited number of locations (6 in total: 4 on the stove top, one in the oven, and one in the microwave oven) to cook them. Everything has to be planned. Some of the equipment may have to be washed up to several times, which adds yet another level/ dimension to the confusion.

Len Deighton (1929 – ) originally drew cookstrips as instructions to himself to prevent his expensive cookbooks from becoming dirty. Ray Hawkey, a graphics designer for The Observer, noticed some of these cookstrips in Deighton’s kitchen. The first cookstrip, Cooking Beef: Part 1, appeared in The Observer on 1962-03-18. They became part of its magazine-like look. An initial commitment for six strips was soon extended to 50. The last cookstrip in this series appeared on 1966-08-07.

These cookstrips were then recycled into Len Deighton’s French Cooking for Men: 50 Classic Cookstrips for Today’s Action Men. The first edition appeared in 1965, timed to coincide with the release of The Ipcress File film. In the film, a cookstrip appears on the wall behind the protagonist, Harry Palmer, played by Michael Cain, who appears to crack eggs with one hand. In reality the hands cracking the eggs belonged to Deighton.

A new, redesigned and updated edition of this book was republished 2020-02-01 in paperback. The publisher, HarperCollins, claimed that it, “will solve the mysteries of French cuisine and unlock the key to 500 memorable dishes.” This version is currently out of print.

Illustrated cookstrips from Deighton and his son Alex, have re-emerged in the Observer more than 50 years after the original series. They were relaunched 2017-04-23: New cookstrips appear at about monthly intervals.

Unfortunately, even if I had purchased Deighton’s cookbook in my youth, 1965 – 1970, I doubt if it would have transformed me. Today, I am even less fond of excessive eating, and the consumption of alcohol, which seems to be an integral part of French cooking. However, the making of cookstrips with a focus on Scandinavian cuisine does hold appeal.


There will be a post about cooking once a month in 2022.