By Jane Hornby, Phaidon Press, $39.95, 416 pages

10I have searched high and low, I have shelves laden with unacceptable imposters, where have you been all my life dear cookbook?

Have you ever picked up a cookbook to be faced with unpronounceable recipes or ingredients with a multitude of steps with no pictures? This cookbook is the standard by which all cookbooks of the future will be compared. I have never seen a cookbook that had so many photographs per recipe. Trust me, I own a plethora of cookbooks and I’ve looked at a lot more. A clear photograph of all of the ingredients in the amounts that are needed, a photo for each step so you can see if your dish looks like it is supposed to, you can almost complete the recipe without reading the directions. It’s like a friend holding your hand through every step and providing encouragement along the way. Another bonus; plenty of room in the margins for notes, though with all the great photos and easy to follow steps, who needs notes and who would want to detract from the beauty of the art contained within? Bold, colorful illustrations separate each section and each photograph of food is like an artfully prepared still life.

French Toast with Poached Plums, 7 steps. Chicken & Corn Quesadillas, 4 steps. Lamb & Potato Curry with Fragrant Rice, 11 steps. Key Lime Pie, 9 steps. Four recipes, 31 steps, ONE PERFECT FOOD DAY! The next thing I would like to see is a series made in the style of this book help the nutritionally imbalanced meal planners out there. Many people are at a loss as to how make a healthy meal with the food groups represented proportionately. A book like this would help so many see that with a few ingredients and a few steps how their cooking lives could improve.

If you want this book, you will need to pry it out of my cold dead Sticky Barbecue Rib covered fingers, because I’m not letting this one go. Go get your own, go get copies for gifts. This would be great for beginning cooks of any age. From walking you through the basics of working with a recipe to what staples to keep in your pantry, to pictures of what “finely chopped” actually looks like. This is a gem of a cookbook! Not everyone can afford a year at Le Cordon Bleu, but everyone can afford this cookbook.

Reviewed by Janet Wright