Modeled on Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, The Element of Cooking is an opinionated reference work destined to stand alongside the shelf among the great works of the kitchen: On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, Escoffier, The Joy of Cooking and the CIA's The Professsional Chef. Unlike those monoliths of the kitchen, this book is slim, clear and very to the point: here are the things you need to know how to do, here are the words you need to speak the langauage of food, and, most importanly, here are the ways you need to think about an approach food, the absolute essentials that every, not only good but great, cook knows.
Just as Strunk and White sits on the desk of every student and professional who has to write a sentence, The Elements of Cooking is destined to be the go to book for any amatuer or professional cook. It defines terms, offers the basic ratios of important preparations (sauces, cakes, etc.) so that you will never need a recipe again and provides countless, simple chef's 'secrets' that every home cook should know.
In eight introductory essays, Ruhlman has pared down the essentials of great cooking: understanding how to salt food; making stock; making sauces; using heat properly; working with eggs; having the right tools (there are only 5 essentials); what to read and use as a resource; and lastly, and most importantly, the use of finesse, that extra attention to detail that turns food glorious.
Simply written, this is a book that can be read in an afternoon and it's lessons be practiced for a lifetime.