Don't be afraid. Yes, this is a cookbook. And yes, it is your cookbook now.

We know; it's pretty scary. You're thinking that cooking your own food is going to be hard, annoying, frustrating, time consuming - and to top it all off, if you mess it up, you'll be hospitalized for either food poisoning or starvation. Sure, you probably won't starve to death if you don't learn to cook for yourself - there are lots of restaurants around that you can eat at. But if you do use this book to learn how to cook, you'll soon have more money, more time, more friends, more energy, and more confidence. You'll be healthier next week and sixty years from now. You'll probably win a Nobel Prize or an Olympic medal or something.

This book is divided into three major sections. In the first - "Before You Cook" - you'll learn about those scary metal things in your kitchen. You'll learn how to shop like a pro, and you'll learn what to do in order to avoid poisoning yourself. You should read this section start to finish and follow its instructions before you start to cook.

In the second section - "Now Cook!" - you'll learn how to prepare food for every conceivable situation in your life, from waking up for a 4:30 a.m. fire drill to asking your parents for more money. You should use this section as you need it; just turn to the chapter that applies to your current predicament. For instance, if thirty-five people show up at your door demanding food, you should flip to "Anybody got a Hairnet?': Cooking for a Crowd." If it's 7:00 on Tuesday night and you're starving, open to "The Fundamentals: How to Make Dinner 76 Nights in a Row."

In the third section - "Oh, So You're Done Cooking, Are You?" - you'll get some extra help with the cooking process. You'll find a Recipe Index that will help you find the meal you want to make right now. You'll also find a section called "Further Research," in which you can find out how to learn even more about cooking than this book could ever tell you.

But that's a long way off. For now, walk over to your kitchen. Take a deep breath. Believe it or not, you're about to become a cook. Feeling relaxed? Ready to go?

Good. Turn to "The Sixty-minute Kitchen Set-Up" and let's get cooking.

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