Learning should be fun, right? Samin Nosrat must think so because her book, both informative and intimate, sciencey and slightly silly, makes it so. Here’s her thesis: Understand the four elements in her book’s title, and everything you cook will be delicious. While studying English at UC Berkeley, Nosrat saved up to eat at Chez Panisse. After writing Alice Waters personally, she got a job there in 2000 and spent the next four years learning how to cook. Though she went on to become a chef in her own right (she now mostly teaches and writes about cooking), she hasn’t forgotten what it was like be a novice in the kitchen, which makes her tome super-approachable. Those English classes paid off, too, because Nosrat writes very engagingly. When talking about the importance of fat, she suggests the reader try and imagine cooking without it. “What would a croissant be without butter?” she asks before answering: “Pointless, that’s what.” And she deftly weaves in anecdotes from her life, both as the daughter of Iranian immigrants and an aspiring cook, to help make her points. Once you’ve read all about how acid works and how to balance salt, it’s on to her recipes, which make up about half of the book’s 462 pages and cover a lot of basics, deliciously.