The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution

Perhaps more responsible than anyone for the revolution in the way we eat, cook, and think about food, Alice Waters has “single-handedly chang[ed] the American palate” according to the New York Times. Her simple but inventive dishes focus on a passion for flavor and a reverence for locally produced, seasonal foods.With an essential repertoire of timeless, approachable reci...

Title:The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0307336794
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:416 pages

The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution Reviews

  • Annie
    Oct 16, 2007

    I'm being biased in my star rating because this isn't really a great cookbook by any means. I just love Alice Waters and appreciate her purpose in writing this.

    This isn't so much a "cookbook" as it is a book that tries to educate on how to approach food differently, to get our minds out of the increasingly fast-food mentality.

    If someone who didn't know Alice Waters' goals were to pick it up, they might be disappointed with the cursory, almost random-seeming and too-simple recipes. They read like

    I'm being biased in my star rating because this isn't really a great cookbook by any means. I just love Alice Waters and appreciate her purpose in writing this.

    This isn't so much a "cookbook" as it is a book that tries to educate on how to approach food differently, to get our minds out of the increasingly fast-food mentality.

    If someone who didn't know Alice Waters' goals were to pick it up, they might be disappointed with the cursory, almost random-seeming and too-simple recipes. They read like conversations with Waters, who uses them as vehicles to illustrate her approach to fine ingredients and techniques. They also provide a good base for ideas that you can tweak and be creative with.

    Recently, I read an interview with a former chef of Chez Panisse. He said in their early days of fame, people would make a pilgrimage out to Berkley and be disappointed or surprised to see the food was nothing spectacular, nothing fancy. Just simple, good food - special in its simplicity-to-taste ratio, and its special journey to the plate.

    In the same vein, the recipes here will produce good results (good food, respect for the land, community) if you first take the time and care to seek out good ingredients, then actually take the time and care to prepare, cook and enjoy them.

    P.S. I would highly recommend the onion tart concept with the addition of some grated parmesan on the top.

  • Matthew Gatheringwater
    Nov 03, 2007

    Although it contains a small cookbook within a cookbook,

    is more of a how-to book, with an emphasis on ingredients and technique, rather than on a comprehensive list of recipes. This is a good book for someone wanting to change their relationship to food because Water's insistence upon quality and integrity encourages thoughtful and appreciative eating.

    There are, however, some disappointments in this book. Many of these recipes are so simple they can be found nearly anywhe

    Although it contains a small cookbook within a cookbook,

    is more of a how-to book, with an emphasis on ingredients and technique, rather than on a comprehensive list of recipes. This is a good book for someone wanting to change their relationship to food because Water's insistence upon quality and integrity encourages thoughtful and appreciative eating.

    There are, however, some disappointments in this book. Many of these recipes are so simple they can be found nearly anywhere; I was hoping for classics with a Waters twist. Some recipes require ingredients that might be hard to obtain. None of the recipes contain nutritional information. A more personal approach would have been nice, too. It isn't quite a cookbook, but it isn't exactly "food writing", either.

  • Mary
    Jan 12, 2008

    I just started this last night and I love it. The author, the owner of a lovely, but upscale restaurant, talks about food and cooking in a very down to earth way. Her premise is that anyone can cook and the only things you need are good ingredients (especially fresh local produce/herbs), good equipment (but not necessarily the most expensive), and the basic know-how. All of these things are explained and detailed in her book which reads nicely (particularly at 2:00 a.m. when you're on the couch

    I just started this last night and I love it. The author, the owner of a lovely, but upscale restaurant, talks about food and cooking in a very down to earth way. Her premise is that anyone can cook and the only things you need are good ingredients (especially fresh local produce/herbs), good equipment (but not necessarily the most expensive), and the basic know-how. All of these things are explained and detailed in her book which reads nicely (particularly at 2:00 a.m. when you're on the couch making sure the new puppy doesn't wake the house!).

    Her chapters detail the best way to make, do and use:

    -- four essential sauces

    -- salads

    -- bread

    -- broth and soup

    -- beans, dried and fresh

    -- pasta and polenta

    -- rice

    -- roasting meats

    -- frying

    -- slow cooking

    -- simmering

    -- grilling

    -- omelets and souffles

    -- tarts, savory and sweet

    -- fruit desserts

    -- custand and ice cream

    -- cookies and cakes

    After she explains each of these broad subjects (with one or two general recipes to test your new skills), she goes into further detail in the second half of the book with amazing recipes "for cooking every day"

  • Ginny
    Feb 12, 2008

    I'm one of those people who reads cookbooks cover to cover when I get them. Strange? This book was a re-gifted Christmas present from a friend who didn't want it. Their loss was my gain. I'd seen the book in the bookstore before and was turned off by the lack of photos and the atypical recipe format of not putting all the ingredients in one list at the start of the recipe.

    However, as I started to make the first dishes I found that for actually cooking/baking this format is easier and better tho

    I'm one of those people who reads cookbooks cover to cover when I get them. Strange? This book was a re-gifted Christmas present from a friend who didn't want it. Their loss was my gain. I'd seen the book in the bookstore before and was turned off by the lack of photos and the atypical recipe format of not putting all the ingredients in one list at the start of the recipe.

    However, as I started to make the first dishes I found that for actually cooking/baking this format is easier and better thought out than the more traditional method I am used to. I do note that when shopping for ingredients and making sure you have everything you need for the dish it does require a little more effort - not a significant enough reason not to prefer this way of setting out a recipe.

    The book doesn't explain that it is divided into 2 sections the first being stock dishes and the second being nuances on the basics. It confused me at first but I got over it. I love that Alice explains in each section the method that should be used for preparing something - and also why it is important. This last part is so often omitted from recipes. For example you've likely heard that it is important to have butter at room temperature before folding it into sugar to make baked goods. I've known this forever, but when I've been in a time crunch I've fudged on this - I figured is it really that big a deal. Well it is and Alice explains why (the butter is a binding agent if it isn't soft enough to accept the sugar and then the eggs the bakery item won't be as light and fluffy and it should be).

    In short I love this book. I love the layout, the philosophy (buying locally, seasonally), and each dish I've made so far was quite good (only made 3 so far but there will definitely be more).

  • Jamie
    Feb 22, 2009

    Every time I go into a book store (a dangerous place for me to be), I flip though this book. I love the cover, I always wanted to eat at her restaurant and just love the concept. Having not eaten meat in nearly...gees...seven years, I'm quite picky about my cook books. I already don't eat meat, I'm not going to give up the art of real cooking, too.

    This book is absolutely terrific for the seasoned cook and novice. In fact, as a twenty year-old newbie who grew up without a cook in the home, this b

    Every time I go into a book store (a dangerous place for me to be), I flip though this book. I love the cover, I always wanted to eat at her restaurant and just love the concept. Having not eaten meat in nearly...gees...seven years, I'm quite picky about my cook books. I already don't eat meat, I'm not going to give up the art of real cooking, too.

    This book is absolutely terrific for the seasoned cook and novice. In fact, as a twenty year-old newbie who grew up without a cook in the home, this book would have been a godsend and bumped me up to "competent" in a few weeks, rather than months/years.

    Begin at the very beginning: Waters starts with the basics, explaining kitchen must-haves, from pots and pans to pantry staples and seasonal bits to keep in stock. She also goes into fruit and veggies, flours and what makes extra virgin olive oil extra virgin, and when you can use the cheaper "olive oil" instead.

    She expresses the importance of setting--tasting your food with company and a table, enjoying complex flavor, but also taking pride in what you put in your face. In short, it's a similar message to "French Women Don't Get Fat," except, refreshingly, Waters is an artist and wrote a cook book rather than a self help.

    No, the recipes aren't low fat. In fact, many involve a bechemel and butter's her best friend: however, the very ground work of this book teaches the most rudimentary basic that most Americans seem to be missing: TASTE your food, love your food--value what you put in your body, love the taste, no matter how simple, and if it's not good, don't eat it.

    Amazingly, the other aspects of a healthy lifestyle magically fall into place: recycle, compost, eat seasonally and locally, as well as diversely. Eat slowly and thoughtfully, treasure what you put in your mouth.

    This book, as the title says, really is "a revolution." It is the missing link the French seem to have sustained but so many Americans have forgotten or never knew, in the wake of mixes, powders and preservatives. There is nothing quite like making every piece of your own lasagne. It becomes a canvas, a joy, and completely consuming as an excercise for the brain. When you spend a few hours making your food, it only seems natural to linger around the table and enjoy it. Piece by piece, it falls into place.

  • Crystal
    Feb 27, 2009

    I really liked this book. It has wonderful, simple recipes and explanations on technique. I liked that it gives recipes according to season, so that you can utilize the seasonal fruits and veggies.

  • Heidi
    Sep 24, 2009

    I really wanted to like this book. I'm a fan of what Alice Waters has done for promoting local, organic, well raised food. I'm planning a vacation that involves eating at her restaurants at least twice. I know from experience that the secret to really good food is to take really good ingredients and prepare them simply, and I try to apply that to my cooking.

    But I still found this book intimidating and inaccessible. I mean, someone asked her what to cook when you're not trying to entertain eight

    I really wanted to like this book. I'm a fan of what Alice Waters has done for promoting local, organic, well raised food. I'm planning a vacation that involves eating at her restaurants at least twice. I know from experience that the secret to really good food is to take really good ingredients and prepare them simply, and I try to apply that to my cooking.

    But I still found this book intimidating and inaccessible. I mean, someone asked her what to cook when you're not trying to entertain eight people, and her list of "everyday" meals includes roast leg of lamb with tapenade, onion and anchovy tart, and braised pork shoulder with shell bean gratin. I don't know about you, but those aren't everyday foods for me. Sure, they fit the "simple" definition if you mean an unfussy preparation. But making chicken salad isn't simple if I have to make my own mayonaise first.

    What sent me over the top, though, were her instructions on how to cook rice. She presents two methods, both of which are more complicated than the one I and most cooks I know have used our whole lives.

    I was willing to overlook that if the recipes were appealing, but I didn't see any that I wanted to try right away. The lack of photos was a real detriment for me.

  • Geoff
    Apr 06, 2012

    Alice Waters takes a lot of shit for beginning the whole organic, locally-sourced food movement in the USA. People think it's elitist, or some hippy crap, or that it's too expensive for "regular folks", whoever the hell that refers to. I call bullshit on the bullshit callers. One can eat cheap, healthy, organic, local, and rounded- you just have to plan and make an effort when you shop, and learn some techniques, some go-to inexpensive ingredients, learn about the wonders simple things like fres

    Alice Waters takes a lot of shit for beginning the whole organic, locally-sourced food movement in the USA. People think it's elitist, or some hippy crap, or that it's too expensive for "regular folks", whoever the hell that refers to. I call bullshit on the bullshit callers. One can eat cheap, healthy, organic, local, and rounded- you just have to plan and make an effort when you shop, and learn some techniques, some go-to inexpensive ingredients, learn about the wonders simple things like fresh herbs and the right spice balance can do for simple dishes. But you also have to learn to love cooking and make cooking a habit. You also have to have that moment when you realize that cooking well, and caring about what you're cooking, and caring about knowing how to cook the ingredients you now care about, becomes about as meaningful and rewarding a way to spend your time on earth as us lowly humans can hope for.

    Like painting, like playing a musical instrument, like mathematics, basketball, or writing, cooking is something that requires some foreknowledge, some objects external to yourself, some technique, some practice, some formulation, some trial and error; but once you have a certain set of skills and a certain basic knowledge to draw from, an entire experiential universe opens up to you. Cooking at its most fun and most rewarding is a finite durational experience that ends in extreme and refined pleasure for the self, involving careful measurements at the same time as improvisation, flights of fancy and reliance on tradition, exact timing, balance, adjustments, erasures, additions, quick-thinking, manipulation of space-time and its various constituents, a simultaneous utilization of the ocular, aural, gustatory, and tactile sensations- a virtuoso display of body-mind-memory-precognition prowess!

    The Art of Simple Food gives you the ideas, the basics, the techniques, the reasons, the rationale, the ins-and-outs-and-hows-and-whys. Learn to cook a meal, you lazy bastards!


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