In some respects, I miss the point of Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food.
Alice Waters is the original proponent of seasonal, local, and organic foods. But because I grocery shop for a family on a budget, I can never justify going “organic.” I also live in Chicago suburbia, which means that there are about two feet of snow on the ground for four months of the year, so I can’t ever imagine relying wholly on seasonal and local foods either. I’m sure organic and local foods taste better; I just can’t justify the cost difference.
All that said, though, I love The Art of Simple Food. I find myself referring to her pointers and recipes often. The aspect I love is this: Food should taste like itself. Don’t complicate things!
I’m a person that thinks a few fresh strawberries make a perfect dessert, so I really like her emphasis on simplicity. Her recipes are very basic essentials, so experienced cooks may find them dull or “too simple.” But as a beginning cook who loves simple dishes (both for cooking and for eating), I find her recipes refreshing.
For example, in the section “Out of the Frying Pan,” she provides a recipe for Pan-Fried Pork Chops. The ingredients? Pork chops, butter, salt and pepper. Her instructions show us how to recreate it, including what it should look like and why you should let the chops rest for four minutes before serving (it tenderizes them). She also provides four “variations” for added flavor. These are likewise very simple, things like “parsley butter” or “garnish with chopped parsley, garlic, and/or lemon zest” (a gremolata) (page 122).
The Art of Simple Food is subtitled “Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution,” and Waters does a wonderful job of introducing “simple food” to the home cook. She begins with some essential thoughts about the kitchen and pantry. These ideas are pretty basic (such as basic foods with which to stock a pantry) and simple menus, both for a small family and for entertaining. I liked her thoughts on picnics, and how a picnic should emphasis good food just as much as a feast you serve at home. Every time I read that section, I want to go on a picnic!
In this first part of the book, Waters discusses the basic techniques for various types of food and food preparation. For each type, she also provides three recipes. The categories are these: sauces, salads, bread, broth and soup, beans, pasta and polenta, rice, roasting, sautéing, slow cooking, simmering, grilling, omelets and soufflés, tarts, fruit desserts, custard and ice cream, cookies and cakes.
The second part of the book has additional recipes in each category. The recipes aren’t as detailed, but the basics have already been outlined, so it is sufficient for our needs.
I have only read the first part in full, but I’ve also browsed through the recipes on the second half. I’m not sure I’ll go through and completely cook my way through the book (as I’d intend) but I certainly love the “variations” and technique overview that I find in this book. I’m all for simple food.
Do you eat organic or local food? What do you like best about it?
What simple foods do like best?
If you have reviewed The Art of Simple Food, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.