Customer Review

138 of 153 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very nice cookbook, October 3, 2007
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This review is from: The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution (Hardcover)
A few preliminary comments from the author that put the book in context. From the author (pages 4, 5): "This book is for everyone who wants to learn to cook, or to become a better cook. . . . I'm convinced that the underlying principles of good cooking are the same everywhere. These principles have less to do with recipes and techniques than they do with gathering good ingredients, which for me is the essence of cooking." Key aspects of her "philosophy" are printed on pages 6-7, among which are: eat locally and sustainably (use small, local producers as sources of fruits and vegetables, for instance); eat seasonally (a companion rule to the previous one); shop at farmer's markets; etc.

The start is nice, in that she lays out what ingredients (herbs, for instance) and equipment should be on hand for effective cooking. One simple example: the author's emphasis at several points on the value of a good supply of fresh aromatic foods to enhance flavors in a recipe (e.g., onions, carrots, and celery). Then, she discusses how to plan menus and entertain friends for dinner. Not recipes, but useful context.

The recipe sections begin with a rendering of how to make several essential sauces, including vinaigrette, salsa verde, aioli, and herb butter. None of the recipes calls for rocket science knowledge, but they are well explained and doable. One nice feature--some possible variations on the recipe. E.g., with vinaigrette, she notes that one variation could be to beat in a bit of mustard before you add the oil; alternatively, she suggests that one could a fresh nut oil for the olive oil.

There is a nice discussion of sautéing as a technique, with a nice example immediately thereafter (sautéed cauliflower). Another example of technique--poaching. Following the general discussion, she uses an example quite familiar to me: poaching salmon. I have a handful of recipes featuring poached salmon (the fish cooks through, satisfying my family, and still stays moist, satisfying me).

There are a sampling of recipes for poultry, fish/seafood, meat, etc. While the recipes are nice, I wish that there had been more. One thing I like in cookbooks is abundant choice!

Anyhow, this is a nice reference for those who enjoy cooking; it's probably also apt to be useful to those who don't like much cooking but want some doable and good recipes when called upon to fix up a meal. Worth taking a look at.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 8, 2007 11:38:26 AM PDT
Obviously this person doesn't know who Alice Waters really is or what her philosophy is all about. This book is brilliant - and I'm a great cook. Or maybe you do need to have that creative "gift" to realize that what she has given us here is the beauty of how simple, yet delicious basic foods can be.
Some people do need lots of colored pictures and recipes for them to be successful in the kitchen. I believe this is one of those people. And there is nothing wrong with that - but I really resented her review - she made it sound as if this book is boring and bland and oh well; which it is nothing of the kind!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 2, 2007 7:58:42 PM PDT
I wouldn't bash this reviewer quite as hard as loves_to_cook did but I do understand the feeling. The closing remark of the review -- "Worth taking a look at" -- strikes me as breezily clueless. When someone of the stature of Alice Waters writes a serious cookbook (and not a photo, coffee table book), it at least deserves a serious evaluation, else one should keep respectfully silent. I've only had my copy for a few hours and am not ready to write a review, but in merely browsing one can see that this is an effort to impart some serious kitchen wisdom. Real masters don't always like to break it down for us so I am extremely thankful for this book.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2007 1:43:09 PM PST
Nobody cares who Alice Waters is, and nobody should HAVE to know who she is to read a cookbook! If you disagree, you can write your own review. Furthermore, the only way you have the right to be resentful is if the reviewer were talking about your own bland cooking! Regardless of who the author is, if she's written a book a beginner can understand than it truly is "worth a look" for those of us who want plain ordinary food recipes. But this bowing to the venerable Ms. Waters bull**** has to go - save it for the fan club. The review gave the book four stars for God's sake. Not exactly a bust!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 18, 2008 3:52:15 PM PDT
A Reader says:
So rendering an opinion of a "serious cookbook" is reserved for the intelligentsia?
Who the h*** is Myrna Minkoff, anyway?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 13, 2009 7:57:16 AM PDT
TT says:
I know who Myrna Minkoff is!!!! Great moniker!

Posted on Jul 10, 2010 4:57:43 PM PDT
D. Downie says:
I liked this review. It was honest. I've a gutfull of some authors being beyond reproach. They aren't! Everyone is entitled to their opinion, especially if they have had a go at the recipes. I love Alice, but this was a good review. Thanks for giving it.
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