The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Alice Waters is the cebrated owner of Chez Panisse, an internationally known restaurant in Berkeley, California and the author of numerous cookbooks. Ms. Waters is also well known for being a big part of the food revolution of the last several decades. Her attitude toward food and cooking steered us back from the trend of buying everything from the shelf and freezer.

“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.”

Ms. Waters believes that if we follow these principles we will transform our cooking.

  • Eat locally and sustainably
  • Eat seasonally
  • Shop at farmers’ markets
  • Plant a garden
  • Conserve, compost and recycle
  • Cook simply, engaging all your senses
  • Cook together
  • Eat together
  • Remeber food is precious

The book is divided into two parts. The first part is “lessons and foundations” and, believe me, this is not just for new cooks. I could have used this forty years ago. I especially liked her section on stocking a pantry, what equipment to buy, and menu planning. In Part I she also covers basic procedures like making broth and sauces, cooking beans and pastas, slow cooking and grilling, and on to desserts. It’s a fabulous cooking-school-in-a-book. I recommend Part I if you want a solid understanding of the basic skills of a good cook.

Part II is the gravy – it’s all about the recipes. The very first chapter of this section reminds me of my youngest granddaughter, Lou. Even as a little one she would say when hungry, “I need a little something.”  In this”little something”  chapter the author gives us marinated cheese with herbs and olives, stuffed eggs, fresh-pickled vegetables and a lot more. The rest of Part II covers more sauces, salads, soups, pasta, breads, eggs and cheese, vegetables, fish, poultry, meat and more desserts. I’d love to tell you about the various recipes but I’m afraid this post will be extremely long.

Ms. Waters completes her book with some resources, a glossary and an excellent index. For more information about Alice Waters, her restaurants and even her foundation work at a local middle school, visit Chez Panisse.

  • The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution
  • by Alice Waters
  • Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2007
  • My Rating: A

[Source: I borrowed this copy from the public library but it is obvious I need to buy my own copy.}

Copies of this book are also available at Amazon.

For more books about food and/or other foodie type discussions, visit Weekend Cooking.

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16 Responses to The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

  1. I would love to eat like this, but a food garden is such incredibly hard work! I just tried a few things last year (not easy in the desert in any event) and the caretaking and challenges were endless! It led me to appreciate Farmers Markets even more!!!

  2. Beth F says:

    I have always admired Alice Waters. I don’t think I’ve read this one, but it sounds like should. She does a lot of work with school kids, too I think.

  3. Kathy says:

    I love Alice Waters’ philosophy and was thrilled when I found a small, organic farmer near me last summer. I don’t preserve any food, so this time of year, we don’t eat local, I’m sad to say. This book sounds wonderful!

  4. Staci says:

    Your review was just enough to make me want to check out this book. I grew a garden 2 years ago but now I think I need to do it again but really plan it out better!!

  5. caite says:

    Certainly, if we follow those principles, we would all be better off, wouldn’t we? Less salt, less chemicals, less processes foods…fresh, local..
    The book sounds fascinating.

  6. Stacy says:

    I rarely use cookbooks, but your great review has convinced me I need to find this one. I am trying to be a better fresh ingredient shopper and could certainly use that first section!

  7. I love your review of this book! I just got home from the library moments ago and now I want to go back and check out this book! The closest I will come to a garden this summer will be my little herb garden I keep in pots on my lanai. I love being able to snip off what I need! I’m so ready for Spring!!!

  8. candice says:

    Fabulous review and post! Thank you for sharing your insights on this “must read”. I prefer cookbooks that encourage ideas and a new way of life, this seems like a book I need to check out. I rarely cook strictly following a recipe, because I always find I am changing things to make it simpler or more to my own tastes. I love this Saturday food post!

  9. Heather says:

    i have added this book to my wish list. Thanks.

  10. Angela D. says:

    This one just went on the ‘to read’ list. I’ve been learning a lot about eating locally lately and I’m happy to say that there is a culture of that around here now that I’ve been looking for it. Unfortunately, eating the local, organic, family-farmed food here is not cheap by any means so we are having to add it in a very small amount at a time.

  11. Sherrie says:

    Hi Margot,
    This sounds like a great book. I’ll have to check this one out. Yes, I have joined quite a few reading challenges. More than I should, but I’ve addicted, what can I say!! LOL I told myself I wasn’t going to do that again this year, but it’s soooooooooo addicting I can’t help myself. Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend.


  12. Erika says:

    I tend to read cookbooks like fiction. This is now on my TBR list.

  13. Sue Jackson says:

    This sounds like a wonderful book. I’ve never read anything by Alice Waters, but I’m very familiar with her philosophies of cooking and eating which mirror my own. I’ve really been trying to eat more in season this past year or so and to buy local produce. It drives me crazy when, for instance, strawberries are in season right here and the grocery store is still selling the big tasteless ones shipped cross country from California.

    Anyway, your review was enticing – this book sounds great!


  14. Christopher says:

    Looks like I need to get (yet) another cookbook for Gx, who worships Alice Waters. Thanks for this lovely post mom!

  15. jill says:

    I’ve heard so much about this book…I’ve GOT to check it out!

  16. boliyou says:

    I’m intrigued by this book. Will have to check it out!

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