The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters is, quite simply, a bit of a mess…

or so says the Los Angeles Times.

Her encyclopedic new book ‘The Art of Simple Cooking’ is more like the ‘Oy of Cooking.’

simplefood.jpgThey aren’t pulling any punches in their review of her newest book.

And instead of being the culinary bible for a new generation that I’d hoped for, it feels like nothing more than a tacked- together collection of sketchy recipes for dishes better presented elsewhere (including, in some cases, previous Chez Panisse books).

They go on to point out many instances in which it seems the book may have errors.

But for one tart, the recipe calls for 3 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and sliced, which are somehow supposed to be arranged following maddeningly vague instructions, so that they wind up one-and-a-half layers deep. .

First off, if anyone can tell me how to arrange sliced apples one-and-a-half layers deep, I’ll be very grateful. I gave it my best shot, but after three attempts, I threw up my hands and just arranged the apples as best I could. And when I was done, I still had more than half of them left over. Checking other books (including Lindsey Shere’s splendid “Chez Panisse Desserts,” my pastry bible), I can’t help but think that there were supposed to be three apples, not 3 pounds.

Alice Waters has written some amazing cookbooks, I use them on a regular basis. I don’t think I’ll be adding The Art of Simple Food to my collection.

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. pam says

    I bought this when it came out, purely going on how much I’ve loved her other cookbooks. Once I got it home and read it though, I found it extremely basic. I wouldn’t trash it quite as much as the reviewer did- I think there are some good-looking recipes (although I did recognize a couple from other books). But I did decide to give it to a friend of mine who wants to learn how to cook. It’s definitely not for those who already have skills.

  2. jehnee says

    Hey there,
    Maybe this is more of a comment for the LA Times, but as it’s posted here, I’ll throw in my two cents.
    I haven’t read the new book–haven’t even seen it. But when I was last working at Chez P. the final stages were being put together. Alice definitely sees it as a book for the masses, not just those who know what mirepoix is. She’d like to teach everyone how to make simple food so they can share a home cooked meal with the family on a daily basis.
    Now for the apple tart:
    All the pastry people were encouraged to have their own style when arranging the fruit, but I wrote the recipe for the Pink Pearl Apple tart in the Chez Panisse Fruit book.
    There we suggested 2 1/4# fruit, before peeling and coring. I assume they tried to make it simpler by asking for 3#. They should have said there might be some apple left over.
    Now, one can just throw all the apples down on the dough and swish them around until you get 1 1/2 layers. That means some areas have 1 layer, some 2. 1 layer is not enough, 2 is too many. If there are still “more than 1/2 the apples left over”, maybe push them out to edge more.
    But I don’t throw all the apples down. I make a first ring about 1 1/2″ from the edge of the dough. Then I start fanning apples like spokes for a second ring. “Working inward, arrange the apples in tightly overlapping concentric circles, each smaller than the one before, until you reach the center.” So each slice of apple is not entirely covered by the next ring, it’s only 1 1/2 layers deep.
    Does that make sense?
    What exactly are those maddenlingly vague instructions?

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