beth_onusko-small.jpgPerhaps it’s because the kitchens in my post-college apartments were the size of closets. Perhaps it’s because the thought of spending an hour making a meal after an exhausting day at work was, to put it mildly, not an attractive one. Or maybe watching copious amounts of Food Network shows and Top Chef episodes satisfied my latent epicurean desires.

These are all plausible explanations for why I never learned how to cook. However, I’ve recently done a complete about-face and become insatiably curious about all things culinary. Why? Well, there are two reasons. The first: Like many Americans, I’ve become increasingly interested in where my food comes from and how its production can impact local economies. The second: I discovered a book that gave me the education I needed to become competent in the kitchen: Alice Waters’s lucid, relatable, and enlightening cookbook, The Art of Simple Food.

Many cookbooks do not make for fun reading. Their introductions are painfully written, and their recipes presume you already know the complicated techniques they require. Waters’s book spends twenty-nine engrossing pages presenting her philosophy on food and explaining the fundamentals of its preparation—from necessary tools and pantry staples to cutting techniques. Though experienced chefs would certainly learn a thing or two from The Art of Simple Food, the book is intended for the home cook, someone who is just beginning or else needs inspiration, a fresh way to think about food. Waters is not heavy-handed or preachy—she’s an expert at demystifying cooking, and her explanations are comprehensive without being boring or complicated.

The results have been impressive. My recommended recipes: Her salads can’t be beat (particularly “Rocket Salad with Parmesan” on page 237), and her recipes for carnitas is delicious (page 359).

Bio: Elizabeth Onusko is Guernica’s assistant publisher. Read her last recommendation of the book Rex Ray: Art + Design “here”:

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