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Mastering Simplicity, A Life in the Kitchen
cookbook reviewsmastering simplicity, a life in the kitchen
Mastering Simplicity, A Life in the Kitchen
By Christian Delouvrier and Jennifer Leuzzi
List Price: $34.95
Price $13.98
You Save: $20.97 (60%)

Reviewed by Tracy McGillis

Click Here to Buy It On Line!

July 2004
Mastering Simplicity, A Life in the Kitchen is Christian Delouvrier's very personal journey through the events, philosophies and recipes that have informed a cooking style based on tradition and innovation. Part memoir, part cookbook, Mastering Simplicity is broken into sections that mirror Delouvrier's evolution as a cook, from his boyhood in Gascony, France to time spent at Café de la Paix in Paris, and culminating with an intense, prep-heavy journey through his tenure at Lespinasse. Recipes are incredibly detailed, and each section begins with a memoir-like introduction. The narrative aspect can be quite endearing, and it does provide insight into this great chef's career development and food philosophy, but it falls a bit short of inspirational. The mantras of local, seasonal, and the simple integrity of ingredients are paramount to good cooking. No respectable professional chef or avid home cook would dispute this, but most already adhere to these principles and may find Delouvrier a bit long-winded on the subject.

Despite these long narratives, the recipes themselves are the stars in this cookbook. The book's title, "Mastering Simplicity" is a bit of a misnomer, however, as some of the recipes can be overly complicated (verging on flat out impossible) for the home cook. But if you do have the patience and time, Delouvrier delivers some beautiful and satisfying dishes. And not all recipes are overly time-consuming. La soupe d'ortie de ma grand-mere (nettle soup), for instance, is a beautifully simple way to showcase this subtle and often overlooked wild green. Asparagus and Morels is also a delicious study in Spring simplicity. Conversely, the Coq au Vin, Wild Boar Stew and Bouillabaisse look spectacular, but you'll need to take several days off work to execute them. These multi-day recipes, while daunting, do provide something of a reference for cooks who may want to brush up on a technique or resurrect an old-world dish.

Delouvrier spares no expense and excludes nothing in his step-by-step pursuits of perfection. It is unquestionably a beautiful cookbook. The black and white photography is classic and understated, providing interest without detracting from the recipes, while the color photos offer high-definition glamour shots of Delouvrier's intricate dishes. Mastering Simplicity won't likely become a staple cookbook in your collection, but if you do decide to add it to your library, you'll find some exceptional special occasion recipes and detailed reference material for that rare day when you have a little too much time on your hands.

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