The new simple.

It’s not like “simple” is new.  Cookbook authors have been touting the ease and speed of their authors presumably for as long as there have been cookbooks.  But these days, I get the sense that ease and speed are a means, more than an end. By that, I mean that “simple” has become an aesthetic.

Maybe it all started with the millennial launch of the magazine “Real Simple”.  Bit by bit, our ideal homes became less cluttered, more spacious, conspicuously curated.  So it seems with some of the food we’re seeing these days.  Some of the recipes in Alice Waters’  Art of Simple Food books have no more than three or four ingredients.  Granted, they’re primers, and they’re meant to spell things out.  

You can see this exalting of space and unfussiness in the Canal House books too.  When it comes right down to it, you don’t need a recipe to make the seared pork chops (salt, pepper, olive oil – that’s it), with some marinated bell peppers on the side, featured in Canal House Pronto! But the pristine photography makes you feel like this simple food is Art, or at the very least food for the soul as well as the body.   Same goes for the Kinfolk ethos, which you can see in their new book.

 Art, or meditation, or mindfulness – the latter rules the day in David Tanis’ beguiling  One Good Dish.  His recipes are pristine, small efforts, played down aggressively by the author with chapter titles like “A Dab of This and That” and “A Little Something Sweet”.  Yet unlike some of the others in its cohort, this book has something new to say.

The message of these books, if there is one, is that quick and easy is no longer quick and dirty. Simple equates to taste, somehow, in a sense that isn’t strictly culinary.  The appreciation that used to be reserved for simple Italy, with its perfect greens and olive oil, or simple France, with its perfect bread and butter, is becoming our own. 

You can call it lazy, or pretentious, or just a matter of running out of ideas. But no matter what you call it, I’m pretty sure the new simple is here to stay.

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  • pwsnook  on  November 14, 2013

    I have cooked and dined my way through four decades of food trends, including the fussy and fast periods. However, I've always appreciated a simpler way with food. Simple food is not about shortcuts or speed. Rather, it's about the quality and integrity of the ingredients, combined to give your palate the most pure and authentic flavors. We may not need a book to tell us how to cook simply, but we can use one to remind us to simply cook.

  • krusso119  on  November 17, 2013

    pwsnook – well said.

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