Alice Waters is one of the most well-known public figures talking about food today. She started her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California, in 1971, and started a revolution. She has, since then, written many wonderful recipes for relatively simple food (not necessarily easy to cook, though!) based on high quality ingredients. Her last few books (Art of Simple Food I and II) have placed a greater emphasis on simple recipes, and she seems to be making a move towards a much broader audience than she has courted until now. This book, My Pantry, follows this general direction. My pantry is a slim and small volume. It is very pretty and cute, and it was clearly designed to be a gift, perhaps a stocking stuffer. It is a beautifully produced book. It's a hardback without a dust jacket, and the beautiful design on the cover is printed directly onto the boards. The cover and end papers are decorated with charming watercolors by Alice Waters' daughter, Fanny Singer, and the text itself is also decorated with watercolors, but sadly these are all in black and white. Given that the book is clearly meant to be a gift, it's unfortunate that the publisher did not use full color watercolors, as it does take away from the beauty of the book.
The subtitle of this book is "Homemade Ingredients That Make Simple Meals Your Own." This is not entirely accurate, as the book contains recipes not just for ingredients, but also for simple dishes. I'm not really sure why this book was designed this way...it makes the book seem like it doesn't really have a clear function. Many of the recipes are indeed for pantry "basics" like corn tortillas, red-wine vinegar, pita bread, and fresh cheeses. This recipes follow the trend for making everything, even "basic" ingredients, from scratch. Waters' recipes, though, do seem to be simpler and more no-nonsense that books like Homemade Pantry, et. al. Waters' recipes are always extensively tested and are quite refined, so I am more inclined to trust her book rather than other books. There are also, inexplicably, recipes for things like Brown Rice and Herb Salad, Lentil Soup, and Oat Pancakes. These are very clearly not "homemade ingredients" or pantry items.
Overall, this is a lovely book and a nice gift for either an Alice Waters fan, or a newish but ambitious cook. It's not as well-thought out as Waters' past books, but its recipes are surely as trustworthy as her recipes always are.
(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)