Looking at the cover above ^^^ you wouldn’t imagine that it’s a best-selling cookbook, would you? I mean, apart from the word “cuisine” there is no hint whatsoever that it’s a cookbook – at first glance, it looks a little like the “For Dummies” series of books. In fact, it’s a publishing sensation, that sold over 250 000 copies in its first year (10 000 copies sold is considered a “best-seller” in France).
Apart from the cover being atypical (“Where’s the food if it’s a cookbook?” I hear you ask), the whole concept of the book is different. Written by classically trained (at the prestigious École Ferrandi in Paris) chef turned food photographer Jean-François Mallet, this book (and the series of “Simplissime” titles which followed) is a whole different approach to cooking. Every recipe has around four steps and less than six ingredients, the font is large, there are images of the ingredients and one bright colourful, full-page image of the finished dish. “Simple” as the title suggests!
Having a hard time understanding what I’m talking about? This video might help:
I first read about Simplissime in an article by a favourite food writer, Alec Lobrano, in the Wall Street Journal, last summer and was immediately drawn to a few things about the book:
- That the author really intends people to cook from this book, not just admire the images in it.
- That food styling is kept to a minimum (um, have you seem the extent of my “food styling”? It’s pretty minimalist too…) and that that book shows what dishes will look like when the home cook makes them in their own kitchen – like Mallet, I think there is a lot of “pretty” out there but it scares people off – they think dishes are too pretty for them to be able to achieve (in a lot of people’s minds, highly styled dishes = complicated).
- Most of the ingredients being easily able to be sourced in a supermarket.
- Some of the recipes call for store-bought ingredients (like pastry) which is not cheating, in my mind. I mean, if the difference between someone making a homemade pizza and ordering one from the store is the stumbling block of having to make their own dough, I’d much prefer they use store-bought dough to make their own rather than order one. Not everyone (let’s face it, most people) has time to do everything from scratch all the time.
- The recipes themselves are more guidelines (since they are not in-depth explanations) aimed at helping people develop confidence working with ingredients and hopefully, eventually, be able to cook without a book. If your dream is to be able to head into the kitchen, pull out a few ingredients and whip up a meal, this book will get you on the road to doing that. It’s *nearly* like cooking without a book/ recipe.
- There’s a brief introduction where the basics (equipment/ ingredients) are outlined – nothing too complicated or scary there!
- there’s a table of contents divided into chapters and another one where the ingredients are listed – really easy to find the type of dish you’re looking for OR a particular ingredient.
As for me, I’m um, a fan….
For me, these books are a way to kickstart meal planning. I find myself looking through them and thinking “Oh, I have that and that and that, I could easily substitute this vegetable for that one and make a similar dish” – I love the concept of the short ingredient list that you can quickly scan – and there are a LOT of ideas to get you started. If, though you prefer to follow a recipe, the book will still help you answer the age-old question “What on earth can I cook this evening?” with minimal fuss or prep.
Oh, and for those of you who meal plan on the go, there’s an app too!
But, but, but, I hear you ask…. it’s IN FRENCH!!
Well yes, but there are also a couple of the editions in English now (the original and the “Light”) but I haven’t seen them myself and can’t vouch for them in terms of translation etc… What I would suggest is that the French versions of these cookbooks are excellent for people who want to learn or who are learning French – the language is very simple and the images really help with comprehension. IN fact, I love them so much that I might use some of the recipes with my students next term. They really are “Simple comme Bonjour” as they say in French!
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Disclosure: I purchased these books myself. I was not asked to write about them, nor am I being compensated for doing do. All opinions 100% my own.