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OP: Simple Cooking

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by John Thorne

John Thorne, long based in New England—first in Maine and more recently in western Massachusetts—is a determined individualist, who stays mainly out of the public eye. He is, however, widely known for his lively letter Simple Cooking and for several fine books drawn mainly from its pages. 

Thorne is a delight to read. Without a doubt his work is thorough and meticulous, but he is clearly writing for himself, following his curiosity and, in many senses of the word, his appetite. “Simple” for him is not a buzzword but a characteristic of the foods that attract his attention.

The first two portions of this book, his first collection, are Personal Passions and Perfect Pleasures. The passions include A Cup of Cocoa, A Bowl of Porridge, Macaroni and Cheese, and Strawberries and Cream; the Pleasures, slightly more demanding, include Lost Bread Found (French Toast, of course), Carpaccio, and Cheesecake. 

All are truly iconic (that word used here correctly) and, although surely not complex, explored in compact essays that lay out the fundamentals of the dish, touching on bits of history, meandering among favored variations, and offering recipes that focus on the basic ingredients. 

Other sections of the book provide comfortable seasonal recipes, short opinion articles ( “In Defense of Picnics”), book reviews, and other entertaining bits and pieces.

Thorne is not given to disclose much in the way of biography, but it appears he grew up in the 1950s and began food writing in the early ‘80s, initially with a series of self-published booklets. Then, in 1985, with the letter, which continued into the early 2000s, gradually reducing his offerings. 

His writing goes down easily. It is informal, unorthodox, and occasionally zany, never pretentious. We can only call it refreshing as well as enlightening. It’s a good guess, we think, that people will be reading John Thorne for a long time to come.

The copy we offer is the first edition in Fine unused condition, published by Viking in 1987. 


Following the book Simple Cooking (1987), John Thorne compiled four more collections of articles related to food and cooking. These additional four were collaborations with his wife Matt Lewis Thorne, who, we’re pleased to say, worked for a time at Kitchen Arts & Letters and is thought of with affection and great respect to this day. These books were:

Outlaw Cook (1992)

Serious Pig (1996) 

Pot on the Fire (2000)

Mouth Wide Open (2007)

If you might be interested in any of these, let us know, and we will work on tracking down a copy for you.

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