Piret's, the George and Piret Munger Cookbook by George and Piret Munger (Houghton Mifflin: $18.95 cloth, $12.95 paperback).

This is one of those books that is just plain fun to read. And the fact that the recipes are excellent, many based on country French cooking but all with Southern California "fresh" overtones, makes it a book that belongs in every cookbook collection.

The Mungers are the geniuses behind San Diego's Perfect Pan cookware shops and cooking schools, as well as the Piret's charcuterie/takeout/bistros that are sprinkled here and there in the Southland. In a way their book is a personal chronicle; a fascinating one that clearly shows their rapid personal evolution from mere food aficionados to food professionals of the first water.

Many of the recipes in the book are contributions from renowned cooking teachers such as Maurice Moore-Betty, Marcella Hazan, Jacques Pepin and Diana Kennedy who have taught at the Perfect Pan cooking schools.

Although some of the recipes call for such things as homemade stock, something the average cook rarely has time to prepare these days, they are well written and easy to follow. The Mungers meticulously provide recipes for good homemade stocks, so you aren't left high and dry if you, too, are a purist about from-scratch cooking.

If you aren't a purist, don't let that deter you from buying the book. The recipes should produce some excellent dining even if you incorporate a few short cuts in their methods here and there.

All in all, this is a chatty, yet upscale, cookbook by a couple of food lovers who obviously enjoy life--particularly when it involves good food.

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