As the polar vortex shuts everybody in with their seed catalogues and board games, I thought I’d play a little imaginary game of my own. It’s my job to test and rate already-published cookbooks. What if I started on the other end and dreamed up the cookbooks I’d like to see? – ones that I’ve not yet seen on the market but which would be killer cookbooks on my shelf. Why not? Let’s give it a go!
Regional Chinese cookbook: I’d like it to be as informative as the Complete Indian Regional Cookbook, but a whole lot better designed – say with the beautiful, open layout of The Food of Spain, or, if it needed to be more compact, a design aesthetic like The New Midwestern Table‘s. I’d want it to have all 8 classic Chinese cuisines, along with contextual histories, features of the ingredients specific to each, and say 10 or 12 recipes that are really identified with that cuisine. Maybe written by Fuchsia Dunlop, with her kind of glossaries – with good sourcing notes – and headnotes; or on the UK side, Terry Tan.
New England Kitchen Garden cookbook: There are a million farmer’s market and seasonal and garden cookbooks out there, but none of them is exactly what I crave. I’d want this book to focus on the top 10 or so crops we grow well in my region (including but not limited to asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and blueberries, corn, squash, and apples). I’d want it to have some thoughtful cultural notes (like the ones in Grow Cook Eat) and LOTS of recipes for each of the 10 crops. Because the first week of plain asparagus is great, but by the sixth week, you really want some variation. I’d enjoy it if the book were interspersed with vegetable quotes (like poems from Lorna Crozier’s The Sex Life of Vegetables), and I’d want a colorful design that combined graphic whimsy with practicality, like the design of the Splendid Table books.
A cookie decorating bible: Actually, I’d be really surprised if this doesn’t exist. I guess for whatever reason I just haven’t come across it. I’d like it to have lots of great, well-described techniques (marbling, piping, etc) like Cookie Swap and other books by Julia Usher, but with extensive troubleshooting charts, more pictures, and a whole lot more basic cookie recipes. I’d like the step-by-step photographs to be as extensive and exhaustive as the ones in The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook, but fewer per page. And I’d like an accompanying website with up-to-date sourcing links for hard-to-find decorating supplies, please.
I could go on and on . . . Funny how even in a world filled with hundreds of thousands of cookbooks, there are still so many great ones yet to be published. What’s that you say? You’re a major cookbook publisher and you think I ought to consult / have my own imprint? (20+ years of experience either inside publishing or working with cookbooks – that’s me.) What a great idea! Call anytime!
(This post is adapted from the one that appeared on the Eat Your Books blog 01/24/14.)