For as long as I can remember I’ve been interested in cookbooks, probably because cookbooks meant baking and baking meant cake. And I do like cake. I’ve generally been quite undiscriminating about recipe books. If I see one I fancy in a charity shop I’ll pick it up and I often receive them as presents for birthdays and Christmases. Because of this I have a reasonable collection. I just counted, 27 (plus one from the library). Not including various supplements from newspapers/magazines, or a years worth of Good Food magazine…
Since starting my publishing course I’ve been thinking more about why I like books and how they’ve been designed. Having mentioned at work that I was thinking of doing my dissertation on cookbooks, several of my colleagues revealed that they also had burgeoning collections. I now have a stack of awesome on my desk that is making it very hard to concentrate on work. I wonder if I’ll have the same problem when working in publishing?
Most of the books people have brought in to show me are Christmas 2011 releases, epic sized lifestyle bibles with glorious photography throughout. It seems to me that these are designed as coffee table books rather than as kitchen table books. Their huge extent and hardcover design mean that they don’t sit open comfortably and I for one would be loath to risk them near potential splashes and drips. I can’t help but think that the publishers are trying to sell the lifestyle portrayed rather than the recipes.
Most of my older recipe books have either no pictures, or just a few. Advances in technology mean that recipe books can now have full colour pictures on every other page. Adding to the perceived value of these books but also adding to the price (mostly around £30!)
Despite having so many recipe books, I constantly go back to a handwritten notebook. I’ve been adding to this ever since I started university. I like the fact that it is written in my own style. I also like the fact the notebook is small and ring-bound so sits open happily and doesn’t take up half of my tiny workspace. The fact that it is just a notebook also means that I’m not worried about covering it in flour/sauce/etc.
I adore my recipe book collection and am often tempted to add to it – one of the books a colleague brought to show me was Nigel Slater’s Tender II. I’ve been trying to resist looking at it as I know I’ll want to immediately go out and buy Tender I and II. However I’ve decided I must be more sensible about wanton book-purchasing. Therefore I have decided to commit to cooking from every recipe book I own this year. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover some unknown gem. Or perhaps I’ll find a style I don’t like and can be consigned to a charity shop, if so it will leave space for a new addition!