So why, exactly, do we buy cookbooks?
The simplistic answer, of course, is that we buy them for the recipes, but in reality, it’s almost never that simple.
We may buy a cookbook because we’ve seen the corresponding series on TV. We may have come to like or, even better, to trust the chef-author based on past cookbooks, through a blog or by way of an associated food business. We may want to try our hand at a particular cuisine or we may want to learn the basics. We may be dedicated followers of foodie fashion or we may just like the pictures, and there’s no doubt but that good photography and styling helps to sell.
Increasingly, photography in cookbooks is used, not only to show what the food should, in theory, look like but also to convey a representation of the lifestyle associated with eating that food. Whether we are subsequently disappointed when our dishes (or our lifestyle) do not turn out “like in the pictures” is another matter entirely. And while it can be helpful to see what a dish may look like at the end of our endeavours, some of my most trusted and well-used cookbooks (take a bow, Madhur Jaffrey) have little in the way of glossy pictures and are no less loved by me for that.
In the end, while the pictures are nice, it is the words that count. My favourite cookbooks are the ones that are worth reading not just for the recipes. Give me Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery and an armchair and I will curl up happily. Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater I like as much for their writing as for the style of their recipes. It’s important too, though, that the recipes work.
The Pieminister Cookbook
Four pounds of cheese.
No, despite my near addiction to all things dairy, I am not actually referring to the amount of cheese that I am likely to consume in a single sitting. What that weighty amount of dairy goodness does represent is the amount of cheese thrown out by the average American over the course of a year, according to an article in the July, 2011 issue of National Geographic, entitled How to Feed A Growing Planet. That article, in turn, inspired my friend Jenni to start the Four Pounds of Cheese project – an experiment where participants would document, for a week, just what it was they were wasting, food-wise. Having been brought up to the tune of my mother’s “waste not, want not” mantra, I am programmed to abhor waste. That doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of wasting food with the best of them. It does, however, mean that I’ll feel dreadfully guilty when I do. Needless, to remark, I was keen to join in.
Last Monday, the week of waste watching began and it didn’t get off to a great start.
I ate out for lunch and the salmon I ordered was served in the classic Irish manner, meaning it came with two kinds of potato (mashed and roasted, in this case). Despite a valiant effort, I didn’t manage to clear my plate, so, to my shame, the very first thing I managed to waste were some of those selfsame spuds. And then I did what I suspect many of us do: I ordered dessert anyway. Different compartment, right? Surprise, surprise, I couldn’t finish that either. Sheesh. Waste 1, Spud 0.
Too many potatoes, even for me
I have seen the future. It is wrapped in pastry and answers to the name of pie.
That, among other things, is the word on the net.
Spuds, it seems, are also on the trendspotter’s radar.
Spuds are in, pie is in: that can only mean one thing...