The print cookbook is indomitable.
The post office, the music industry, network television—all decimated by the internet. And book publishing? Forget about it. Cookbook sales are one of the few bright spots. Take the 50 Shades trilogy off the bestseller list and you’re basically left with titles from celebrity chefs, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and the latest from Gwyneth Paltrow.
Cookbooks are evolving in ever more interesting ways.
They’ve learned to transcend their function. It’s no longer enough to be a vessel for instruction and recipes. The internet’s got a lock on that. Cookbook authors are experimenting beyond the traditional narrative structure of a recipe collection organized into categories like ‘Soups,’ ‘Main Dishes,’ and ‘Bar Cookies.’ They’re dazzling us with new visual formats and finding their literary voices.
Not that we don’t still need the internet.
By the time you finish reading this another independent bookstore will probably have bitten the dust, and national chain stores just don’t cut it when you want to do some heavy browsing. I’m talking about the old-fashioned kind of book browsing, well beyond the glossy, the popular, and the predictable titles; the kind of browsing that takes you on a journey of discovery, deep into the category where things get interesting.
There are a handful of places to go online for thoughtful, knowledgable reviews that look beyond the bestseller list. If you love cookbooks, you’ll want to bookmark some of these:
If I hadn’t found Cookbooks We Love, I would have never been introduced to Pork and Sons. Part cookbook, part travel guide, with a family scrapbook and great piggy pics thrown into the mix, Pork and Sons’ author comes from a long line of French pig farmers and butchers, and recipes are scattered throughout a very personal tale of small town life in his family’s home village. It’s the kind of obscure gem of a cookbook that we never know to look for but are thrilled to stumble across.
Food porn meets book reviews at CookBookKarma. It starts with extensive, professional reviewing, and I do mean extensive–the 100+ reviews from this past month included an all-gummi candy cookbook and recipes for midwives. Readers then try out recipes from reviewed titles and submit photos of the results along with their own reviews and other commentary.
The cook behind Cook that Book is not a professional chef. She is a home cook preparing family meals in a home kitchen. She tries recipes from old and new cookbooks and writes her reviews based on the nuts and bolts of index navigability, clarity and detail of instructions, and ultimately the overall appeal and success of the dish. Judging a cookbook on the cooking—how novel is that?!
Sadly we bid farewell this week to The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf. The review site, a collaboration between a small, international team of contributors, had a commendable five year run covering a wide range of global titles on food, wine, and gastronomy. The editors were knowledgable, their taste was quirky and eclectic, and there’s nothing else quite like it out there. Check out their parting lineup of reviews and you’ll see what I mean.