Are cookbooks still useful? Here’s some food for thought this week in the Guardian.
Food writer Prue Leith insists that “when we come to cook … the cookbook stays on the coffee table. Now the look of the book dictates the sale. In my day you could still buy a good cookbook in paperback with no pictures at all. I doubt if that would sell today. But those books were much used: they lived in the kitchen and got splattered with custard and gravy. Today, if we cook, we Google it. New cookbooks lie on the coffee table and we drool over Tuscan landscapes and rustic bread ovens. Before ordering in a pizza.”
Yotam Ottolenghi and Tim Hayward take up the argument and conclude that cookbooks are still relevant. “I believe many people do still cook from their cookbooks. They may not cook from all of them – many, no doubt, complete their job after an initial speedy flick-through, which is also fine by me – but there are certain books, illustrated and beautiful that we will always go back to, no matter how many more shiny spines are there alongside them on the bookshelves.” -Ottolenghi
“it seems bonkers to take a moral stance on how they should be enjoyed. For me, making a modern, illustrated food book means making an object that balances utility with entertainment in a way that appeals to a new and different kind of audience.” -Tim Hayward
In the comment section of The Guardian, some one brought up Daniel Pennack’s 10 Inalienable Rights of the Reader, suggesting that #6 could apply quite easily to recipes and food writing. I have to admit I agree.
1. The right not to read
2. The right to skip
3. The right not to finish a book
4. The right to re-read
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to “Bovary-ism,” a textually transmitted disease*
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right dip in*
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to be silent
*#6 – Bovary-ism: the right to mistake a book for real life
#8 – I’ve also seen this translated as ‘the right to sample and steal (“grappiller”)
“For me, a successful cookbook is one that is pored over at bedtime as much as it’s used in the kitchen. I don’t think one necessarily negates the other.” -Anna Valentine
Your thoughts? And what cookbooks are you cooking and baking from?