Howdy cookbook fans!
Warning: today’s issue is pretty photo-heavy and you might do well to click on through to the website for a better browsing experience.
Yesterday I spent the day with my dining room table covered in cookbooks, looking for design ideas for a project I’m working on. It looked like this:
These books were all selected for a specific purpose: because some element of them speaks to the project. They have nice fonts and reasonable recipe layouts and well-lit photography. They’re beautiful and fresh and modern and functional.
Today I am going to talk about…other books. These are books I’ve had for a number of years for no other purpose, really, other than some aspect of their design speaks to me. Some I was sent as review copies, some were gifts, one I found at the bottom of a stack of books at an antique shop in Smithville, Texas. I don’t cook out of any of these, although I could, I guess. All of them are dusty, as you can probably see in the photographs below. In other words? My assessment here is purely based on style and your mileage may extremely vary when it comes to the actual content of these books, recipe or otherwise. But they are nice to look at.
Today's issue of Stained Page News is brought to you by Hardie Grant Publishing. Benjamina Ebuehi’s A Good Day to Bake is full of sweet and savory baking recipes for any day of the week, led by flavor. Going through the ritual of bringing out the measuring scales, pouring out flour, whipping up the eggs, stirring the batter, and slicing up warm cake is a beautiful thing that deserves to be enjoyed all year round no matter the day, season, or occasion. The Great British Baking Show's 2016 contestant shows us how, as she writes so warmly about baking in a cookbook that embraces simplicity, mindfulness, and the therapeutic comforts found in the kitchen.
A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price
50th Anniversary Edition 2015, Calla Editions; Original 1965, Ampersand Press, Inc.
Yes, that Vincent Price. “Avid gourmets,” as the book jacket calls them, Price and wife Mary traveled the world seeking out the best restaurants of the day. A Treasury of Great Recipes features restaurants in Europe, Mexico, and the United States, including menu facsimiles and featured recipes. Come for the delicate, two-tone illustrations by famed German illustrator Fritz Kredel, stay for the elaborately staged restaurant shots of scowling maitre d’s making tableside sauces and slicing meat. Just a time capsule of a book.
À la Mère de Famille by Julien Merceron
2014, Hachette Livre (Chronicle, US)
A Willy Wonka fever dream of a cookbook, if Willy were Parisian. Look at that table of contents! Look. At. That. Pineapple. With photography by Jean Cazals and fantastical, intricate illustrations by Sophie Péchaud and Julie Serre, À la Mère de Famille is just pure sugary escapism. Have I ever candied a whole pineapple? No. Will I ever candy a whole pineapple? Or set colorful fruit candies in cockle shells? Or make marshmallows shaped like teddy bears to dip in chocolate? Probably not. But gosh do I like to look at them.
Fernand Point: Ma Gastronomie
Flammarion, 1969 (Lyceum, 1974, US)
For me, the visual draw of Fernand Point: Ma Gastronomie is the juxtaposition of the bonkers food styling of the day (the Restaurant de la Pyramide draping crawfish over a replica of the literal pyramide, for example) next to the delicate drawings contributed by fans and swirling autographs of famous patrons. The pages are sparsely populated with text and not jammed full of tiny recipes, as many books of the era were. The book is slim. A understated tome in many ways, considering its subject matter.
Coyote Cafe by Mark Miller
Ten Speed, 1989
Is it just that the colors here are back in style that draws me to this cookbook from Sante Fe’s Coyote Cafe? Published at a moment when representations of Southwestern food in national media were largely dominated by white male chefs, the design of this book evokes a variety of pop cultural references—many of which were likewise drawing on Southwestern colors and themes at that time. It feels like a staid version of a David Lynch movie or a Talking Heads video or an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. There’s a vague scrappiness to it, the way the vanilla beans and the chili are just kind of floating in space on the page, the graininess of the image of the bar. Some design elements, like the starbursts, feel very 90s x Route 66. Also, the amount of white space on the page makes for a modern look in a book that’s almost as old as I am.
The Art of the Burger by Jens Fischer
I always think I remember how bananas the photos in this book are, and then I open it and am blown away by how actually bananas the photos in this book are. Luckily we know who to thank for them, as they are credited in detail in The Art of the Burger’s jacket: German chef Jens Fischer did the recipes, Maria Brinkop did the photography and styling, Thomas Lauterbach did the food styling, and Wagner Rexin Gestaltung of Stutensee did the book design. The number of fonts used in this book ALONE boggles the mind, and that’s before you get to the Berlin Airlift-inspired burger (Berlin Air = Berliner, get it) or the photo of burger ingredients literally spilled on the ground, unusable. What is happening here! I don’t know! I love it!
Okay that’s it! Sorry bout my color temps! Tell me what books you think are visually interesting in the comments! See you next week have a good weekend!
I've been cooking a lot out of Foodheim lately, and the design in that book is so cool. I'm not an Eric Wareheim fangirl or anything, and there is a LOT of his personality (and face) in it, but the images of dinner parties with raclette -- dreamy. There's a whole mini-chapter on mini-horses, just because.
I love A La Mere and the recipes are good in my experience! For books that came out in the last year I absolutely adore the photos and graphic art in Jam Bake by Camilla Wynne. The graphic art is by ceramicist Maggie Boyd. The photos are so are so interesting and retro modern. Shot in the week before the world shut down in 2020 they are so out of the box for a pastry and preserving book. I love them; especially the photo of the gin empire cookies!