Pinch of Nom's Wild Success; Rare Warhol Cookbook

Plus: Shanghai-Style Scallion Oil Noodles!

Howdy cookbook fans!

And apologies for getting this out so late in the day! I do suspect you’ll find it worth it, though, as we discuss a rare Andy Warhol-designed cookbook that’s coming to auction, the crazy huge sales of Pinch of Nom in the UK, and much more. Plus: the recipe Scallion Oil Noodles from My Shanghai by Betty Liu. Sounds like dinner tonight to me! Here’s the news:

I proudly identify as a home cook. And I think all of my fellow home cooks—which so many people [during the pandemic] have become if they weren't already—I think they are so undervalued. All of the work that we do, which is the planning and the budget and the cleaning up, it's an enormous amount of work, and it's always keeping track things in your mind. It's a lot. It's exhausting. I was already feeling that before the pandemic, and here we are. 

In Friday’s paid subscriber issue, I talked to cookbook author Julia Turshen about her new book Simply Julia, what goes into making a cookbook, shooting a cookbook during a pandemic (“I felt like I was on a reality show or something”) and much, much more. Check it out. [SPN]

Pinch of Nom Authors Sign Deal for 5 More Volumes

Okay: Pinch of Nom. I have been avoiding writing about UK phenomenon Pinch of Nom, a Facebook-page-turned-website-turned-book series focused on the weight loss recipes of Kay Featherstone and Kate Allinson, because I’ve always held a firm line on not covering diet books. But I think the publishing story here warrants an exception. Feel free to skip if it’s bad for you to read about diet stuff. I won’t be making a habit of this, promise.

So! Featherstone and Allinson, a couple with professional chef backgrounds, started out posting recipes to a Facebook page in 2016; today, that group has about 1.7 million followers. They currently have a staff of 11 who help them run their website, which houses their recipe database and is chock full of info about Weight Watchers points and tips for batch cooking and freezing individual portions. A lot of the recipes have a sort of British Pinterest vibe: among today’s most popular recipes on the homepage were a KFC Zinger Burger Fakeaway, Oven Baked Pasanda Curry, Creamy Garlic Chicken, Diet Coke/Pepsi Max Chicken, Lava Mug Cakes. You get the picture.

And people go absolutely off-the-walls bonkers for it. There are three Pinch of Nom cookbooks already: Pinch of Nom, which, according to the Bookseller, was “the fastest-selling non-fiction title of the Nielsen BookScan era on its release in 2019.” Pinch of Nom: Everyday Light also came out in 2019, and 2020’s Pinch of Nom: Quick and Easy topped the charts when it came out in December. Not the food book charts. The charts for all books sold in the UK. All told, sales “have surpassed three million copies across five titles,” which includes two food planners.

So obviously, there will be more: publisher Bluebird has announced two Pinch of Nom cookbooks and three additional planners. The books will be published in spring 2022 and autumn 2025. No word on the themes yet, but the second two books, Everyday Light and Quick and Easy, borrowed their subtitles from the categories on the PoN website. Other possible categories include Fakeaways, Weekly Indulgence, Special Occasions, Sweet Treats, Batch Cook, and more.

And now back to your regularly scheduled diet-free programming.

Thúy and I sat down with InDesign and basically designed it together. I handled the mechanical work of typesetting and layout, but she selected the various typefaces and effectively art directed the look and feel of the thing. Along the way I showed her the fundamentals of book design: chapter headers and sub-headers, page folios and how to make a table of contents. It was a blast talking about these fairly esoteric topics with my eleven year-old daughter and to have it come alive for her, demystifying the act of what it takes to create a “real” book.

—Designer and old school blogger Khoi Vinh designed a book of family recipes with 11-year-old daughter Thúy. [Subtraction]

Rare Warhol Cookbook, Wild Raspberries, Goes to Auction

A cookbook designed by artist Andy Warhol will go to auction this month and is expected to sell for between $30,000 and $50,000 USD. Wild Raspberries was written by Susie Frankfurt and “lampooned the late 50s haute-cuisine cookbooks marketed to American housewifes,” according to auction house Bonhams. Click on through to the auction listing for more interiors from the book. Only 34 color copies of the book were printed in 1959, and this one is signed to fashion world icon D.D. Ryan. [Bonhams via the Guardian]

By having cookbooks that just have the same recipes over and over and over, it becomes so much easier to have those problems that we are all trying to be so careful about, like cultural appropriation and this whole idea of disconnecting a food from the people who care about it most and disrespecting that connection. I think we have that connection. We wanted to offer a foundation for understanding the food as well as making it. That’s why it was important for [co-author/chef Brandon Jew] to have the complexity, and the things that might not work out the first time but that require attention and experience and detail.

Tienlon Ho, co-author of Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown, talks about changing things up. [Eater]

Food Historian and Cookbook Author Laura Mason Dies, 63

Laura Mason, York food historian and author of several National Trust cookbooks, has died of cancer at the age of 63. Mason was heavily involved in the UK food history world, contributing over 150 entires to the Oxford Companion to Food, in addition to consulting on television shows and movies, including 2004’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban For more on her many accomplishments, head over to her obituary in The York Press. [YP]

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Scallion Oil Noodles

葱油拌面 | cōng yóu bàn miàn

From the book My Shanghai by Betty Liu. Copyright © 2021. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

You haven’t experienced Shanghai until you’ve had a bowl of scallion oil noodles. It’s a quintes- sential old Shanghai dish, a humble, yet extremely satisfying, bowl of noodles. This dish reveals the secret of that complex umami flavor used in many of Shanghai’s signature dishes: scallion oil. Scallions are slowly fried in oil so that their flavor infuses it. This flavored oil serves as the base of the dish. By itself, the soy sauce–rock sugar mix makes a lovely, deep, sweet yet savory sauce, but it often needs something else—pork, chicken, eggplant, or loads of scallions—for additional flavor. Dried shrimp is an excellent addition that supplies an extra bit of umami. If you’re craving something with more protein, fry some ground pork in your scallion oil until browned and crisp, then turn off the heat and proceed with the recipe.

Serves 2

1 1/2 teaspoons dried shrimp

6 to 8 scallions, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) segments

3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil, such as canola or grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon black vinegar

1 tablespoon crushed rock sugar or granulated sugar

pinch of ground white pepper

1/2 pound (225 g) fresh Shanghai-style thin noodles, cooked to al dente (or 2 servings of any dried noodles. I’ve used soba and ramen noodles with great effect.)

  1. Place the dried shrimp in a small bowl with hot water to cover and soak for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.

  2. Smash the scallions with the side of a meat cleaver. Pat dry with a paper towel to avoid any water droplets from causing the oil to splatter during stir-frying.

  3. Heat the oil in a well-seasoned wok over medium-low. Add the scallion segments and let them fry slowly, so they turn yellow without burning. Stir occasionally so the segments brown evenly. This slowly rendered-out flavor is essential to this recipe—be patient and let the toasty flavor infuse the oil. I usually let the scallions cook for 20 to 30 minutes, but for a deeper flavor cook them at a lower heat for longer, even up to 1 hour. I’ll often make big batches of this oil that I store in the refrigerator; for this recipe I use 3 tablespoons. Reduce the heat to low, add the shrimp, and cook for another 5 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, mix together the dark and light soy sauces, vinegar, and sugar.

  5. Increase the heat to medium and immediately pour the soy sauce mixture into the wok. The sauce will bubble finely and foam (if it bubbles too much, your heat is too high) and begin to caramelize. Stir to dissolve the sugar and let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken. Turn off the heat. Add a pinch of white pepper. Add the cooked noodles to the wok and toss to combine. Divide the noodles between two bowls, making sure to scoop up the scallion segments.

Note: You can also make scallion oil ahead of time. Quadruple the amount of oil and scallions and follow the steps. Let it cool and pour it into a sterile jar; it will keep in the fridge for up to 1 month. Use it anytime to elevate any dish you’re making.

That’s all for today! See Friday folks on Friday, have a great week.