The Welcoming World of Dishoom; Best of 2023
Howdy cookbook fans!
And welcome to your what-day-is-it-anyway issue of Stained Page News. I hope all of my US readers had a lovely Thanksgiving and didn’t give too much of your money to Jeff Bezos. I for one spent it sleeping off COVID, so this issue will be short but mighty. We’ve got book deals! We’ve got the design in London restaurant cookbook Dishoom! We’ve got a bunch of fun links for you to read INCLUDING the first few offerings for best of 2023 round-ups! What a world.
Thanks, by the way, for all the well-wishes on Cured, the upcoming book bySan Antonio chef Steve McHugh and yours truly. There is still time to pre-order a copy signed by both of us from the Twig, a locally-owned bookstore next door to Cured the restaurant!
TREASURE HUNTS I know I’ve mentioned the self-published cookbook famed director and writer Nora Ephron wrote to give as presents to friends, right? A holy grail of cookbook collecting, IMO. And, apparently, Rita Wilson makes her Thanksgiving dinner out of her copy every year. Orange Praline Yams! Fine. I’ll just be over here with my police procedural-style bulletin board, threads and pins and newspaper clippings, tracking down a copy if any of you need me. [People]
The Creative Brief with Frances Abrantes Baca
Dishoom, written by British restaurateurs Shamil Thakrar and Kavi Thakrar, and chef Naved Nasir, is one of those cookbooks I read in bed (admittedly, my favorite way to savor a good cookbook). While the writing is thoroughly enjoyable, what makes this book really special is the photography by Liz Haarala and Max Hamilton (aka Haarala Hamilton). Their images capture the bustling, colorful, and welcoming world of the historic South Mumbai Irani cafés that inspired Dishoom’s namesake restaurants. The number of photographs alone is impressive—I counted a total of 324 within 400 pages—but the beauty and breadth of the images are what make reading Dishoom such an engaging, immersive experience.
“Dishoom is a journey—a day and night in Bombay through food and drink,” explains Haarala. “We were there for ten days and we got up early every day and only stopped photographing in the day for a quick recharge of batteries and to back up photos. And then back out again until late at night.” Their photographs are filled with rich detail and bring the city, its people, and its food to vibrant life. “There is something about Bombay that hooks you in and we feel we only scratched the surface,” says Haarala.
Back in London, Haarala Hamilton and their team—prop stylist Jen Kay and food stylists Aya Nishimura and Rosie Reynolds—closely studied the photographs to recreate the look and feel of an Irani café in their studio. The resulting composed dish images are remarkably evocative, allowing a seamless visual flow between location and food.
The book’s unusual size (7.25" wide by 10.75" high) forces most photographs into a strongly vertical frame. Creatively, this might be somewhat limiting, but Haarala Hamilton’s work loses none of its impact when conforming to this format. In fact, the verticality feels as if we are peering through a doorway—a perfect visual metaphor for an invitation into the cafés that Dishoom celebrates.
Notably, the cover does not feature photography, only a simple typographic composition with an illustration of a café. While this approach reinforces Dishoom’s visual brand, I imagine it would have been nearly impossible to select just one cover image from the enormous number of photographs Haarala Hamilton produced. “We have so many images that we love from this project that never made it into the book,” remarks Haarala. But those that did make Dishoom an absolute visual feast—a delicious slice of old-time Bombay that captivates inquisitive cooks and armchair travelers alike.
RIP The cookbook world has tragically lost two members of our community recently. Photographer Aubrie Pick, who shot books including Chrissy Teigen’s first cookbook, Tanya Holland’s California Soul, Andrea Nguyen’s Vietnamese Food Any Day, and the upcoming Dolly Parton cookbook, which she shot during treatment for lymphoma. She was 42. And in London, restarauteur and author Russell Norman died after a brief illness at 57. His 2012 book Polpo is one of the great Italian restaurant cookbooks. I know from social media that many SPN readers were close to these two; if you have memories you’d like to share in this newsletter, email me. My heart goes out to all for your losses. [SF Chron, Guardian]
Coming Attractions: Adeena Sussman! Lobsters! Italian Summers! Dessert! Sichuan! More!
Mark Kurlansky, author most recently of The Core of an Onion, to write Lobsters, a “portrait” with recipes. Spring 2026, Bloomsbury.
Melissa Pellegrino and Matthew Scialabba, proprietors of Connecticut pizzeria Bufalina, to write Summer in Italy, “a cookbook and travelogue pitched as inspired by the beach clubs of Italy.” Hardie Grant NA, pub date TBA.
Emily Lex, author and illustrator of several watercolor-illustrated books on Christianity, to write a 60-recipe dessert cookbook. Harvest House, 2026.
Linda Yi of Panda Cub Stories to write and illustrate Let’s Make Sichuan, a book covering “Sichuan home cooking, featuring personal stories and recipes, including chili oil and mapo tofu, along with ingredients and methods presented in a comics format for home cooks of all skill levels.” Ten Speed, pub date TBA.
Historian Gavin Beinart-Smollan has launched a project of digitizing South African Jewish cookbooks from the 20th century. You can explore the first 40 volumes at the South African Jewish Cookbook Project. [sajweishcookbooks.org via aish.com]
Cookbook review: Eater by Hillary Dixler Canavan. [The Caterer]
Tips for annotating cookbooks. [Twin Cities Geek]
Will church cookbooks survive? [Christianity Today]
Best Cookbooks of 2023 Lists!
Okay y’all that’s it for today! I am off to take a nap.