In an effort to bring you the world of cookbooks and cookbook authors we have featured many over the last several months in various formats. Sometimes it is simply a recipe with a publisher’s permission line, other times we have done interviews with authors along with their insider tips, but I want to begin a new tradition and present book reviews, plain and simple. This is for several reasons.
First of all, I am a cookbook author and come from that milieu. I began pre-internet and in those days (God, that feels like a long time ago), cookbooks were a primary source of recipes. They brought us new dishes of course, but what I always found to be the most fascinating was that they give us a glimpse into the mind of the author. These days many people post recipes on the Internet. Sometimes they are recipes that belong to others that have been illegally coopted. Other times they have been originally developed and posted, but they often exist as a single post, today’s cookie not bearing much relation to next week’s muffin. Cookbooks are collections with a definitive point of view and the author and the publisher have taken great care at cultivating and presenting that perspective. (Our interview with David Lebovitz delved into this from his standpoint).
Secondly, the tangible aspect of a cookbook is something that I adore. Even though Bakepedia is a digital platform, I am a huge supporter of old-fashioned cookbooks and hope that publishers keep producing them. The look and feel of the cover, the texture and weight of the paper, the quality of the images – are they matt, satin or high gloss – the way the chapters unfold sequentially…I could go on and on. An actual cookbook gives you a complete world within its pages. I always begin with the Introduction and any of the “front matter” (that’s publisher talk for all the chapters at the beginning of the book) where I learn why the author wrote this book, what they hope to accomplish through the pages – what’s new about the recipes we are about to read. Reading a cookbook front to back brings you a comprehensive narrative, which is a very different experience from clicking on singular recipes online.
So I believe cookbooks deserve their own reviews and we will be bringing them to you here in this space. Some cookbooks will be brand, spanking new. Others will be older titles – from a year or two ago or even decades ago. The common denominator will be that they are books you should know about. They are written by authors with strong, clear voices. They contain recipes that will make your creative juices flow and tickle your taste buds. We create original recipes here in our Test Kitchen and of course want you to keep coming back to hear our voice on these “pages”, but I also always intended Bakepedia to be a very complete resource and that includes looking outwards into the world of baking in real life, on-line and in print. In my mind, cookbooks are still a vibrant recipe resource so we will be bringing you our favorites.
Our first review will be for the third book in a series. You know how movies often get watered down by the second and third installment? Well, Tartine Book No. 3 is a powerhouse of a cookbook. Enjoy the read.