It's that time of year again. The holidays are upon us and with them, this year's new cookbooks. And what a year! What a selection! There are SO many and they are all AMAZING. I always have to attach the disclaimer that I am neither a professional food critic nor a recipe writer. However, in the words of A.J. Liebling, "The primary requisite for writing about food is a good appetite." And THAT I have. And I know photography. So, I covered four different book venues in three days for variety's sake and the widest scope -- Costco, Barnes & Noble, an independent bookstore and a food website, and found ten standouts in a field of about thirty new holiday books. I'm telling you about them based on a rating scale of interesting categories, novel ideas, and stunning presentation. That's what struck me most, the variety of approaches to different subject matters. I'd be happy to receive any one of them, frankly. Although as a foodie photographer, I'll end my post by revealing my #1 pick. (hint, hint, relatives, this is your cue)
How tired are we all of hearing and using the phrase, "in this economy." Well, it's painfully true and the emphasis on family dining, family-at-table, cooking with the family, home cooking, local ingredients, continues to be a love-the-one-you're-with-at-home kind of theme. The Food Network chefs are all over this one, of course, so let's get them out of the way by way of Mario Batali. The guy seems nice enough and good enough on Iron Chef and The View, but with nine restaurants to his credit, why is he even writing a cookbook? Because once you've gotten to the top you've got to stay there. And yet I think his passion is genuine. The 'family' thing is the focus of his new book, Molto Batali.
Everything does look wonderful, accessible, doable. It's arranged by seasons, and the layout is like this. (pictured) I like it. What does all this stuff look like on the table? This book answers that for Virgo hostesses and visual learners like me.
Todd English is a marvelous chef and his new book Cooking In Everyday English has that 'home' thing at its center, also.
Yes, yes, cook at home. Although we know They don't really want us to stay home and cook every day because then we wouldn't eat at their restaurants! Nevertheless, when the economy dictates we do cook in, Todd's book looks very usable, with unusual pairings of things, also -- this salad, for example. (I chose random recipes for this post) The pictures in this book are o.k. (that matters to me)
Next we have Jean-Georges, my old friend. He just keeps getting better, and now, his son is all grown up and they're doing that celebrity family-chef thing together. Their book is a little thinner than most and I say, thank you! There's quite enough to digest in these pages. Why was I not surprised the book comes in his signature royal blue. It suits.
In CONTRAST, dear follower, we have Jacques Peppin's holiday offering. How many pages...600 plus! It's BIG because it spans his long and revered career. (he is 75, after all) This $50 book is a STEAL at Costco for $20 something. No photographs here -- illustrations. Comes with a CD.
This one I'm buying myself because it calls to my blogging soul to emulate Julie and Julia. How long
would it take me to cook my way through Jacques book?
Anyway, bravo to the Maitre! He looks so very well! A testament to healthy, tempered eating. He's truly a national treasure.
Now things start to get more interesting....
From RADIO food show to BOOK. If you know Lynn Rosetto Kasper's talk show on Saturdays on NPR you're probably pleased that someone has snagged her for another book deal. And it's done so well. So, here's food with stories. I love that, the interdisciplinary food experience.
Website turned book with Food52. I didn't know their site, but I've looked at Food52 today and it's really beautiful. And comprehensive. Here's their holiday book. This is one big trend in publishing -- give tried and true bloggers a shot at a book.
Obviously, I think it's wonderful. I'd love to collaborate on a project someday...like, tomorrow!
Way to go, home cooks Amanda and Merril.
And you, too, Jekka and Nigel. Your books, in style and feel, suggest reading and cooking for the modern hippie, (there's something about her cover art that reminds me of the Moosewood Cookbook) the now generation, the twenty to thirty-year-olds. To be honest, I didn't even look inside either of these because there were scads more to consider and my time was running short. But, given that so many restaurants have their own gardens now, these both had the feel of organic loveliness and locovore home runs.
And then, dear follower, with the music of Zarathustra swelling in the background, I give you Eleven Madison Park!
Winner of the 5 "Whoas!" Four Eyes 2011 Award
This book is an art piece. Pure, unadulterated visual luxury. Can you make anything in here, you ask? Who cares, I answer. This is large format photography which raises the bar even higher than NOMA last year, and The French Laundry the year before that. Gigantic white books. What I applaud is that the photographer is a chef/partner and knows his way around a studio to this high degree. The title of this book is the address of the restaurant in NY, and, actually, many of the recipes look approachable to me. We could all do this chocolate or custard thing without being a Japanese food stylist, right? I've got my tweezers! Only criticism -- just when we swore not to buy another 5 lb. book....
BUT, FOUR EYES' #1 PICK OF HOLIDAY FOOD BOOKS, 2011, is
MY LAST SUPPER.
There are portrait photographers and then there are inspired, wholly gifted portrait photographers. And the considerable gifts Melanie Dunea possesses rival those of Herb Ritts, Annie Liebowitz, Richard Avedon, you pick.
Here are compelling portraits of 50 chefs which reveal their minds and imagination. The person behind the food, reflected in fifty photographs as diverse as the chefs themselves. I include a couple of examples here. And THEN, the dialogue from each is equally absorbing.
I just can't say enough about how interesting this book is. It's the complete package! Kudos to the person who formulated the concept.
I say, give this one a James Beard Award! I say, give this to ME for Christmas!
Happy Holidays to all from Four Eyes Forum. Enjoy your upcoming days with reading and cooking pleasure.