The newest books and things on my shelf.

Friday, November 10, 2017

what cookbooks look like to me

 

As I work on my fourth print cookbook and fifth title, you’ve heard me say this before. Cookbook writing is far more difficult that writing a novel – there are innumerable pieces – the story, the food, the testing, the usability, the photography, the ease of execution, indexing and so much more.

 

As a writer and designer, when I work on a cookbook, so much is going on in the background. Sometimes I feel I cannot separate one piece of the puzzle from another – and sometimes seeing how others do it helps me either correct my missteps or even learn from what other folks have done. I am always looking for inspiration – whether it is for layout, photography, presentation or writing style.

 

When reviewing cookbooks, I am often, less concerned about the recipe – because everyones’ tastes are different, unless it is something I really want to make. I love looking at newest releases, from unknown writers to award winning ones, from books about family meals to books about personal development. These books have typically been in development for 3+ years before they hit the market – what does it take to get them out?

 

Traditionally published books come from a much larger team of people, and therefore their books have a larger overhead: people and expenses. Seeing what these complex teams are able to accomplish or fail at, gives me a great idea of a few things (a) whether I would ever be able to match up stylistically with a publishing company, and (b) wether or not I can stand toe-to-toe with their offerings.

 

Not to mention, under Turmeric Press, I am a consultant to other authors writing books – and I need to see how traditional presses handle new titles. Marketing, PR letters, and the candid one-on-one conversations one has with authors and publicists. They are all part of the learning curve. Does the agency do enough research before sending out a general email? How are they targeting their audience? What kinds of materials do they offer? This exploration has brought a few books to my bookshelf in the last 4-5 months. Here are some unfiltered thoughts on the books I’ve received.

 

InStyle Parties: The Complete Guide to Easy, Elegant Entertaining All Year Round

Editors of InStyle

Oxmoor House, October 2017

 

Why I requested this book

Hello… parties!! I am always looking for good ideas when it comes to party décor, tricks, and tips to match the mood and more.

 

Pros

Great photography, enticing recipes, great themed event-planning ideas.

 

Con

I need a bigger house to throw these lavish events.

Will I return to it

Yes.

 

Bookmarked anything?

Yes. Chocolate tart with pine nut crust (page 116)

 

Quirky note

This book reminds me of my own first book
‘A Dozen Ways to Celebrate: Twelve Decadent Indian Feasts for the Culinary Indulgent’ (2014). 
My book offers complete menus for 12 of our elaborate Indian-event themed dinner parties from Diwali, and game-night, to a Sunday feast with family.

Do you have a copy?

 

Disclaimer

Received book from publisher in exchange for review.

 

Sunday Suppers: Simple, Delicious Menus for Family Gatherings

Cynthia Graubart

Southern Living, November 2017

 

Why I requested this book

Cynthia is a James-Beard award winning talented author with a long history of writing for Southern Living itself. Who would not want her latest book?

 

Pros

I love the layout, it is relatively simple and easy to process. There is a slightly ‘old-book’ feel to it, the pages are not crisp white but a pale egg-shell, a color I call ‘off-white’, and the overall color scheme is good. It helps soften the overall look of the book. There are plenty of throw-it-together recipes and some more involved ones. The recipes look easy to accomplish, for most part. Some I will cook, others – I can’t, because of our family diet. I will be leafing through it for all sorts of inspiration.

 

Con

I was disappointed that some recipes required readers to count down the 7-8 ingredients that they needed to mix – it is a stylistic thing – I like knowing what all I am doing beforehand. In one instance, a Crostini recipe listed the preparation of the crostini after it gave the method to assemble the dish itself. A little backwards, but it may be just me. There was a lot of white space and some recipes could have used the extra words. I would also have personally liked to see the other authors that SL has chosen to include listed separately, on their own – it breaks the flow of the book.

 

Will I return to it

Yes.

 

Bookmarked anything?

Yes. Fennel and Potato Gratin (page 48).

 

Quirky note

This Fennel and Potato Gratin reminds me of a gluten-free version of Mac and Cheese, with vegetables! I love finding new ways to use fennel bulbs and this would be a good one to make. Mild and flavorful. It may grace our Thanksgiving table this year.

 

Disclaimer

Received book from publisher in exchange for review.

 

The Modern Jewish Table: 100 Kosher Recipes from around the Globe

Tracy Fine and Georgie Tarn

Skyhorse Publishing, August 2017

 

Why I requested this book

I wanted to get an overview of Jewish dishes, especially if they had any from India.

 

Pros

Gives a broad, generalized overview of Jewish cooking, modern twist, generally light-hearted language.

 

Con

I am not a fan of clichés and comparisons – and this book is filled with them. It is a personal preference and not a reflection on the style of the authors. They do compare it in 'voice' to a mash-up of two popular television shows. Also, I was disappointed that they did not have an Indian inspired dish – given that there is a large Jewish population in India.

 

Will I return to it

Not sure.

 

Bookmarked anything?

Yes. Italian Almond & Lemon Polenta Cake (page 157). It seems easy enough and may make a good distraction from white flour based cakes.

 

Update: I made this cake. It felt like it had a lot more butter and sugar to my taste (1 cup each butter and sugar, one cup almond flour, three eggs and a healthy serving of polenta). The cake was quite dense because of the ingredients - nearly flourless and sadly, even though I had generously greased a non-stick pan, it stuck and burnt. My mother who is visiting at this time, and has an old-fashioned fondness for sweeter cakes liked it enough to go for seconds, but I need to wash it down with a cup of unsweetened Earl Grey!

 

Disclaimer

Received book from publisher in exchange for review.

 

Quirky note

The PR letter had no layout itself, there was a repetition of addresses and lots of wasted white space. Although the PR contact appear to be nice, but their letters could be sharper.

 

BEST OF BRIDGE SUNDAY SUPPERS: Recipes for Family & Friends

Julie Van Rosendaal (Calgary), Elizabeth Chorney-Booth (Calgary), Sue Duncan (BC) 

 

Why I requested this book

I wanted to get new inspiration for Sunday suppers.

 

Pros

Not found them, yet.

 

Con

I could say many things, and sadly, most would be unflattering. To be most objective, I am having trouble reading the all-caps text of the book (yes, it is all caps, and a bad font at that). I am not able to process any information past the full-page layout, 70’s color scheme on the photography and the lack luster food styling. I think the book could be designed a lot better. I feel terrible for the trio of authors who put in a lot of work to come up with the recipes.

 

Will I return to it

No.

 

Bookmarked anything?

Not yet.

 

Disclaimer

Received book from publisher in exchange for review.

Start Where You Are: Note Cards

Meera Patel

 

Why I requested this

I am always looking for unique cards to send. These appeared beautiful!

 

Pros

Pretty and colorful watercolors, with deep inspirational messages.

 

Con

The messages are more sombre than I expected them to be, and I am having trouble sending them to anyone for the fear that they may find it too 'preachy' from me. It may be suitable for someone who is wiser than I am :)

 

Will I return to it

Yes.

 

Disclaimer

Received from Blogging for Books in exchange for review.

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AUTHOR

Nandita Godbole

Once a botanist & landscape architect. Now a personal chef & author, an artist, graphic designer, blogger & closeted poet. Loves freshly brewed chai, the crisp salty ocean breeze, watching monsoon rains & walking barefoot through cold mountain streams. Believes in the strength, positivity of the human spirit. Is spiritual but not a fanatic. Mom of one. Two, if she counts her husband.

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