What makes a good cookbook?

October 16th, 2006


Here I give you my personal opinion, not as a food critique, an author or a book reviewer, as I am none of these, but simply as a reader who likes to cook.

  1. Good photography
    Well yes, there are good cookbooks out there with no photography. ‘How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food (Cookery)‘ by Nigella Lawson is one of them. But if a cookbook has no photography it needs something very good to make it strong and ‘How To Eat’ certainly has that – a celebrity name attached as well as quality, bulging, content. But I think this is an exception to the rule.

    The all important cover and the glossy photograps inside catch your eye and draw you in. I want to see the food being described; I want my taste buds enticed through sight. And when I’m creating a dish I want to know how the end result should look.

  2. Clear instructions
    If it’s long-winded, doesn’t make sense the first time or is full of waffle I’ll be inclined to throw it to one side. I want instructions that I can easily follow when I’m in my kitchen with the book on the surface getting splattered with flour. I don’t want my pastry burning as I stir the risotto that I can’t leave all the while attempting to figure out what exactly it is that the author wants me to do with the roux.
  3. Personality
    My books become like old friends and I want friends with personality. I want to get to know the author a little and I want to be able to relate to them.

    When I pick up a cook book I want a little of what the author can give me, whether it’s a bit of their lifestyle, their skill with pastry, a dream of being supremely domesticated or the perfect soufflé.

    The book should engage me, the reading style should be attractive and I should be able to lose myself in the pages.

  4. A theme
    What distinguishes this book from the rest? What makes it flow? The theme could be anything from a certain cuisine, country, or produce, a type of cooking or a particular style of writing. But there should be something running through the book that ties it all together. Otherwise it’s just another collection of recipes.
  5. Recipes that work
    Well, naturally.
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