I was of the opinion that cookbooks followed the Joy of Cooking/Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking model layout: sober, informative, and with no pictures past the occasional pen drawing every fifty pages or so. And then came Jamie Oliver.
He was the first among the celebrity chef’s that I came across with a high gloss book. And he was cool.
For those of you who missed the early Jamie Oliver, he was a revelation. His early books gave measurements but there were a lot of “approximately” type qualifiers peppered in with the sureties. His subsequent t.v. (television) shows expanded on a free-form-to-your-own-taste way of cooking that substituted cups for handfuls and tablespoons for a few glugs.
It was fun and delicious and simple. Unfortunately he got the organic orthodoxy bug, despaired over the fare his fellow men were indulging in and became, as my wife now refers to him, “Food Jesus.” He’s naught but sanctimony now. Put down that hot dog sinner.
I just assumed that the Jamie style celebrity book came along and shoved the old three recipes to a column, two columns to a page format, to the dustbin of history in one great cataclysmic eruption of publisher groupthink.
Apparently not. I have found evidence of transition.
I just received a copy of Italian Regional Cooking by Ada Boni. She brings a version of the fantastic photography of the later celebrity chef books with the frankness of the old style cookbooks.
Here is the missing link.
Ten or so pages of regional gushing with photos followed by a matter of fact black and white list of recipes is repeated throughout until all the regions of Italy are covered. In the end she gives you over 600 recipes. The book can be had for $29.00.
The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking can be purchased for $21.00. Per Amazon there are over 500 recipes.
Jamie Oliver’s first book cost $34.95. There are, by a rough count, 130 recipes, but loads of pretty pictures.
Obviously the market values the pretty pictures. We made a turn as a buying public between Marcella Hazan and Oliver.
There have always been coffee table “recipe” books and no doubt some of them have been very good. But along the way we have decided that good recipes can’t stand alone.
We need visualization.
That makes me very worried. I post recipes all the time and I’m a horrible photographer.