It’s still early to predict which food books will be most popular this holiday season—Chang? Keller? Lee Bros.? Beranbaum?—but one contender doesn’t have a big name behind it. Yet with its gold-edged pages, elegant black jacket and ribbon bookmark, The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst could be in the running. It is the fifth edition of a popular culinary reference book that was first released 19 years ago and has sold more than a million copies since then. It’s an obvious choice for holiday gift-giving, with 6,700-plus entries and glossaries on cocktails and pasta. And at $29.99, it’s priced lower than any of the new books by the authors mentioned above, in a rare example of the “deluxe” book also being the wallet-friendly book.
The book’s publisher, Barron’s, had been mulling over the idea of an enhanced edition for the last couple of years, said editor Pat Hunter. The most recent edition, The New Food Lover’s Companion, came out in 2007 as an 830-page, $16.99 paperback. Like previous versions of the book (one of which landed on the James Beard Foundation’s list of 20 books every cook should own), it was praised by the culinary community as a handy must-have for the kitchen.
This edition—the first hardcover version ever—is “very sophisticated and sleek, a true gift book,” said Hunter. It is a larger trim size than earlier editions, and has new illustrations and content, as well as expanded glossaries, so, for instance, readers don’t have to search under “B” to find information on Braeburn apples—they can look in the apple glossary and find that variety, as well as 28 others. There is also more coverage of Latin American and Asian ingredients. Co-author Sharon Tyler Herbst died in 2007, although she did contribute to the new edition.
Alex Holtz, v-p of sales and marketing, said Barron’s will sell the book to some accounts that did not carry earlier editions. He mentioned “high-end accounts” and department stores but did not specify store names. Holtz would not release first printing numbers but said it is “significant.”
In a market where three star Michelin chef Heston Blumenthal is offering a reduced-price version of his $250 whopper from last year, The Big Fat Duck Cookbook, with the $50 Fat Duck Cookbook, Barron’s deluxe-but-not-too-deluxe approach might just resonate with holiday shoppers.
This story originally appeared in Cooking the Books, PW's e-newsletter for cookbooks.