Judging from the crop of cookbooks being published this spring, the mainstreaming of eating locally and organically grown fresh food is almost complete. Cookbook publishers are hurrying to offer recipes and shopping guides for the large audience that gravitated to successful nonfiction works such as Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma (currently second and third on the Amazon bestseller list for cooking, food, and wine) and Mark Bittman's Food Matters.Some of the names behind these titles are no surprise. That Alice Waters would write In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart or that Maria Rodale has produced an Organic Manifesto will shock no one. After all, Waters has dedicated her career to spreading the word about eating locally, and Rodale is a descendant of the first family of organics. Likewise, Deborah Madison's latest, Seasonal Fruit Desserts, is a logical extension of her Local Flavors, about cooking with food from farmer's markets, adding to her backlist of vegetarian titles.
Ditto for Anna Getty's Easy Green Organic: Cook Well—Eat Well—Live Well. Getty is an environmentalist and has also worked as a kundalini yoga teacher and holistic lifestyle expert, according to the book's flap copy. “Her years of dedication to conscious living help her make going green accessible and friendly, focusing on small steps rather than major changes,” says Lorena Jones, Chronicle's publishing director, food and drink.
The list goes on: Edible by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian pushes local food; so does actual farmer Myra Goodman in The Earthbound Cookbook: Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet. In The Conscious Kitchen: The New Way to Shop for and Cook Food—to Protect the Earth, Improve Your Health and Eat Deliciously, Alexandra Zissu offers a resource for those trying to get off of conventionally grown food, and Leda Meredith offers advice for aspiring farmer's market shoppers in The Locavore's Handbook: The Busy Person's Guide to Eating Local on a Budget.
Now none other than Food Network star Emeril Lagasse, who once published a recipe for Frito pie (Every Day's a Party, Morrow, 1999), has clambered onto the bandwagon with Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh. And the utter mainstreaming of whole foods can be read in the publication of books on grains and vegetarian cooking from no less an arbiter of the American middle ground than Good Housekeeping magazine.
Carlo DeVito, v-p, editorial director of Sterling Publishing, says, “Cooking, from gourmet to down-home cooking for families, is irrevocably moving more and more toward what Wendell Berry has been talking about for years—getting closer to your food source and learning where your food comes from.”
As Da Capo publicist Lara Simpson puts it, “People can't have a casual relationship with food anymore. These days, everyone is looking for food with benefits. It still has to taste good, but now it should also reduce your chance of diabetes, fight pain from arthritis, improve your digestive tract, and help you lose weight—not to mention be eco-friendly.”
“Consumers are more health conscious than ever before, and healthy ingredients are now available in more and more grocery stores across the country,” says Natalie Kaire, senior editor at Stewart, Tabori & Chang. A recipe for rye pretzels in the New York Times Magazine in February was adapted from that house's March title Good to the Grain.
Ten Speed Press director of publicity Debra Matsumoto agrees: “It's now understood that consumers should be reaching for organic, local, and the freshest choices possible when cooking.”
Kirsty Melville, president and publisher of Andrews McMeel's book division, says, “People today are interested in eating sustainable, locally sourced food, whether it's fruit, vegetables, or meat.” Hence the house's June title Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers.
“People have become more willing to roll up their sleeves and take time to create labor-intensive, rewarding food,” says Perigee editor Maria Gagliano. Perigee will publish The Lost Art of Real Cooking in July. Modern-day homesteaders are also expressing renewed interest in canning and preserving, leading to titles such as Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton, due from Storey Publishing in June.
But is this truly a movement? Or is it a mere trend, soon to be tossed in the bin when the next hot thing takes its place?
Wiley v-p and publisher Natalie Chapman says, “When supermarket chains and big box stores have organic and locally grown sections in the food department, you know that this is not a transitory fad.”
And Food Matters author Mark Bittman, currently putting the finishing touches on The Food Matters Cookbook for fall publication by Simon & Schuster, says, “It has to be real. I don't think we have any choice. The health impact is really catching up with us. Does that mean things are going to happen quickly? No, of course it doesn't mean that. But are they going to move in the right direction? Yes.”
Ironically, the sole other large-scale trend detectable in cookbooks this fall is the cooking of meat. While there is some crossover between the locavore movement and meat eating—namely by those seeking out locally raised meat—the majority of meat books provide a macho counterpoint to the books listed above.
Cookbooks for carnivores include Ribs, Chops, Steaks & Wings by Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe; Steak with Friends: At Home, with Rick Tramonto by Rick Tramonto; and The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook by Ardie A. Davis, Paul Kirk, and Carolyn Wells, in celebration of the titular group's 25th anniversary. Prolific author Steven Raichlen goes on an around-the-world tour of grilling in Planet Barbecue, the result of five years of research that took him from Texas to Cambodia to Japan (see “Why I Write,” p. 24). In December, Wiley will publish The Art of Charcuterie, an approximately 400-page $65 tome on curing and smoking, sausages, terrines, and more with the imprimatur of the Culinary Institute of America. Even poultry is getting into the game, with Chicken and Other Fowl by John Torode, which covers feathered fare from chicken to game birds and gives carving instructions, too.
With the same authority he's already brought to vegetables and fish, five-time James Beard Award—winner James Peterson has penned the comprehensive Meat for Ten Speed. And Bob Miller, publisher of HarperStudio says, “With BBQ 25, Adam Perry Lang has done a 180-degree turn from the rich complexity of his first book, Serious Barbecue, to create the simplest and most useful barbecue book possible while still giving home chefs the tricks of his award-winning trade, in a wipe-clean board book presentation of the 25 classic recipes everyone truly needs.”
A Double-Edged Economic Sword
No category of books is exempt from the poor economy. Take small publisher Quail Ridge Press in Brandon, Miss. With its Best of the Best State Cookbook series, it has covered all 50 states, starting with its Best of the Best from Mississippi Cookbook: Selected Recipes from Mississippi's Favorite Cookbooks, which debuted in 1984. More than 3.5 million copies of the books in the series have sold, and few of the house's titles ever go out-of-print. Yet last year, sales dropped 13%, the first time the small publisher had seen a year-to-year decrease.
However, several publishers note that the poor economy also presents an opportunity. “More people are choosing to cook and eat at home because of economic constraint,” explains Interlink publicity director Moira Megargee. “International foods have historically offered some of the healthiest options out there with emphasis on fresh, local vegetables, fruits, and grains, and using meat as a complement rather than as the main course.” Five of the house's top international titles, including Global Vegetarian Cooking, will be reissued this spring.
Many publishers are betting that solid general information about cooking will also appeal to strapped consumers who want to eat in more often. In May, Grand Central will publish 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School by Louis Eguaras; Trafalgar Square/IPG will distribute the BBC Books title Just Five Ingredients: Over 120 Fast, Fuss-Free Recipes by Ainsley Harriott. Ballantine Books editor-at-large Pamela Cannon says, “Very few of us want to be buying expensive equipment to create sous vide food or complicated foams.” Ballantine is banking on J.M. Hirsch's High Flavor, Low Labor: Real Food for Real Life proving one of those titles.
“During economic hard times, the first expense consumers cut is eating out,” says Karma Bennett, publicist at Ulysses Press, which has an upcoming $14.95 paperback, CopyKat.com's Dining Out at Home Cookbook by Stephanie Manley, that gives instructions for whipping up such restaurant dishes as Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onion and Olive Garden's chicken alfredo at home.
Kyle Books publisher Anja Schmidt sees another side to the economic picture: “With the closing down and laying off of so many cookbook and lifestyle divisions and editors, there's been a paring-down of the influx of cookbooks that have recently drenched the market. This means that we're all being much more conservative about what we're putting out in the marketplace. I have a distinct advantage of global publishing—which means that a cookbook that may seem midlist (and hence impossible to buy) at a large house is possible for us to publish successfully. We publish simultaneously in the U.S. and the U.K., and reprint often for foreign translations, which makes smaller print runs possible.”
Can I Get You Anything Else?
Of course, despite the emergence of certain trends, like local ingredients or meat, publishers continue to rely on their mainstays, namely cookbooks by celebrity chefs and collections of fast and easy recipes. Ecco will publish Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking by celebrity chef Mario Batali in April, and that same month Simon & Schuster will offer Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners, with a chapter devoted to main dishes with only five ingredients.
Success almost always begets a second book. In April, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish Karen Tack and Alan Richardson's What's New, Cupcake? a follow-up to the New York Times bestseller Hello, Cupcake! that's scheduled to be featured on The Today Show. Phaidon Press is following up its editors' The Silver Spoon with Recipes from an Italian Summer. That makes sense since, as Workman executive editor Suzanne Rafer notes, “New books from authors with strong fan bases are the backbone of the cookbook market. They elicit current interest and also backlist well.”
And no matter how narrow a culinary niche, it seems a cookbook will arrive to fill it, whether the subject is wine trivia (Wine Lover's Devotional: 365 Days of Information, Advice and Lore for the Ardent Aficionado), sculpting cunning pandas and zebras from food (Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches), or the smoky allure of the wood-burning oven (The Art of Wood-Fired Cooking).
Books on recipes for controlling specific diseases are also perennial strong sellers. In May, Harlequin has Eat & Beat Diabetes with Picture Perfect Weight Loss, which features recipes from a chef with diabetes and his colleagues, including Lidia Bastianich and Eric Ripert. Harlequin executive editor Deborah Brody says the title is about more than simply handling diabetes and in a larger sense is “for anyone who wants to lose weight and be healthy—key factors in preventing diabetes—and who wants to eat well while doing so.”
As Clarkson Potter v-p and editorial director Doris Cooper puts it, “At the end of the day, probably what makes a great cookbook is the same thing that makes a great meal or dinner party: authenticity of food and voice, likability and passion; the kinds of things that make an editor or sales person never want to stop talking about the book.”
Forthcoming Books Discussed in This Feature
In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart by Alice Waters. Clarkson Potter, $28, Apr. ISBN 978-0-307-33680-4.
Organic Manifesto by Maria Rodale. Rodale, $23.99, Apr. ISBN 978-1-60529-485-8.
Seasonal Fruit Desserts by Deborah Madison. Broadway, $32.50, Apr. ISBN 978-0-7679-1629-5.
Anna Getty's Easy Green Organic: Cook Well, Eat Well, Live Well by Anna Getty. Chronicle, $24.95 paper, Apr. ISBN 978-0-8118-6668-2.
Edible by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian. Wiley, $25.95, May. ISBN 978-0-470-37108-4.
The Earthbound Cookbook: Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet by Myra Goodman. Workman, $35, Apr. ISBN 978-0-7611-5920-9.
The Conscious Kitchen: The New Way to Shop for and Cook Food—to Protect the Earth, Improve Your Health and Eat Deliciously by Alexandra Zissu. Clarkson Potter, $13.99 paper, Mar. ISBN 978-0-307-46140-7.
The Locavore's Handbook: The Busy Person's Guide to Eating Local on a Budget by Leda Meredith. Globe Pequot/Three Forks, $16.95, Apr. ISBN 978-0-7627-5548-6.
Farm to Fork: Cooking Local, Cooking Fresh by Emeril Lagasse. HarperStudio, $24.99, June. ISBN 978-0-06-174295-8.
Good Housekeeping Family Vegetarian Cooking by Pamela Hoenig Kingsley. Sterling/Hearst, $24.95, June. ISBN 978-1-58816-792-7.
Good Housekeeping Grains! by the editors of Good Housekeeping. Sterling/Hearst, $14.95, Feb. ISBN 978-1-58816-728-6.
Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95, Mar. ISBN 978-1-58479-830-9.
Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers by Sur La Table with Janet Fletcher. Andrews McMeel, $35, June. ISBN 978-0-7407-9144-4.
The Lost Art of Real Cooking by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger. Perigee, $18.95, July. ISBN 978-0-399-53588-8.
Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Storey Publishing, $19.95, June. ISBN 978-1-60342-546-9.
The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman. Simon & Schuster, $TBA, fall 2010. ISBN TBA.
Ribs, Chops, Steaks & Wings by Ray “Dr. BBQ” Lampe. Chronicle, $19.95, June. ISBN 978-0-8118-6826-6.
Steak with Friends: At Home, with Rick Tramonto by Rick Tramonto with Mary Goodbody. Andrews McMeel, $35, Apr. ISBN 978-0-7407-9257-1.
The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook by Ardie A. Davis, Paul Kirk, and Carolyn Wells. Andrews McMeel, $24.99, Apr. ISBN 978-0-7407-9010-2.
Planet Barbecue by Steven Raichlen. Workman, $22.95 paper, May. ISBN 978-0-7611-4801-2.
The Art of Charcuterie by John Kowalski and the Culinary Institute of America. Wiley, Dec., $65. ISBN 978-0-470-19741-7.
Chicken and Other Fowl by John Torode. Firefly, $24.95 paper, Mar. ISBN 978-1-55407-6123.
Meat by James Peterson. Ten Speed, $35, Oct. ISBN 978-1-58008-992-0.
BBQ 25 by Adam Perry Lang. HarperStudio, $19.99, May. ISBN 978-0-06-199023-6.
Global Vegetarian Cooking by Troth Wells. Interlink, $19.95 paper, Mar. ISBN 978-1-56656-382-6.
101 Things I Learned in Culinary School by Louis Eguaras with Matthew Frederick. Grand Central, $15 paper, May. ISBN 978-0-446-55030-7.
Just Five Ingredients: Over 120 Fast, Fuss-Free Recipes by Ainsley Harriott. BBC Books (Trafalgar Square/IPG, dist.), $19.95 paper, May. ISBN 978-0-563-53924-7.
High Flavor, Low Labor: Real Food for Real Life by J.M. Hirsch. Ballantine, $24 paper, Aug. ISBN 978-0-345-52229-0.
CopyKat.com's Dining Out at Home Cookbook by Stephanie Manley. Ulysses Press, $14.95, Apr. ISBN 978-1-56975-782-6.
Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking by Mario Batali. Ecco, $29.99, Apr. ISBN 978-0-06-192432-3.
Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners by Sara Moulton. Simon & Schuster, $35, Apr. ISBN 978-1-4391-0251-0.
What's New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.95 paper, Apr. ISBN 978-0-547-24181-4.
Recipes from an Italian Summer by the editors of Phaidon Press. Phaidon Press, $39.95, May. ISBN 978-0-7148-5773-2.
Wine Lover's Devotional: 365 Days of Information, Advice and Lore for the Ardent Aficionado by Jonathan Alsop. Quarry Books, $19.99, July. ISBN 978-1-59253-616-0.
Yum-Yum Bento Box: Fresh Recipes for Adorable Lunches by Crystal Watanabe and Maki Ogawa. Quirk Books, $16.95, July. ISBN 978-1-59474-447-1.
The Art of Wood-Fired Cooking by Andrea Mugnaini. Gibbs Smith, $19.99, May. ISBN 978-1-4236-0653-6.
Eat & Beat Diabetes with Picture Perfect Weight Loss by Howard M. Shapiro and Franklin Becker. Harlequin, $19.95 paper, May. ISBN 978-0-373-89218-1.
Bake!: Essential Techniques for Perfect Baking by Nick Malgieri. Kyle Books, $TBA, Sept. ISBN 978-1-906868-23-9.
Italian Home Cooking: 125 Recipes to Comfort Your Soul by Julia della Croce. Kyle Books, $TBA, fall 2010. ISBN TBA.
A Bird in the Oven and Then Some: Inspired Roast Chicken Recipes, Plus Savory Roast Chicken Salads, Soups, Pastas and More by Mindy Fox. Kyle Books, $TBA, fall 2010. ISBN TBA.
Allergy-Free Desserts by Elizabeth Gordon. Wiley, $22.95, Feb. ISBN 978-0-470-44846-5.
The Gloriously Gluten-Free Cookbook by Vanessa Maltin. Wiley, $19.95, Apr. ISBN 978-0-470-44088-9.
Free for All Cooking: 125 Easy Gluten-Free, Allergen-Free Recipes the Whole Family Can Enjoy by Jules Dowler. Da Capo, $18.95 paper, July. ISBN 978-0-7382-1395-8
The Divvies Bakery Cookbook by Lori Sandler. St. Martin's Press, $25.99, Aug. ISBN 978-0-312-60528-5.