My pledge to you (and the business of cookbooks)

The ‘oh, is that the time! I didn’t expect you so soon’ cover.

After bringing up the irritating topic of Tania Ramsay earlier this week, I’ve been dwelling on the formulaic cookbooks that get shoved onto the bookstore shelves each week. Be prepared for an onslaught – Christmas is coming.

And I’m caught up in it. I’ve got a long delay on my reprint of Vegie Smugglers 1 (sorry, folks, it’s almost sold out and there’s going to be a big gap in availability) since the Hong Kong printing presses are going crazy to produce title after title of celebrity/chef after interchangeable celebrity/chef in time for the December rush.

Does it bug you, the way they’re produced to such a regular standard? I’m starting to wonder if the large publishers don’t think we’re all a bit dim-witted and don’t notice that book after book is basically the same.

The covers are my most favourite part. Especially the ‘oh! I didn’t notice there was a photographer, lighting, make up person, stylist & art director in the room!’ shot. You know, like we’ve just walked in on them casually whipping up a feast for their fabulous friends or well behaved children. If they’re super famous, or someone we trust, then we’re allowed to make eye contact. The others will be smiling winningly whilst gazing just slightly over our shoulders. Apparently we like the men to be looking down or to our left, the women are all looking to our right, dreaming off towards a better future (true – design psychology). And of course, the teeth. Don’t get me started on the teeth. When a friend of ours was editing Delicious magazine, we’d dare her to find a shot of Jill Dupleix with her mouth shut. No teeth! Please! Just once! Never happened.

Anyway, I admit to being seduced by these covers myself, the relaxed kitchen settings, the soft focus, the food just moments away.

How many of them do you own? I own stacks of them. I remember reading that the average person makes about 3 recipes from each cookbook before they get bored and head back to the shops and get seduced by some other title. Do you think that’s right? I hope you make more than that from the fabulously different Vegie Smugglers cookbooks!

I really try to make my books about you and your families and not about me at all. Finally after much urging, I did put a tiny photo of myself into the second book. But I felt like a goose.

So here’s my pledge to you about my cookbooks (past, present and future)…
1. Every recipe has been given the seal of approval from my fussy children and I’m confident you’ll be able to cook it and serve it to yours, and
2. You will NEVER see a picture of my teeth or me on the cover of any of my books. Ever.

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15 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jill said,

    It’s very easy to end up with rows & rows of cook books. i now tend to borow cookbooks from the library ! I can browse and enjoy looking and if none of the recipes actually inspire me to cook, it doesn’t matter, I haven’t spent a cent on them and don’t need to find space to store them. Works for me !

    • 2

      wendyblume said,

      Yes, agree. I do that a bit. I’ve sold quite a few books to libraries too. Always good to ask your local library to order a copy of both the vegie smugglers titles. 😉

  2. 3

    Angela said,

    I am a bit of a cook book junkie these days, some of them are beautifully produced, the pictures of the FOOD suck me right in – not so much the celeb chef though. I have to admit, the ones that get used the most widely and repeatedly by me are the Women’s Weekly ones! I’ve got their Slow Cooker, Moroccan, and Classics one on my kitchen table right now and I go back to them every week when I’m planning meals. The food intolerance one is the other favourite, particularly for desserts and kid’s snacks.

    The library rocks! I have borrowed and if I like more than a couple of recipes, then bought the book.

    Will see if our library has yours, good idea!

    • 4

      wendyblume said,

      yep, I never have any problems with the WW recipes. They always work. If they don’t, it’s because i”m doing something wrong. I’ve got an old ‘budget’ one that is fantastic, probably the single book I’ve cooked the most from. My favourite celeb chef book is the Belinda Jeffrey’s 100 favourite recipes. All of it delicious! http://www.belindajeffery.com.au/books.html. I used to cook from that all the time before i had kids.

  3. 5

    Our library has your first book. I borrowed it to see if there were enough recipes for me to want to buy it, and yes! I do! Very much want to buy it. I couldn’t renew it because there was a hold on it for someone else, so that ‘s good, for you that is. I will have to wait a little longer before I make the beetroot brownies.

    I too have found the WW books to be good, the copy of the birthday cake book from when I was little is very tattered, I have done a fair few from the couple of family circle books too. The one exception I have made to celebrity books is Nigella Bites, but maybe she is an exception herself with that book as she is looking down to the left and about to eat something.

    But even having had the Nigella book for a few years, I believe I have already done more recipes from Vegie Smugglers having only had it for 3 weeks. Says something doesn’t it.

  4. 7

    jennyblume said,

    Seeing all those covers together is so funny! Left is often thought of as the logical, analytical side, while the right is considered to be more emotional and creative. Wonder if the photographers and publishers played on that?

  5. 8

    Karen Fewster said,

    Can’t help but mention your superior choice of cover girl on VS2. So much better than those over styled celeb types.

  6. 10

    Sadly I think that stat is probably right. So many recipe books aren’t suitable for our lifestyles.

    Your point about the cover shots is hilarious. I’m off to check out all of mine and see if the theme continues.

  7. 11

    Adam said,

    Ok, so not on the covers of your books, but when will we see you on the telly? 🙂

  8. 12

    susie venkat said,

    VERY funny to see all those women on the covers of their cookbooks looking off to our right; men all to the left or down! WOW
    The uniform (both winter & summer) on the front of your ‘Lunchbox Inspirations’ is the same as ours. My daughter thought she was the model for your Term 3 one!
    Scanning my cookbook shelf I have ‘marie claire’s – good for looking at, not for cooking from; the every reliable WWs; Donna Hay (not often used, but all right) Jamie; couple of Nigellas but the ones I like the best are my “Cooking a commonsense guide”, my (2 x) 4 Ingredients and my (2 x) Frost Bites by Susan Austin (she’s a friend, but I would love all the family-friendly recipes anyway…).

    • 13

      wendyblume said,

      I was facebook chatting with Susan today – she seems great, will check out her recipes.

      You can tell your daughter that I snuck into your house and photographed her for the planners!!

  9. 14

    Lou said,

    I have tried 10 recipes from Vegie Smugglers 1 already! My boys loved the vegie dots last night.

  10. 15

    Kathleen Adamson said,

    The first deconstruction of the modern glossy cookbook I’ve read and I loved it.

    Come to think of it, if I looked away from what I was doing when I was cooking as much as the celebs seem to do on their covers I’d probably cut a finger off. Another theme to the aspirational cover shot I suppose – carefree cooking without losing any digits.


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