How to buy a cookbook right: 11 signs that give away the most mediocre titles
The cookbook market doesn't seem to have an end in sight. As much as the publishing industry stagnates in our country, nor the rise of the internet, blogs, apps and social networks prevent more new bookstores from being launched each year that swell the gastronomic section of bookstores.
They attract with their succulent covers and photos, seduce with eye-catching headlines and the promise of foolproof recipes. They have become a wild card jpgt, they look great on the shelf and acquiring them is almost an addiction for those of us who are passionate about gastronomy. However, it is not gold everything that shines; many mediocre cookbooks are doomed to gather dust at home. How to distinguish those that are worthwhile?
The catalog of cookery and gastronomy books is, obviously, vast and vast, with many different categories that should be judged differently. A treatise on a specific aspect of the history of food is not the same as a basic cookie recipe book. But, leaving aside the more specific works, there are certain clues that will guide us when choosing a good or bad cookbook.
What value does it really bring?
It is the first question that any buyer-reader should ask, not only in the gastronomic field. What am I looking for in a book? What value will it bring me? Am I interested in adding the umpteenth rice cookbook to my library? Do I need another book to teach me the basics of baking? Does an encyclopedia on the wok give me something?
And if the subject interests us, it is advisable to review the index and the first pages. The title and cover can be misleading; for example, if we are very new to the kitchen and a volume of "basic recipes" is actually aimed at people with a certain background, or vice versa. We may want to delve into the basics of bread, but that good-looking book is extremely basic.
Key points to recognize a bad cookbook
Well let's have an approximate idea of the subject that interests us, well let's go random and free hunting, we can look at the following signs to avoid disappointment, also in order to make a jpgt.
Do the author or authors appear well highlighted? Do you give them a name, a face and a short career or personal biography? Is your professional experience, relationship with the kitchen or any previous work detailed? If not, a bad sign.
There are exceptions, but a book that only compiles recipes with no known author gives us less confidence in terms of their reliability. We do not know where they came from, or if they have been retouched on the fly, perhaps they have never even been tested in practice. It can also happen with well signed books, but the risk is lower. And if an author fails us, we will be on notice next time.
In books originally written in other languages, their translation plays a key role. The ideal would be to know well the good translators specialized in cooking and gastronomy, and who could enjoy the recognition and prestige they deserve as professionals.
Cooking is a very specific field that requires mastering certain vocabulary and specific techniques. There are many "false friends" in culinary terminology that, in bad translations caused -in many cases- by editorial pressure, can lead the reader to failure when he starts cooking.
A poorly translated recipe can end in culinary disaster
Mistranslated or misplaced strange ingredients, confusing steps, unknown utensils, improperly adapted quantities or temperatures ... It is difficult to recognize a bad translation at first, but sometimes it is quickly identified by skimming a few recipes. If the phrases sound unnatural and strange or strange ingredients are mentioned, watch out.
A simple example would be the translation of brown butter for, literally, “brown butter”, a typical mistake of those who do not know what the term is exactly. Or confuse the lobster American with our lobster -which would actually be a lobster-, etc.
Bad or no adaptation of the units of measurement
Unfortunately, the Anglo-Saxon world insists on keeping confusing units of measurement in the kitchen, such as inches and ounces. And we already know that in the United States and other countries they continue to use volume as a measure also for dry ingredients, they are that system of cups cups so unreliable - they are not always the exact same size.
If a book is published to be sold in Spain, it should be adapted to our country. Degrees centigrade, international metric system and measurements by weight for solid ingredients, is the minimum we can demand as readers. When a publisher fails in this, it shows lack of interest, unconsciousness or a rush to get the book out, saving costs.
Suspicious photographs: no author, no personality, unrelated to the recipe or too familiar
We know that food enters through the eyes and the visual aspect is more important than ever in mass society. To attract attention, you have to stand out with a striking image, and in the gastronomic world, photography seems to be everything.
The triumph - sick obsession? - for capturing our food and for following those who share the most beautiful and attractive photos show that a picture is worth a thousand words. But do we want a useful book with good recipes, or a photo album?
In an ideal world we would have books with texts as valuable as their accompanying seductive images, but this is not always the case. There are many cookbooks that use and reuse photographs from image banks to, supposedly, illustrate the recipes, even if they do not correspond completely.
It is necessary to suspect if the authorship of the photos is almost hidden or just an enigmatic reference with acronyms is made, worse if a database or a separate company is mentioned. Good photography professionals are also authors whose name deserves to be highlighted, and in the best cases they appear alongside the author of the texts, when they are not the same.
An experienced eye will know how to recognize those photos suspicious of having already appeared in countless publications. It is also easy to identify images that do not correspond to the accompanying recipe, due to missing ingredients or simply because the dish is different.
It is a very typical resource that is used especially in "alternative" or more "healthy" recipes: a supposed recipe for vegan light sponge cake accompanied by a photograph that has little "light", or add ingredients that are not mentioned in the preparation.
Many attractive photos hide dishonest professional tricks with the kitchen
If the photos do not follow current trends, it could be a good clue. Although they are not as beautiful as others, the value may lie in the authenticity of the dish and its correspondence with reality. The most spectacular photos tend to come from studios where professional tricks are used to make the food look good, but it will be inedible.
Do we want an unreal fantasy image, with which to recreate the view and dream of worlds of glitter? Or do we prefer a photo that shows us what the cooked dish looks like, in a normal kitchen, waiting to be enjoyed as a family? Nice photographs, yes, but be honest.
Photographs eat text
A complement to the previous point is the other example that identifies very colorful but poor books. Whole or double pages of succulent images that try to hide texts of negligible quality or content of little value.
In this sense, we must vindicate cookbooks without photographs. Today they seem doomed to oblivion, but there are little gems that, even without images - photos or illustrations - hide fantastic texts with recipes and other content much more interesting than so many bland cookbooks.
These courageous books are worth a moment of attention to see what their pages have to offer. Sometimes it is even positive not to have a photo to accompany the recipe, as it eliminates the pressure of having to adjust to a utopian idea of the dish. And it gives us more freedom in the kitchen.
Lack of bonus content
Even the simplest recipe needs some introduction or annotations in the margin. Sometimes they can be even more useful than the preparation itself, as they can give us new ideas about dishes that we already thought we knew well enough.
A short comment on the origin or history of the recipe, tips to consider before starting, a list of necessary useful utensils, clarifications on ingredients, conservation and tasting suggestions, ideas to vary or substitute ingredients, etc.
The extra content enriches and completes the books, providing much more than a series of recipes that otherwise might never attract our attention.
What is the motivation of the book? What does the author want with his publication? What is the common thread or its objectives? What is the background or source of inspiration?
When a book answers these questions, the content is usually much more interesting because it is not a mere accumulation of recipes without rhyme or reason. The lack of context and motivations produces impersonal cookbooks, detached from a reality with which the reader can connect.
The stories behind a plate can be more valuable than the recipe
Discover the stories behind the dishes, why a recipe is like this or how it was arrived at, what it means for the author or what it can contribute to us, how to fit it into our daily life, what can we expect from it ... even though It is not a work linked 100% to the experiences of a specific author, the lack of personality of the cookbooks usually condemns them to oblivion.
Confusing and insufficient wording or prompts
Although long texts and recipes with endless paragraphs can backfire, lean and overly simplistic recipes are not always a good idea either.
In the kitchen, and more so in the home, there are few universal laws or exact measurements. Not everyone has the same appliances, nor do we cook with the same room temperature or humidity, nor do we use the same ingredients or utensils. For this reason, indications such as "bake 20 minutes" or "brown the spices" can be too short.
Additional comments that give us clues about how the pan should smell, or what texture we have to look for in the stew, or what the cake should look like before taking it out, will guide us better during cooking. If these indications are omitted, this is another bad sign against the book.
You have to be careful with books that want to attract attention through jpgts that are often of poor quality. Pastry molds, spatulas or rods, decorative accessories or small pots or cups are typical examples.
Sometimes specialized bookstores offer sets of books and accessories that are more attractive, but publishers do not usually go for good quality culinary supplies. When the book is of the generic type without a recognized author, the jpgts are usually worse.
If you also do not know the manufacturer or the brand of the object itself, you have to be three times suspicious. And if the jpgt is too good to be true, then perhaps the book is not worth it. When the "jpgt" above is an excuse to increase the price, worse.
Taking care of editing, design and layout
In the networks it is easy to see blogs and pages with very similar designs, and it is not important - especially when they are made for the love of art. But a book needs to stand out a bit to distinguish itself from others in its design as well.
Not all the works have to be groundbreaking in the layout, but a different, original visual personality is appreciated, according to the content. For example, if it is a traditional cookbook, you can convey that old recipe notebook feel through the design, colors, or font.
This, of course, requires an extra investment and the work of art and design professionals that it is not always interesting to do. As long as it is not a resource to make up bad content, it is a sign that interest - and means - has been taken to offer a product of careful quality.
The quality of the paper and the binding
Content aside, let's never forget taking care of the most physical aspect of a book. In the middle of the digital age, lovers of traditional paper want to continue to enjoy well-cared works, with covers that do not spoil at the first change and a paper that is a pleasure to handle.
Sheets that are too thin or delicate, prints with discolored or poorly centered ink, and weak bindings demonstrate a lack of interest in the publisher to offer a good quality product. In theory, cookbooks are going to be used frequently for many years, and they need to be sturdy and pleasant to the touch.
There is also little point in books that are uncomfortable to open and leaf through, that are too heavy, or that are difficult to read. If the volume is not easily manipulated, we will be more lazy to return to it in the future and it will be doomed to accumulate dust on the shelf. As beautiful as it is.
Photos | iStock - Unsplash - Pixabay - Didriks - foam - Meal Makeovers Moms
Share How to buy a cookbook right: 11 signs that give away the most mediocre titles
- Recipe books
- Tips and recommendations