The Book Lover's Cookbook
I'm fascinated by cookery books. I adore books, I adore food and cooking, and the combination fills me with the heady giddiness of possibility. It's more than that, though. I love the anecdotes and snippets and stories that go along with the recipes, when they're included. I love to imagine or learn the process of selecting the recipes. Which ones were hacked out at the 11th hour, left languishing on the cutting-room floor? Was there agonising and tooth-gnashing for days over whether lemon scones with grapefruit glaze or white chocolate passionfruit torte deserved the last slot more? Were there bitter fights with editors,
telephones slammed down (or, contemporarily, "end" buttons violently pushed)? Did the author follow each recipe fully one more time before publication, double-checking measurements and instructions? How much weight was gained during the publication of this book? I'm fascinated by it all.
It's interesting enough to read cookbooks from cooks, the tried and true chefs who have proved their culinary genius time and again. They compile recipes, and we understandably buy them and cherish them and dog-ear them and spatter bechamel on them. We trust them, and they've earned that. But the phenomenon I find especially curious is the celebrity cookbook. I'm not referring to those same chefs whose craft has made them famous - I won't argue or question the Jamie Olivers, Nigella Lawsons or Gordon Ramsays of the world. What surprises me is the popularity of cookbooks published by people famous for reasons totally unrelated to cooking.
Some years ago I heard rumor of a cookbook by Fabio Lanzoni, better known simply as "Fabio", the Italian cover model with the mane of wild hair, chest as wide as the horizon and winsome smile. You've seen him leer beguilingly at you from the cover of many a romance novel, I'm sure. Research told me that the cookbook, called "Recipes for Romance" was published by the "I Can't Believe it's Not Butter" company and awarded to 10,000 people who entered a contest. This book is scarce. I set about trying to get my hands on a copy and have thus far been unsuccessful. From the little I’ve learned, the book is small and simple, and contains a few recipes with a mind toward a romantic Valentine's Day dinner. That said, the recipes I've seen from it all state "serves 4". My my, Fabio.
What I wondered was - why? It made me laugh to imagine people looking at this half-naked man in a puffy pirate shirt, with a fan trained on him to make his hair blow, and going “Ooh, bless. I bet he knows his way around a nice Goulash.” Why would people care about Fabio's recipes, just because he's a sex symbol? In some cases, I can understand. When I learned there was a Roald Dahl Cookbook, I knew I would own it one day. But that’s because I’ve read Dahl’s books – I know from his writing that he delighted in good food, and if he took half the care and passion with his cooking that he took with his writing, it would have to be delicious. Dahl also put out two cookbooks to delight any child who has a love of mischief and magic (and which wouldn’t?) – Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes and Roald Dahl's Even More Revolting Recipes. But why is it big news when Gwyneth Paltrow releases yet another cookbook? Sure, she's a fine actor, but does that make her qualified to advise us on ginger-honey glazed carrots? Why would we turn to the people who can afford never to cook for themselves, for advice on cooking for ourselves? Why on Earth would anybody want to own the Cookin’ with Coolio cookbook? Actually... I think I might need to own that one. Never mind.