These days, the old-school cookbook doesn’t have the best rep. In a time before BBC Good Food and NYT Cooking, they might once have filled a kitchen cabinet – covered in grease and flour, scribbled over and full of dog-eared pages denoting a meal made over and over. Today, it’s more likely to be half forgotten, a paperback Christmas present that you promise you’ll get to but that lays, invariably, unopened.
But not always, particularly when it comes to some of the more creative options available. And there is a slew of publishers and creatives breathing ingenuity into foodie concepts. They’ve brought us sizzling stories full of delicious dishes, looked deep into unexpected culinary history, and injected some fun into what can be an intimidating practice. Below are some of our favourites.
The Gourmand’s Egg
The egg. Is there any food stuff that ignites as much passion, horror and delight in breakfast bellies as the humble egg? We don’t think so, and neither does The Gourmand. With its new book The Gourmand’s Egg with Taschen (the first volume in a series of collaborative releases merging of food and art), The Gourmand tackles the culinary history of the egg, “from Dalí’s muse to Hitchcock’s worst fear”, Taschen says.
The text is both a recipe book and a riveting look into the egg’s cultural evolution – did you know they were used by the Romans to dispel evil spirits? The Gourmand's Egg is also beautiful. Bringing together sumptuous still lifes commissioned specifically for the project, as well as artistic entries into the egg hall of fame by Dalí, Basquiat, Hockney and Kahlo. It’s a cooking manual full of spirit.
Better Food For Our Fighting Men
From RVB Books comes an unusual study in food from the archives of the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center near Boston. Matthieu Nicol has collated images that offer insights into the diets of troops in the 1970s and 80s. RVB explains: “Feeding the troops is fraught with logistical, psychological and food safety challenges. Bacteria is an enemy; supply chains are vital [...] Solving this logistical puzzle is like trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole.”
In Better Food For Our Fighting Men, fruit is pureed, your protein is irradiated, bread is tinned, and BiFi meat snacks are in abundance. Though it may not be the best source of inspiration for your next meal, Matthieu and designer Catherine Barluet capture something alluring through the arrangement of these strange, pastel images. Plus, if you are keen to dive into the science of nutrition, there’s no better place to look, as Matthieu dives into the technologies used to create and supply rations on mass as well as the food itself.
The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook
Squishees, Homer’s flying suckling pig, Krusty burgers; there are so many iconic food moments in The Simpsons and the more you dig, the more you find. Dig is exactly what food writer, recipe developer and Simpsons super fan Laurel Randolph did. Going deep into the history of the show, Laurel began creating recipes from dozens of dishes that have appeared on the series, showing fans how to recreate them at home.
A selection of 75 of these recipes can be found in The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook. The book features a foreword by former Simpsons writer and showrunner Bill Oakley, with wonderfully Simpsons-centric illustrations by Priscilla Yuen, photographs by Harper Point and, of course, lots of yellow. We spoke to Laurel about the making of the book back in 2021, when the writer revealed: “It’s definitely a fan cookbook [...] There’s just one audience for this book and that’s okay with me.”
GalleryStudio Yukiko: DoorDash, Secret Menu (Copyright © DoorDash, 2022)
Secret Menu is a free publication that goes behind the scenes “into the diverse Asian restaurant communities” shaping the Los Angeles food scene and culture. It is actually a commercial project, brought to readers by DoorDash, though it boasts beautiful design from Studio Yukiko with production from Mike Teevee. It's also brimming with personal stories from the chefs, businesses and families making the food.
In Secret Menu, you can find articles on the Family Meal: The Staff Ritual of Eating Together, a piece on the sanctity of sushi knives, plus a round up of three Vietnamese restaurants “expand[ing] the city’s palette”. Looking at every element that makes up a restaurant, the magazine functions as an eating guide, critical look into kitchen practices, and mouth-watering amuse-bouche. Plus, there's type inspired by LA signage from strip malls and road-side eateries.
GalleryHato Press: Cooking with Scorsese and Others: The Cookbook (Copyright © Hato Press, 2021)
Cooking with Scorsese and Others: The Cookbook
Food in films has an intangible, elevated quality. You might not remember every single part of Goodfellas for example, but we’re betting you remember Paulie using a razor blade to slice garlic “so thin that it would liquefy in the pan with just a little oil”. One of Hato Press’ recent books distils some of this magic. In 46 recipes from top international chefs, the publisher offers iconic homages to on-screen food.
For example, Cooking with Scorsese and Others: The Cookbook boasts a peach recipe consisting of grilled peach, elderflower cream, raspberries and sour caramel, nodding to Call Me By Your Name. At 224 pages, the hardback also features film screenshots, quotes, a specially designed typeface from Hato’s Ken Kirton called The Fourth Lion, and captivating paintings accompanying recipes. The finished product is a luscious journey through cinema and gastronomy.
The Gourmand’s Egg. A Collection of Stories & Recipes (Copyright © Taschen, 2022)
Matthieu Nicol: Better Food for our Fighting Men (Copyright © RVB Books, 2022)
The Unofficial Simpsons Cookbook: Whale of a wife cake, photography by Harper Point Photography (Copyright © Adams Media, 2021)
Studio Yukiko: DoorDash, Secret Menu (Copyright © DoorDash, 2022)
Hato Press: Cooking with Scorsese and Others: The Cookbook (Copyright © Hato Press, 2021)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, she worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.