We are at a moment when the community of photobook makers and collectors is expanding rapidly, yet also becoming more insular. We’re ever searching for that handmade artist book created just for the art fair, available in limited copies that are going fast. For many years, the Martin Parr/Gerry Badger Photobook: A History and other books about books have served as a shopping list, bestowing value on the included volumes. Looking back through The Photobook: A History, however, it’s worth remembering that they cast a wide net, including among the shimmer of possibilitys and Sleeping by the Mississippis, mass market books, commercial books, books on food, and propaganda.
It’s been over a decade since the first and second volumes of The Photobook: A History came out, and our community has developed a finely tuned connoisseurship of the artist monograph. For this reason, it is a good time to consider other types of books that use photography, but are not considered photobooks qua photobooks—books that are unlikely to end up on anyone’s yearly top-ten list (and never aimed to). These books are often outside the photobook radar for a variety of reasons, whether they be too idiosyncratic, mass market, or useful (cookbooks, lifestyle, science), but their impact relies heavily on photography. Some of these fall into a guilty-pleasure category, but many, freed from an artist’s agenda and the conventional earmarks of an artist book, present a more direct use of photography and are successful in their own right. In the pages that follow, we have invited photobook aficionados to talk about their favorite niche within the larger universe of photo-illustrated books, and a handful of others to introduce their favorite non-photobook photobook—their own guilty pleasures. In short, this issue will address the unlikely, even accidental, photobook.
My own interest in the category of the accidental photobook began with cookbooks. I bought the 1958 Time Life Picture Cookbook as a joke. Maybe it appealed to me as a reaction against the kinds of photobooks I engage with on a daily basis. From there, I gathered many more cookbooks of a similar ilk—those that had clearly paid as much attention to the staging and photographing of the food as to the presentation of recipes. When the habit grew from a few books on a shelf to an entire bookshelf, I had to admit, it was no longer ironic, but true love. I take more pleasure in a few of these cookbooks than I do with some of the more proper photobooks, many of which are languishing on my shelves in Mylar sleeves. The following are a few of my favorites.
Some context is needed to fully appreciate the Time Life Picture Cookbook. Picture cookbooks became popular in postwar America. Women were supposed to get back into the kitchen with new vigor, entertaining needed to start again, national taste and culture had to be re-established. Photographs, particularly of food and feasts, were part of that. The most well-known was the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook. It’s bound in a loose-leaf ring binder and chapterized into subject files, so you can quickly get to the Pie section and remove the recipe for cooking. Throughout, decadent color photos burst at the seams with American bounty. Buffet-style spreads are in full force and meant to feed an army of guests: epic picnics and breakfast feasts, rows of frosted cakes and jellyrolls, and salads galore. They are more exuberant than they are appetizing, speaking more to tastefulness (or perhaps the lack thereof) than taste itself. The photos are often set in the home, showing the newest appliances and wares. Here, America presents itself as plentiful during the Cold War, in direct contrast to communism. Despite all the messaging, the book remained a functional cookbook, one that was bought primarily for the recipes and was engineered to be useful. The pictures are a punchy bonus. The tables and counters full of food are aspirational, but still seem achievable.
LIFE Magazine Time Life Picture Cookbook Time Inc. New York, 1958
By 1958, the Time Life Picture Cookbook had become decidedly more about the pictures. Sure, it contains lots of recipes, but at fourteen inches tall, this is not the book you’re reaching for in the kitchen. It’s not being bought or produced for the recipes, which are all run together, small. The pictures, however, go across the double-page spreads gloriously, presenting a tableau of food more aligned with still life than with interiors. The production on each shoot is impressive, not accomplishable by any home cook anywhere, with twenty plates of flambé presented in the same shot for the “Flaming Foods” chapter opener or with pineapples frozen into blocks of ice for “Cooking on Ice.” The pictures here are spectacular in the truest sense of the word. They present a wonderful fantasyland of food. Scales and hourglasses appear with perfectly textured Baked Alaskas and Petits Fours in pastel and desert backgrounds, depicting low-calorie and time-saving desserts. The book still operates within lifestyle and taste, but instead of presenting recipes you can accomplish with the help of this book, the Time Life Picture Cookbook is something you would more likely display in your home rather than actually use. Hence, the book is more photobook than recipe book. And the pictures are a joy to look at beyond their nostalgic value. The watermelon on ice with roses is a gorgeous still life that still holds up today; the “Drinks and Hors D’oeuvres” opener could pass as an Irving Penn (it’s by H. I. Williams). Time Life would go on a decade later to publish the Foods of the World Library, which also focused on the photographs—though more documentary in hopes of creating an armchair travel experience of culture through food.
The Jargon Society and Ten Speed Press ⋅ Berkeley, CA, 1986
White Trash Cooking (The Jargon Society and Ten Speed Press, 1986), by contrast, is the antithesis of the Time Life Picture Cookbook, a spoof, but one with a great deal of love at its heart. (The Jargon Society, founded by the late North Carolinian poet and Black Mountain College alum Jonathan Williams, was better known for publishing avant-garde books of poetry and photography.) The book is a satirical counterpoint to the more serious cookbooks of the day that had begun fetishizing freshness and local ingredients with the rise of Chez Panisse. The recipes, like Tutti’s Fancy Fruited Porkettes, Mock-Cooter Stew, Oven-Baked Possum, and Four-Can Deep Tuna Pie, are written in a down-home voice. But through the tongue-in-cheek, it is clear there is genuine affection for the people and respect for the country dishes. Nothing reflects this more than the surprise center section of color photographs, taken by the author, Ernest Matthew Mickler, on his travels through the South as he collected the recipes. There is no irony here. The pictures are casual, direct, and elegiac. They reference FSA pictures from the region and resemble William Christenberry’s pictures of Alabama with their sense that this way of life is becoming a memory. Bushels of peaches, old stoves, rusty bedframes in the landscape, people on porches, cornpones on the stove show a different kind of local lifestyle. Though the pictures would still work in a traditional photobook context, in the cookbook they operate to both cut the edge of the White Trash Cooking’s joke, and to deepen the satire against other lifestyle cookbooks, by revealing something much more sincere. In the last picture, the two devil’s food cakes cooling on the counter look like black portals into another time. That Mickler could convey such depth in front of a tub of Crisco is remarkable. Publishers first rejected the book and the New Yorker refused to run an ad for it, but it became an instant classic.
The Jargon Society and Ten Speed Press ⋅ Berkeley, CA, 1986
Today if you walk through the cookbook section of any store, you will notice that the books there look a lot like art books. This trend may have started out of necessity; with the rise of digital books, printed books needed to justify their existence and amplify their shelf appeal to entice consumers. To achieve that, publishers have reached into the bag of tricks established in art and design books, including photobooks. An early adopter of this recent trend is Breakfast Lunch Tea (Phaidon, 2006). This was the first cookbook wholly originated by Phaidon, after its success with Silver Spoon (a buy-in with Editoriale Domus for the 1950 Italian classic Il Cucchiaio d’argento). It is no surprise that this book takes the form of an artbook since this is what Phaidon knows best. Toby Glanville, a wonderful British portraitist, took the photographs and presents an utterly lovely portrait of a bakery: those who work there, the regulars, the purveyors, the ingredients, the process, and the finished food. Glanville’s unusual color palette, striking angles, and unassuming portraits make for a beautiful book. This, combined with the high quality paper and printing, elevate the cookbook into more of a photobook. Phaidon continued this type of treatment in their future cookbooks, and many other publishers have followed in their wake.
W. W. Norton ⋅ New York, 2014
Perhaps in reaction to this movement, Brooks Headley’s Fancy Desserts (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014) is a serious cookbook, but also pokes fun at today’s delicate pastry cookbooks with their restrained color palettes and selective focus. Instead, the Fancy Desserts pictures, a collaboration between photographer Jason Fulford and illustrator and author Tamara Shopsin, are playful, each with their own deadpan joke, and shot almost entirely against a plain white background. The red cover says it all with sticky hands, sauce poured out from proportionally tiny creamer, dripping chocolate from poorly painted fingernails, and a rather unappetizing mystery dough (cheese, actually). The book feels more punk than lighthearted with clever inside references and, at times, a gross-out take on pastry, more akin to a food fight than a white table experience. We rarely see the fragile and fancy final dishes, just the crazy process, complete with a condensed milk bomb. The book is purposefully not tasteful, deflating the very notion of fancy, and subverting the increasingly precious cookbooks-as-artbook genre. The fact that the book accomplishes this with art stars Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin at the design helm is a large part of its genius. Sadly, the publisher just released a paperback edition replacing the original cover with a more expected picture of fancy dessert. Chickens!
Denise Wolff is a senior editor at Aperture. Some recent books she has commissioned include The Photographer’s Cookbook (2016); The Photography Workshop Series books; and Seeing Things (2016), a children’s book by Joel Meyerowitz.
This post focuses on the top 10 cookbooks to make sure to include in a cookbook collection. For someone interested in cookbook collecting, this will give you a head start on the basic books to include as the foundation of your collection. These are the more mainstream cookbooks of the past. They may not necessarily be the most valuable of cookbooks as many antique cookbooks, signed cookbooks and cookbooks of present day often fetch higher prices, but these are are definitely the basis of a solid collection. Some of these books have been reviewed in-depth in this blog with their collectibility ratings for anyone interested in more detail. I have included some of the top-level information for each below as well as links for those which have been rated in earlier blog postings.
1. Betty Crocker's Cookbook
Publisher: General Mills
Copyright: 1969 stated First Edition
Formats: Hardcover and Ring Binder Editions
Average Price: $40 ($50 for stated First Edition in good condition or for a 1972 special Sears Holiday Edition)
Notes: This book is often referred to by collectors as Betty Crocker's "Red Pie" Cookbook due to its pie shaped photo montage cover design. It is loaded with recipes and photos. Recipes are mainly American dishes thought there are dishes from other regions as well.
2. Betty Crocker's New Picture Cookbook
Publisher: General Mills
Copyright: 1961, First Edition
Formats: Hardcover with a Mondrian style pink, yellow, white and blue cover
Average Price: $45 ($75 for the First Edition, First Printing with a hardcover format)
Notes: Another Betty Crocker classic. I have an earlier (1950) Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book rated on my blog, but the 1961 Betty Crocker's New Picture Cookbook is the most valuable of all the Betty Crocker cookbooks. It is important to find a good condition copy or the value will go down substantially. With some cookbooks--they are so rare--imperfections can be forgiven, not with this one.
3. Treasury of Great Recipes
Authors: Mary and Vincent Price (the movie actor)
Copyright: 1965, First Printing
Format: Padded bronze/copper colored hardcover, 456 pages, Gilt Lettering
Average Price: $40 (ranges from $30-$90 dependent upon condition and availability in the online bookstore and auction markets)
Notes: This is definitely one of the most beautiful cookbooks published in terms of cover design, material, and detail such as ribbon bookmarks and nice illustrations.
4. Joy of Cooking
Authors: Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker
Copyright: 1931, First Printing, First Edition published by A. C. Clayton Printing Co
Format: Blue hardcover with gilt lettering
Average Price: Over $500 for this 1931 First Edition of which only 3,000 copies were printed. The later commercial edition was published by Bobs-Merrill Company in 1936 as were the later editions which came in different cover formats from a white dust jacket to a blue and white cloth cover. The 1936 "First Edition" which is not the true First but First Bobs-Merrill edition is valued at around $50.
Notes: Joy of Cooking is considered by many to be the "bible of American cooking." It is known for its simplistic formatted recipes and is one of the best selling cookbooks of all time. Almost every cook knows of this book or has it on their shelf. Many cookbook collectors will have various editions of the book in their collection--as mentioned above, the book had several cover designs and formats.
5. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
Authors: Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck
Copyright: 1961, First Edition
Format: Hardcover with white and red design and blue and white dust jacket.
Average Price: $10-$15 (Julia Child signed cookbook copies $200 - $250)
Notes: This remains the top French cookbook in terms of popularity and recognition. Of note, if there is ever a signed cookbook you'd want to get, Julia Child signed copies of this book sell for some of the highest prices on online book sites.
6. The White House Cook Book
Author: Fanny Gillette, Hugo Zieman (later editions)
Copyright: 1887, First Edition
Format: Hardcover white cloth
Average Price: $75-$150
Notes: I have rarely seen copies of the 1887 edition for sale but early printings shortly thereafter are usually available for sale online. The price above is for the 1887 printing though I think it could fetch in upwards of $150 if a true first in good condition. Other printings sell for around $30-$35. The 1887 edition would be considered rare.
7. Woman's Home Companion Cook Book
Editor: Dorothy Kirk
Copyright: 1942, First Edition
Format: White hardcover with recipe categories in bullet format down the left side of the cover in red and blue lettering for titles.
Average Price: $75 (for the 1942 First Edition)
Notes: This book has over 2,600 recipes which makes it a favorite among collectors and cooks alike. The book's easy recipe format makes it all the more appealing. This book is a good investment for any serious collector as its value will continue to rise as with other classics of this sort.
8. Weight Watchers Slow Good Super Slow-Cooker Cookbook
Author: Weight Watchers editors
Copyright: 2005, First Edition
Format: Softcover cookbook with lime green background on top half, photos of prepared meals on the bottom half.
Average Price: $45
Notes: Though a newer book, unlike the rest on this list, I am including it as it is one of the most sought after cookbooks online. This is certainly the one of the most popular Weight Watchers cookbooks published to date. It is at this point in time, a hard-to-find cookbook and only a limited number of copies are for sale online at any given time. Slow cooking is a popular trend and this book has some wonderful recipes. Because of the limited number of copies for sale, it has gained even more popularity over the past year and its value keeps increasing.
9. Larousse Gastronomique
Author: Prosper Montagne
Copyright: 1961, First Edition
Format: Dark blue, thick hardcover with dust jacket.
Average Price: $12-$15 (the 2001 edition sells for $45-$50 though the one to put in your collection is the original--revised and updated later editions tend to lose value over time)
Notes: This cookbook is probably in a close tie with Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in terms of the most popular of French cookbooks. The book has loads of illustrations (over 1,000) and 8,500 recipes in all.
10. The Good Cook Time Life Cookbook Series (set of 28 cookbooks)
Publisher: Time Life
Editor: Richard Olney Copyright: 1979 - Early 1980's
Format: Hardcover books with different colored spines. When aligned you get a kind of rainbow effect on the shelf.
Books in the Series: Beef & Veal * Beverages * Breads * Cakes * Candy * Classic Desserts * Cookies & Crackers * Dried Beans and Grains * Eggs & Cheese * Fish * Fruit * Hors d'Oeuvres * Lamb * Outdoor Cooking * Pastas * Pies & Pastries * Pork * Poultry * Preserving * Salads * Sauces * Shellfish * Snacks & Sandwiches * Soups * Terrines * Variety Meats * Vegetables * Wine
Average Price: $100 - $125 dependent upon condition of the books
Notes: A lot of collectors loves these books as they are no longer in print and it is exciting to try and collect the full set of 28 books. They can be found as a complete set but I think that takes part of the fun out of collecting them. These books are nice as well as they include a lot of color photos in them. In their entirety, they also make a rounded base for cooking as they include a complete set of cooking topics.
Recensie: Een kookboek over kookboeken, een coq in een uur
25 november 2015 , door Debby Koudenburg
‘The real value in cookbooks lies not in the culinary formulae they provide but in what they tell us about the times and cultures out of which they come,’ zegt Colman Andrews in zijn voorwoord bij het Cookbook Book. Dat geeft inderdaad een mooie impressie van de (wereldwijde) culinaire geschiedenis en cultuur: uit 125 kookboeken, afgebeeld op ware grootte, dubbele pagina’s, zijn foto’s en recepten te bekijken. Maar er is ook praktische waarde: je kunt er ook eindeloos veel recepten uit evenzovele keukens uit koken. Een prachtboek. Door debby koudenburg.
Classics en nonconformisten
De samenstellers, Annahita Kamali (art director en mode-ontwerpster) en Florian Böhm (kunstenaar en fotograaf), maakten een overzicht van de volgens hen beste, wonderlijkste, mooiste en interessantste kookboeken. Het Cookbook Book is dus absoluut niet bedoeld als een definitieve verzameling, het is een 'personal expression of books and the experiences in which they proffer'. De echte kookboekkenner zal dus ongetwijfeld persoonlijke favoriete titels missen maar de keuze van de samenstellers is zo gevarieerd dat het werkelijk een genot is om door dit prachtige boek te bladeren. Je komt uiteraard oude bekenden en klassiekers tegen als de Larousse Gastronomique, Escoffier en Artusi maar ook het Artists Cookbook ('has more to say about artists than it has about food') met Andy Warhol op de cover of Les Diners de Gala van Salvador Dali. De professionele (niet-culinaire) achtergrond van de samenstellers geeft een fijn en verrassend perspectief op kookboeken.
Kamali en Böhm hebben het boek onderveeld in ‘Enduring Classics’, ‘Nonconformists’, ‘Design Mavericks’, ‘World Flavours’ en ‘Modern Essentials’. Bij de ‘Classics’ krijg je recepten voor een Carbonara sauce van Marcella Hazan, Braised pig trotters van Marco Pierre White en een Bouillabaisse van Julia Child. En dan ook nog een Paella van Elizabeth David, wier A Book of Mediterranean Food er het meest gehavend van alle afgebeelde boeken uitziet. Vol met vetvlekken, een beter compliment kun je als kookboekenschrijver niet krijgen. Het gaat in dit hoofdstuk dus over expertise en betrouwbaarheid.
Bij de nonconformisten 'a sprinkling of anarchy'. Uit The Potato Book Gepofte aardappels met zure room en kaviaar van Truman Capote, mét 'Russian vodka - it must be 80 proof'. Of Hot dogs on the rocks van Mick Jagger en Charlie Watts uit Singers & Swingers in the Kitchen. De Haschich Fudge van Alice B. Toklas past mooi in dit rijtje.
Dan het hoofdstuk waar het beeld een belangrijke aanvulling is op de recepten: de Design Mavericks. Prachtige jaren-vijftigfoto’s van kleurrijke soepjes in het Time Life Picture Cook Book en een mooi geïllustreerde Chilled Buttermilk Beet Borscht uit het Moosewood Cookbook uit 1977, het eerste vegetarische kookboek dat de massa aansprak.
Coq au vin
In ‘Design Mavericks’ staat ook La Cuisine est un jeu d’Enfants van Michel Oliver. Oliver volgde zijn vader op als chef en maakte dit boek voor zijn kinderen. Opdat ze leerden koken. Zijn vriend Jean Cocteau overtuigde hem het te publiceren en schreef het voorwoord. De eerste druk was in 1963 en het boek werd een hit. Ik viel voor de vrolijke tekening en het eenvoudige recept voor een Coq au vin – dus dat recept gingen we uitproberen voor ons filmpje. Waar Jeffrey Steingarten in Nieuwe avonturen van de man die alles at er zo’n drie dagen voor nodig heeft doet Michel Oliver het in een uurtje. Steingarten gebruikte een iets ander formaat en oudere coq, maar toch, zou het lukken in een uurtje? Ja. En het is nog erg lekker ook. Oliver was trouwens ook nog tv-chef, je kunt hem bewonderen in lollige jaren-tachtigfilmpjes in La vérité est au fond de la marmite.
Overigens zijn alle niet-Engelstalige recepten in het boek vertaald zodat we ook de recepten uit bijvoorbeeld de Russische, Chinese en Japanse kookboeken kunnen lezen. Zo weten we dat de knalgroene soep op de prachtige tekening in het hoofdstuk ‘World Flavours’ is gemaakt van doperwtjes. Het recept staat in het Book of Tasty and healthy food dat in 1939 is gemaakt in opdracht van het Ministerie van voedsel van de Sovjet-Unie. Het geeft 'a broad insight in the Communist way of life’. Ook de tekeningen in enkele Chinese en Japanse kookboeken zijn een feest voor het oog, de vertalingen erg handig.
Voor het hoofdstuk Modern Essentials is gekozen voor bestsellers en boeken van 'leading chefs'. René Redzepi, Yotam Ottolenghi en Jamie ontbreken dus ook niet want 'their unique styles of cooking became popular and changed our eating habits forever'. Ik denk dat die veranderende eetgewoontes, in ieder geval bij ons thuis, toch al minstens zijn ingezet door bijvoorbeeld Elizabeth David maar zo zijn we wel weer terug bij het voorwoord van Colman Andrews.
Het Cookbook Book eindigt met een overzicht van alle 125 covers en een korte beschrijving van ieder boek. Veel titels zijn inmiddels collectors items of sowieso niet meer te verkrijgen. De troost die Kamali en Böhm daarvoor bieden, is een extraatje bij dit heerlijk en prachtig uitgegeven blader- én kookboek.
Debby Koudenburg was professioneel kok en is met Tony Telson de drijvende kracht achter cookfreshfood.com, waarop ook het filmpje bij het boek staat. Daarnaast schreef ze samen met Marjolein Kelderman het Handboek voor de studentenkok (en late leerlingen), dat in september vorig jaar verscheen.