You know what I’m talking about. The New York Times has already run an article on the phenomenon. It’s the book by the door, in the window, by the cash-register by ah - wouldn’t you know, the very chef whose food you’re eating. It started with the really big boys – Bocuse and Ducasse and Robuchon but now I expect any day Flunch and Courtpaille will have them.
Now I have no quibble with masters like Bocuse and Ducasse and Robuchon flogging their recipes; why should I have to write Gourmet for such. But, we all know the dirty little secrets about these books. 1. They weren’t written by the chefs, who no matter how wonderful, all avoided taking their “bacs” and have few if any writing skills. 2. They are 95% photography and 5% content. And 3. They’re not information dissemination devices but PR/marketing/market-share ones.
After a glorious meal, you do want to buy it, albeit at 55 Euros. So you do and you schlep it home and look through it and it joins the other wonderful myriad of cookbooks on the coffee table, then after a year or so migrates to the cookbook shelves and finally years later to the kids some Christmas. But it’s not used. Or used once or twice. Take a look at your tattered covers or better yet your rebound books – The Joy of Cooking, Julia, Escoffier and that wild man of all wild men cooking French food out of his hat the recently deceased - Floyd.
But the book by new genius Chef Generation “C” is unsullied. Why?
Well I have a theory. When the first cookbooks were written, they were it, whether in
There were no TV shows either.
Fast-forward to today. Snap quiz:
- How many cookbooks do you own in your principal and secondary home and how many have you passed on to the kids?
- How many TV shows do you watch while cooking or cleaning or putzing about the house?
- How many times a week do you go to the Internet and Google an herb or funny looking fish you saw at Whole Foods, and
- How many times do you look for a recipe on Epicurious that’s different than any you’ve done before because you saw something on TV, in the market or in a restaurant?
Let’s face it, we’ve grown up. Sure, there are folks like David Lebovitz* who really bring, literally and figuratively, something new to the table, but I’m not sure one more book by Chef Generation “C” will do anything but gather dust and be good for a pass-along present at Christmas.
So resist the impulse. You don’t need to be Julie Powell and recreate all the classics but you’re just adding to chefs’ egos and ghost-writers’ meager incomes when you buy the book by the door.
These thoughts came to me as my family worked on a recipe from:
The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing - City
Broadway 2009 NY