Books & Print

Cookbooks Only Get Butter With Age

Hannah Rodin

Don’t we all love food? It’s not just a luxury but a necessity of life, however we seem to take it to extremes with the sheer number of cookbooks published each year. According to Amazon’s bestseller list, they are already dominating this year’s sales, with 5 currently residing in the top 10.  They even occupy first and second position with Kay Featherstone’s Pinch of Nom Everyday Light: 100 Tasty, Slimming Recipes All Under 400 Calories and Pinch of Nom: 100 Slimming, Home-style. What is particularly clear about these is that they are not only from the same series, but they are also both slimming recipes.

This becomes even more important when it is noted that 4 out of the 5 cookbooks in the current bestseller list are slimming or diet purposed. In fact, this is a trend covering the whole of amazon’s bestseller archives stretching back to 1998 with 1999 being the only year not to feature a cookbook in the top 10, and dieting or slimming recipes being consistently popular throughout. Considering how many recipes are available freely on the internet with videos attached, and cooking channels showing free demonstrations the rise in printed cookbooks is surprising.  So what is it about food that makes it so popular in a printed book?

In his book, A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries, Henry Notaker offers one explanation of the modern-day craze that the “pleasure is even more obvious today with the introduction of modern food design in the illustrations of beautiful editions of cookbooks in coffee-table format. The recipes in these books are meant to be leafed through and read sitting in a sofa or an easy chair rather than followed step by step over the kitchen stove. In this context, it is possible to see cookbooks as show business.”

This certainly matches the aesthetic evolution of the cookbook according to Taste of Home’s article “The Most Popular Cookbook from Every Decade” by Ceara Milligan. From 1909 to 1961 to 2008 there have been huge changes in layout and design as they have become more simplistic and colourful, perfect for a modern coffee table.

However, there has been more change to cookbooks than just their appearance. With the change in technologies and interests over the years, cookbooks have adapted and been able to find their own way to fit into modern day life. For example, the current most popular cookbook series, A Pinch Of Nom, even has its own instagram where photos of finished meals from the recipe books are posted. With food photos as tantalising as this it is any wonder we can’t resist buying a cookbook?

Header image from Pan Macmillan.