Cookbooks, also known as a cookery book, are a kitchen reference which contains recipes, their ingredients, and instructions on how to make them. For chefs, chef-wannabes, and normal people who just want to get through life with a good meal, cookbooks are the absolute equivalent of the Holy Word.
Cookbooks may be a general collection of random dishes strewn together for the benefit of its owner. But, for others, it may specialize in a particular cuisine or category of food. If you happen to open one, you’ll discover that the recipes written there are organized in various ways: by course (appetizer, first course, main course, and the dessert), by main ingredient, by cooking technique – some more complex than others, alphabetically, by region or country, and so on.
They may even include illustrations of finished dishes and the preparation steps to keep it from looking more like a physics textbook with all the measurements and systematic, rigorous steps. They may also include discussions of cooking techniques in case the current user is a novice, advice on kitchen equipment since we all know that not every frying pan is the right frying pan, ingredients, and substitutions, and so on.
Cookbooks can be written by absolutely anyone who has the love, knowledge, and passion for the art of cooking. It can be written by individual authors who may be chefs, cooking teachers, or food writers. They may be written by collectives, or they may be anonymous. They may be addressed to home cooks, to professional sous chefs, to international cooks, or to more specialized audiences. They can even be written by a grandmother who wants to pass her special recipes down to her grandchildren.
Yes, history is not just littered by philosophers, poets, and warriors. It also boasts of a long list of great hands who are known to make great food using it. Fortunately for us, we are the recipient of this knowledge. Cookbooks can be found in almost every literate society. These things are considered so important that every civilization cannot be considered great without having published one. Which is why we will have a little talk on some of the greatest cookbooks ever written.
One of the most famous of the early cookbooks is the Deipnosophistai or The Learned Banquet, a treatise on food and its preparation written by Athenaeus, a Greek gourmet back in the 2nd century. It is presented in a form of a dialogue between two banqueters who talk for days and relate recipes for dishes such as stuffed vine leaves and several varieties of cheesecake. The cookbook is presented in a way similar to how Chaucer told his Canterbury Tales.
However, Athenaeus is in no way the first or the earliest Greek writer who ever tried writing his recipes down. In fact, in his book, he has mentioned more than 20 authors who all came before him, one of which was a man named Archestratus who also produced his masterpiece, entitled Hedypatheia or Pleasant Living, in 350 BC.
Another famous gourmet of the ancient world was Apicius. He was a wealthy Roman merchant during the reign of Tiberius in 14-37 AD. Apicius was known for hosting gigantic and lavish banquets which eventually lead him to bankruptcy, followed by suicide. A sad ending for a man who left behind a cookbook so prized that it has been preserved in numerous editions that it still survives until today.
China also has a hand in this long, delicious history. They have preserved quite a number of treatises, but the most interesting of all is one we call The Important Things to Know About Eating and Drinking, written by Huou, a master chef of the imperial court of Kublai Khan in 1215-1294. His collection consists largely of recipes for soups, but it’s also a useful encyclopedia of household information.
Medieval Europe also, unsurprisingly, produced cookbooks. Among the earliest one in the English language was The Form of Cury, cury being an obsolete word which means “cooked food.” It consists of 196 recipes, many of which are of French origin. However, one of the first French books wasn’t published until 1394, and it contained recipes for delicacies such as frogs and snails.
The invention of the printing press has only urged the publication of cookbooks forward. Along with it, the culinary arts flourished as well. The first cookbook known to be printed, in 1485, was produced by an Italian by the name of Bartolema Scappi, who mainly recorded recipes for marzipan and sweets.
Aside from the advancement of the printing process, another factor that helped with the proliferation of cookbooks was the rising interest of the middle classes in better food preparation. They probably got tired of the same old stew every other night, they wanted to spice things up with a proper gastronomical presentation. The first cookbook written by a woman was Hannah Wooley’s The Queen-like Closet also known as the Rich Cabinet, which was published in 1670.
The many secrets of the glorious French cuisine were made available to a wide public by the cookbooks of great chefs like Alexis Soyer of the mid-19th century. His cookbook entitled Shilling Cookery for the People has sold more than 100,000 copies.
However, one of the most successful and popular cookbooks of all time was produced in the United States in 1896, when Fannie Merritt-Farmer took on the editorship of The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. Farmer was the first one to ever standardize the methods and measurements of her recipes, which gave an assurance of reliable results to her readers.
The 20th century has only seen more of this already didactic and vibrant list of interest in cookery. To this day, cookbooks have become a mainstay of the publishing world. From amateur and professional chefs, cooking schools, and food departments of major food producers and popular magazines, everyone just want to get their expertise immortalized by writing down their personal take on food.
If you yourself want to become one of the esteemed people in the long list of legendary cookbooks, you will do well to avoid making these few mistakes.
Now that we’ve talked about what to avoid, let us proceed to discuss what best to include in our cookbooks. Clue: design plays a massive role in this. However, the real difference-maker is content. The knowledge, passion, and expertise of the cookbook’s author will always be mirrored in his work.
With the designs and templates posted in this article, and the tips and suggestions we’ve discussed, you are now fully equipped with the necessary tools you need to create and publish your own cookbook. Now go ahead and do just that.