Yesterday, I found myself in a large chain bookstore to pick up a few holiday essentials that were sold out at my favorite independent. Took a few minutes to look through the enormous cookbook section for potential gifts for a couple of foodie friends. What I saw made me want to send out a request to their corporate offices - "Perhaps you would like to stock more items not the product of celebrity chefs? Perhaps cooking is a creative and nurturing activity for many people and not slavish devotion to some cult of personality?" One woman's face popped up over and over again too. Not to sound snotty but this woman has used Velveeta in recipes on her cooking show. This is the focal point of the cookbook section? Is the marketing such because cooking has become yet another form of infotainment in time-challenged lives where no one cooks any more? Just dreams about it?
Now mind you, I am not opposed to the published works of famous chefs. I love Nigella, Jamie, Ina and many others, and I have been seen drooling over really high production value cookbooks like Thomas Keller's The French Laundry. When giving a gift to a cook though, I look for something not hyper-common, something beautiful, and something that focuses on the food rather than the artist (or fan of cheese product) creating with it. So this Christmas, I will be giving the gorgeous book Milk and the gorgeous book Egg because both are wildly successful in sketching history and usage of the most basic of ingredients into full-fledged glorious food celebrations complete with unique recipes and engaging illustration and photography. One look at the cover designs will tell you loads about the contents of each volume.
Do you buy cookbooks as gifts? For yourself? What do you look for? What have you bought or will you buy?