As a young girl I was always fascinated by people who had libraries in their homes, or big, extensive book shelves. It seemed to be a mark of intelligence or being highly cultured. You can tell so much about a person based on the books they’ve collected. So naturally, my shelves are lined with cookbooks! There are the classics like Larousse Gastronomique, or James Peterson’s Sauces or references like the Flavor Bible. And then come some of the more modern books from chef’s like Mario Batali and Rick Bayless. Wedged in at the ends are a couple no-name authors from the days of my low-carb diet and the classic In the Kitchen with Miss Piggy. One might mock this collection as its seems antiquated to have recipe books when you can find most anything online. But there is something about the tangible reference and stunning photography that is preserved in these books of art. And recently, the category is getting a little lift from Hollywood!
For those of you fellow cookbook collectors out there make some room on the shelf for the latest from celebrity cookbooks. Gwyneth Paltrow, Sheryl Crow, Eva Longoria and now rumored Matthew McConaughey are sharing their family tables with the masses. Not surprising as it is in the nature of home-cooks to feel an overwhelming joy when they can share a meal or a recipe with friends and family. Why celebrity cookbook writing has become an industry trend is still unresolved. One thought is actors or musicians have a natural desire to express themselves, and writing a cookbook is just another creative outlet. Also, returning to the kitchen has been socially acceptable and as Gwyneth Paltrow literally demonstrates, ‘in vogue’ with her recent coverage from Jeffery Steingarten, Vogue Magazine’s food editor. People across the country are calling themselves foodies, lining up at food trucks, DVRing Top Chef and writing their own food blogs. And if you can call Matthew McConaughey a real person, it’s likely he’s caught hold of movement as well based on his recent appearance on Guy Fieri’s Food Network show. The celebrities that have talent in the kitchen are at an advantage to tap into this market. What’s inspiring is most of the books have a positive social message whether it be about family, or eating responsibly. Rather than writing a full-out biography, these celebrities have chosen to share their lives with us through something we all have in common, eating.
Gwyneth’s book, My Father’s Daughter is meant to stress the importance of togetherness at mealtime, emphasizing that cooking for your family is the ultimate expression of love. The book pays homage to her father who imparted an appreciation and passion for food onto her. Her father’s motto was: “Invest in what’s real. Clean as you go. Drink while you cook. Make it fun. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It will be what it will be.” Her removal from reality is seen as charming. Her kids didn’t know what soda was until they were 4-years-old, and she cooks her pizza in the wood-burning oven in the backyard. The main challenge of cooking from her book is finding some of the obscure ingredients she mentions such as spelt flour, agave nectar, and organic duck bacon. But it is hard not to enjoy her honest self-parody sprinkled throughout the book: “Could I use some butter and cheese and eggs in my cooking without going down some kind of hippie shame spiral? Yes. Of course I could.”
Sheryl Crow’s book is entitled, If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons. The book is a collaboration with Nashville chef Chuck White who Crow had adopted as her own personal chef in 1996. Crow was inspired to eat healthier after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and since then has taken an honest and healthy approach to eating. The book has an ‘all-American’ feel to it as Crow reminisces about her childhood family tables and shares anecdotes of eating with her children. The book has an apparent ‘eat responsibly’ undertone as it is organized by seasons and Chef White communicates his passion about the responsibility of raising honest animals and shopping from farmers markets.
Eva Longoria shares Mexican inspired recipes with a Texas flare in her book, Eva’s Kitchen: Cooking with Love for Family and Friends. Next to Gwyneth, it seems Eva had the most convincing to do as fans associate her with her flighty role on Desperate Housewives. The book is a true diary of her childhood cooking, recalling the first time she made eggs and the feeling of accomplishment. She also dedicates the book to her beloved Aunt Elsa who truly shaped her culinary destiny. Throughout the book, Eva shares technical tips from Aunt Elsa that really prove the authenticity of this housewife. The book jumps off the page with it’s vibrant colors and vivid photography covering the basics of garlic green beans, all the way to sweet potato empanadas, and the most talked about tortilla soup.
It will be interesting to see the direction this trend will take. Matthew McConaughey will surely add some variety to the category if he goes through with it. Who will be next? Brad Pitt has been taking lessons from Jamie Oliver, anyone need to know the best way to get a family of eight to agree on the same meal?