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joeljkp

Author-less Cookbooks

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Every time I walk into a major bookstore, I see prominently placed shelves of author-less cookbooks. Things like "New Vegetarian Feasts" and "Homestyle Chicken Recipes", usually for pretty cheap. They're all pretty bare-bones and focus on pictures, but there's no denying the sheer quantity of recipes they contain.

Where do these books come from? Is there some vast store of corporate recipes out there that publishers pick and choose and combine into big flashy books for the bargain shelves of bookstores around the world? Are these books miserable as a rule, or have you ever gotten anything good from them?

- Joel

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I have a bunch of those 400 soups/sauces/whathaveyou books published by Hermes House. They sell for 4.99 or 5.99 and I find them useful. Lost of pictures, also of the prep work, simple easy to make recipes and the price is right. Not much more than the bare bones recipes, but what I've made from them turned out nice. If you have lots of other books you can probably pass on them, but if you're starting out or just like the idea of a whole bunch of recipes for one category (soups and sauces or all chicken for example) they are a good buy.

Do look at them though, I have a soup book from the Barnes and Noble bargain bin (Soup Bible) that has a lot of the same recipes and the same photos as the Hermes House book. The later has many more and both have recipes that are not in the other, but there seems to be a huge database of recipes and "exlcusive" photos out there that some editor throws together. The how to photos can be great for somebody just getting into cooking too.

Worth the price of admission I'd say.


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Since I adore food photos my hands always gravitate towards these super bargains. I have picked them up and been inspired more by the concepts than the recipes. What I mean is that I think it looks and sounds great, and I customize it to my ingredients and style. I think I snarfed them up more when there was not so much food porn on the internet. I do wonder about the writers and photographers when the books are so discounted.

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I caved in and bought a cocktail one, 1001 Cocktails or something like that. The photos are fabulous, but most of the cocktails are miserable. I mostly just use it for inspiration, as most of the classic base cocktails are in there in one form or another.


"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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Where do these books come from? Is there some vast store of corporate recipes out there that publishers pick and choose and combine into big flashy books for the bargain shelves of bookstores around the world?

I'm sure they come from many places, but I knew a writer who wrote a few of these books for a big publisher. She did all the testing and writing, but her name doesn't appear on the book.

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I have a number of these authorless books and quite enjoy them. There is another type that appears to have an author but really doesn't! I have one simply called Barbecue and the name on the cover is Christine France. However, when you open the book, Christine France is listed as a consultant editor. My current favourite authorless book is Cook Express. The name on the inside of book is Heather Whinney and she is listed as Editor-in-Chief. It is most unusually laid out with a visual reference to many of the recipes at the beginning and two major sections titled Everyday and Food for Friends. Each major section is then subdivided into such things ss Speedy Suppers - Pork; Batch and Freeze; 10 ways with ...


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

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Where do these books come from? Is there some vast store of corporate recipes out there that publishers pick and choose and combine into big flashy books for the bargain shelves of bookstores around the world?

- Joel

It's called "value publishing" or "direct to remainder." A number of publishers basically specialize in this sort of thing; I think Random House has a separate division for it. Yes, basically quickly assemble books from materials that can be acquired cheap or free, and fast, to keep royalty expenses down. As you noted, usually revolving around simple concepts, sometimes reprinting older public domain material.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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The small batch pickle topic got me thinking about these kinds of cookbooks again. I have only one - a small booklet I picked up in Vietnam but published in Australia simply called "Vietnamese Cooking". In it there are several recipes that are workhorses in my kitchen - chicken and cabbage salad; nuoc mam; caramel pork; and banh mi pickles. I think the thing cost me $3, but I can't even count the amount of times I turn to it for basic dishes I ate every day in Vietnam.

Anyone else have any author-less gems?

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I've got a pile of these - cocktails, pasta, vegetarian, baking, general cooking.... Most of them from the bookstore bargain bin. I like them as a starting point for meal ideas, but seldom follow the recipes faithfully (actually, the baking ones I bought on a whim for the pictures - I'm doubtful on the integrity of the recipes themselves). I figure if the books don't work out, they'll only set me back a few bucks or so.

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I have quite a few of these as well, most of them inherited.

I don't actually use them (I prefer books that offer "guides" rather than "formulas") but I do look at them occasionally. My absolute favorite (for kitsch value) is a grill book that lists virtually every ingredient with a brand name. It's kind of endearing that some marketing jackass somewhere seriously thought putting 3 Tb French's Mustard in a bbq sauce recipe would increase sales and enhance shareholder value.

"Welp, the recipe says use French's mustard but all we got is that store brand stuff. I guess I'ma have to go to the grocery!" :raz:


This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I've got a bunch of the ones you see at TJ Maxx/Home Goods/Marshalls/Ross that are published by Paragon Publishing. Titles include such interesting titles as "Rice and Risotto", "Tapas", "Indian", and "Soups." They are usually 3 bucks or so.

I never actually use them for anything except for ideas. If I'm wanting soup, I may go through the soup book and find a title that sounds good. Then I rely on my own knowledge to build the soup. I may look down the ingredients list or I may not.

I sometimes use the ethnic cookbooks as a reference if I'm not sure what all is in Chicken Jalfreezi or something like that. I still don't use proportions from the recipe very often except as a rough guide.


Edited by BadRabbit (log)

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My absolute favorite (for kitsch value) is a grill book that lists virtually every ingredient with a brand name. It's kind of endearing that some marketing jackass somewhere seriously thought putting 3 Tb French's Mustard in a bbq sauce recipe would increase sales and enhance shareholder value.

They might think that if that jackass worked for the company that makes French's. I'd be willing to bet a dollar that all of the brand names mentioned are owned (or at least were at the time) by the same corporate parent.

Unless the author happens to be Sandra Lee.


"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I assume the book was subsidized by whoever makes French's, thus the brilliant marketing person having the insanely bright idea to exchange dollars for product placement in a cookbook.

I still think it's pretty dumb. Who looks at a recipe like that and believes French's is necessary?

EDIT: And LOL Sandra Lee. We should thank her for making the rest of us look so good in comparison. :wub:


Edited by Dakki (log)

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I picked up a copy of The Food of Asia, published by Murdoch books a few weeks ago. It includes recipes from China, India, Japan and Thailand, so nothing is too in depth but it has a bunch of recipes I'd like to try. Also got a copy of The Food of the Mediterranean - same style of book, fewer recipes I actually want to try.

I'm not buying this type of book to learn everything there is to know about a certain cuisine, but some of them have some good recipes and they get me thinking about adapting recipes and trying different things.

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I like the Culinaria series - a surprising amount of food history and a focus on regional growers.

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The nice thing about these books, as was previously mentioned, is that you only need to buy one of the subject matter, no matter how many publishers have them on the shelves, because the recipes are almost all the same.

They are written in simple language and are easy for novice cooks to understand.


Edited by tmriga (log)

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

- Abraham Lincoln

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I like the Culinaria series - a surprising amount of food history and a focus on regional growers.

Yes I will second that. I saw the book outside the store with the super mark down books at a major bookseller - "Culinaria Germany". As someone familiar with the cuisine I was impressed. There are not that many English written texts on the cuisine. Also the photos were good and the historical, cultural and anecdotal text made it a good read. I wonder about the level of compensation to the authors and photographers.

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