Fantasy cookbooks

As the polar vortex shuts everybody in with their seed catalogues and board games, I thought I’d play a little imaginary game of my own.  It’s my job to test and rate already-published cookbooks.  What if I started on the other end and dreamed up cookbooks I’d like to see? – ones that I’ve not yet seen on the market but which would be killer cookbooks on my shelf.  Why not?  Let’s give it a go!

Regional Chinese cookbook: I’d like it to be as informative as the Complete Indian Regional Cookbook, but a whole lot better designed – say with the beautiful, open layout of The Food of Spain, or, if it needed to be more compact, a design aesthetic like The New Midwestern Table‘s.  I’d want it to have all 8 classic Chinese cuisines with contextual histories, features of the ingredients specific to each, and say 10 or 12 recipes that are really identified with that cuisine.  Maybe written by Fuchsia Dunlop, with her kind of glossaries – with good sourcing notes – and headnotes; or on the UK side, Terry Tan.

New England Kitchen Garden cookbook:  There are a million farmer’s market and seasonal and garden cookbooks out there, but none of them is exactly what I crave.  I’d want this book to focus on the top 10 or so crops we grow well in my region (including but not limited to asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries and blueberries, corn, squash, and apples).  I’d want it to have some thoughtful cultural notes (like the ones in Grow Cook Eat) and LOTS of recipes for each of the 10 crops.  Because the first week of plain asparagus is great, but by the sixth week, you really want some variation.  I’d enjoy it if the book were interspersed with vegetable quotes (like poems from Lorna Crozier’s The Sex Life of Vegetables), and I’d want a colorful design that combined graphic whimsy with practicality, like the design of the Splendid Table books.

A cookie decorating bible: Actually, I’d be really surprised if this doesn’t exist.  I guess for whatever reason I just haven’t come across it.  I’d like it to have lots of great, well-described techniques (marbling, piping, etc) like Cookie Swap and other books by Julia Usher, but with extensive troubleshooting charts, more pictures, and a whole lot more basic cookie recipes.  I’d like the step-by-step photographs to be as extensive and exhaustive as the ones in The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook, but fewer per page.  And I’d like an accompanying website with up-to-date sourcing links for hard-to-find decorating supplies, please.

OK, that’s a start, I guess!  (Are you listening, publishers?)  I bet EYB members also have a ton of wish-I-had-’em cookbook ideas.  What are your fantasy cookbooks?

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  • ellabee  on  January 27, 2014

    :: the first week of plain asparagus is great, but by the sixth week :: Srsly? Six weeks? Wow. It's pretty much over in two weeks here, so that plain steamed and buttered asparagus never loses its charm.

  • tsusan  on  January 28, 2014

    Yeah, it used to be just a couple weeks for us too, but last year was almost eight – must have been ideal conditions. We grow it out back. In fact, weeding it – a two-day-long ordeal every May and again in June – is how I got Lyme disease last year. The rest of the garden got eaten by rabbits, but the asparagus was almost worth it.

  • darcie_b  on  January 28, 2014

    Toba Garrett's Creative Cookies comes close to a cookie decorating bible.

    I would like a cookbook that had mix and match pages for pairing up mains, sides, apps, and desserts (if you are old enough to remember, a Garanimal cookbook!). I find it such a chore to do full meal planning. I usually end up with a great main or a fantastic side, but rarely do I get a great combination.

  • boardingace  on  January 28, 2014

    I love your list – I can see how you would imagine so specifically, after reviewing cookbooks for a living! I don't have a wish list myself, as I'm happily cooking my way through the cookbooks that I already own. It's my personal "project" and I expect it will take me another 3-5 years to try all of the recipes. However, I still love reading about new cookbooks, and getting ideas for gifts.

  • boardingace  on  January 28, 2014

    P.S. I love your idea for a cookie decorating bible! This is the closest I've heard of:

    Wilton's Cookie Exchange, 150 recipes, not quite a bible 🙂

  • sir_ken_g  on  January 28, 2014

    The Fuchsia Dunlop Chinese books are awesome – I have them all except the last one which is a great beginners book – but I am well beyond that. Who would think that a Brit named Fuchsia would write the best Chinese cook books? But she has!

  • tsusan  on  January 29, 2014

    Great comments! Darcie_b, I will definitely check out Toba Garrett's book. I've been sent some of her advanced cake books and I love them even though they are way beyond me. And sure, I remember Garanimals!

  • lesorelle  on  January 29, 2014

    Love the idea of Fuchsia Dunlop doing a regional Chinese cookbook, and the New England Kitchen Garden one is exactly the one I want to write 😉

  • boardingace  on  January 29, 2014

    Susie, have you checked out Creative Cookies ( or Decorating Cookies ( I'm assuming since you're the cookbook pro, that these books were exactly what you were looking for…

  • boardingace  on  January 29, 2014

    Susie, have you checked out Creative Cookies ( or Decorating Cookies ( I'm assuming since you're the cookbook pro, that these books weren't exactly what you were looking for…

  • jlg84  on  January 31, 2014

    First of all, sir_ken_g I am with you about Fuchsia Dunlop's books, but disagree on the latest one, it's a keeper, and suitable even for us 'advanced' students.

    Second, I very much wish Fuchsia–or someone of her calibre–would do a single-volume regional Chinese cookbook, or better yet, a multi-volume one that could serve as an encyclopaedic resource. But such a thing does not even exist in China!

  • tsusan  on  February 4, 2014

    boardingace – thanks! I've got Creative Cookies on hold from the library, can't wait till it gets here. I'll check out the other one too!

  • boardingace  on  February 13, 2014

    Susie, I hope this isn't overkill, but I was just reading my Kitchen Krafts catalog and they have a book called "The Complete Photo Guide to Cookie Decorating" by Autumn Carpenter that is described as "550 large color photos, 192 pages." "Autumn Carpenter uses step-by-step directions, photos, and decorating tips and tricks to make you more confident creating artistic cookies."

    So I thought of this post again; had to share in case you're interested. And I'm excited to see that you've got Creative Cookies to check out!

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