“Recipes and Stories”

In early 2011, I was scratching my head trying to think of an appropriate subtitle for my book, A Spoonful of Promises.  I know! I thought.  I’ll use “Stories and Recipes”!  That sounds like something I’d want to read.  I thought about the way my stories reminded me of the short piano pieces I’d grown up learning, and in a moment I had my subtitle: “Stories and Recipes from a Well-Tempered Table”.

At the time I thought I’d invented that happy pairing, “Stories and Recipes”.  But as is so often the case, it turned out to be a formula that had been in the air.  In the last 5 years, “Stories and Recipes” – or “Recipes and Stories” – has been on the rise.

I was reminded of it when a cookbook showed up this week emblazoned with a giant, vintagey tomato and the “Recipes and Stories” tag.  It was a great cover, but when I saw the subtitle, I wondered if it would really turn out to have a great story.  And as it turned out, it did – a small-town Southern grocery opens up in the middle of nowhere, accepting food stamps but selling artisanal gelato right there with the squash and potatoes.

And I feel pretty confident there will be good stories in Susie Middleton’s new Fresh from the Farm, having followed her farmstand adventures as a fellow New England kitchen gardener.  Don’t forget to enter the contest to win a copy of the book – the contest ends March 11.

I think the promise of stories to go along with the recipes makes us feel a little more confident about buying a cookbook – as if, well, if the recipes don’t work, we can always just read it!  Or, I’m not really interested in another food memoir, but this one has recipes!  We hope that we’ll be entertained, and if we’re not, maybe we’ll be nourished one way or another. 

Have you fallen for a “Recipes and Stories” cookbook lately?

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  • Therese  on  March 4, 2014

    In an effort to discipline my cookbook buying I resolved a couple if yrs ago to only buy cookbooks that were memoirs, novels, stories etc. Not wholly successful, but I try! Our foodie bookclub is about this too. Is Indexing recipes from ' not cookbooks' on the EYB to do list? eg Del Contes memoir Roses & Nettles ; Jael McHenrys 'The Kitchen Daughter' ; 'White Truffles in Winter'
    Cheers T

  • Jane  on  March 4, 2014

    Therese – we have indexed quite a few memoirs with recipes including Susie's own book that she mentions above. Click Indexed books, then Autobiography, biography & memoirs under Book type, Writing and reference and you will see there are 78. Some of those are more cookbook than memoir but at least you can see them all in one place. These type of books are perfect for member indexing as they usually contain far fewer recipes than a regular cookbook.

  • sir_ken_g  on  March 4, 2014

    I think stories are particularly important if they are ethnic cookbooks from places you many not know much about. I have books with stories from Burma, Central Asia, Vietnam, Korea and others.

  • darcie_b  on  March 4, 2014

    I like to read cookbooks with stories, but I find I don't cook from those books as often as I do from "regular" cookbooks. That doesn't stop me from buying them, however, or from using them as inspiration.

  • boardingace  on  March 5, 2014

    Yes, I fell for the stories in the Southern Foodways Alliance Cookbook (http://www.amazon.com/Southern-Foodways-Alliance-Community-Cookbook/dp/0820332755). Their website is full of even more fascintating stories! Not surprising, since essentially that's what they're about – documenting and preserving the history of southern food, i.e., collecting stories.

  • boardingace  on  March 5, 2014

    P.S. When it comes to actually purchasing a cookbook, being a minimalist, I am focusing on cooking through my own cookbooks completely through (http://usemybooks.wordpress.com/). My project is greatly aided by your website! So I checked out the above book at the library, after seeing it in a bookstore on vacation.

  • smiddleton  on  March 6, 2014

    This is so funny, Susie! My publisher actually came up with the subtitle for Fresh from the Farm, but when I saw it, I thought, "perfect, I love it!" It was only later that I realized one or two or three other books were going the same route. No matter, I guess. I love the word "stories" as it conjures up for me my Dad or some other great storyteller recounting something fun or interesting or captivating. Hopefully most good cookbooks tell a story, no matter how much text they have.

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