Tired of cookbooks filled with food porn of yolks running over brick-oven pizzas and avocado toasts topped with togarashi—but still want images of food alongside recipes? A new crop of illustrated cookbooks fills that visual void.
Picture Cook: See. Make. Eat. with recipes and art by Katie Shelly is sparse in direction but dense in cuteness. The simple line drawings direct readers on how to upgrade toast (butter, sugar and cinnamon) and how to compose chana masala. The more complicated the dish, like the one for Indian chickpeas, the harder it is to get away with zig-zag lines substituting for written instructions. Experienced and improvisational cooks will best be able to navigate, though anyone looking for ideas can be inspired from the eight combinations (example: red onion, peanuts, cilantro, grapefruit and grilled fish) and 30-plus ingredients to fill a taco. (2013)
After convincing her husband to move from Seattle to New York City, Sara Zin’s life started to deteriorate. While still driving the U-Haul, her husband took what was supposed to be a part-time job in L.A. She was left alone in a new city. She painted, a passion of hers, but neglected eating and soon became exhausted, lost … and hungry. She called herself a starving artist. By reuniting with her husband and traveling overseas, she sought new meaning in her life through food. The Starving Artist Cookbook combines her soft-focus paintings and simple, recognizable recipes: creamed spinach, pasta fagioli and Swedish meatballs. (2016)
A follow-up to the 1961 cookbook of the same name, The Artists’ & Writers’ Cookbook turns headnotes into the main event as Joyce Carol Oates writes a haunting tribute in “Recipe in Defiance of Grief” accompanying scarce instructions on assembling scrambled eggs, onions and smoked salmon. Whimsical illustrations bring the stories to life, capturing the narrative with ingredient spotlights or candlesticks or a unicorn. Most of the famed authors and artists (Alice Hoffman, Roz Chast) offer tales from childhood, a time when food meant memories, feelings and family, not will-this-look-good-on-Instagram. (2016)