Who buys cookbooks and why?

cookbooks on shelf

It's a pretty safe bet to say that people who use this site like to buy cookbooks. But what drives people to buy cookbooks and who, besides EYB members, are buying them? Those are questions answered by a Nielsen survey and reported by Dianne Jacobs on her excellent blog.

Probably no one will be surprised to learn that 65 percent of people who buy cookbooks are women. However, some people might not have expected that even though food photos dominate social media like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, only 21 percent of the people surveyed said photos influenced their decision to purchase a cookbook. Apparently, recipes still rule over eye candy.

Which cookbook, websites, and magazine brands were the most recognized? Maybe not the ones you might imagine: Betty Crocker was the most recognized cookbook brand, AARP (Amecian Association of Retired Persons) magazine was the most recognized magazine, and Allrecipes.com was the most recognized website.

Another noteworthy finding is that eBooks only accounted for 16 percent of cookbook purchases in 2012. It will be interesting to see how quickly this number grows. The article also discusses other results, including which cuisines were the most popular and how much emphasis people put on looking through a book before buying it.

Did any of the findings surprise you?

How cookbooks rate in the States

Great American Eats

Amazon.com has just released an interactive infographic called "Great American Eats" that shows which cookbooks originating in each region of the U.S. are most popular. The map is curated by Mari Malcolm, Amazon Books' food editor. She explains her inspiration to the LA Times: "I've long been intrigued by the regional trends in cookbooks, so I decided it would be fun for foodies and our cookbook customers if I actually mapped them."

Living in the Midwest, I was naturally curious about this region, which includes some very rural areas along with the metropolis of Chicago. The comfort food-heavy The New Midwestern Table nabbing a spot in the top five cookbooks hailing from this region, but the sophisticated Alinea holds its own at number eleven.

So far only the U.S. has been mapped, and there is no indication it will spread to other countries. The maps shows cookbooks by originating region, and lists them in order of "new and popular."


Cookbook giveaway - My Paris Kitchen

My Paris Kitchebn

David Lebovitz began working in restaurants at the age of sixteen, ending up as pastry chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. After working there for 13 years, David packed his bags and headed to France to begin a new career in writing. Since then, he has published seven books. His latest is My Paris Kitchen, and we're delighted to offer three copies.

You can learn more about the cookbook and David's life in France in his EYB interview.

For your chance to win a copy, just answer the following question: What is your favorite French food?

Additional rules are:

  • Please make certain you have signed in to the EYB website (you don't have to be a paid member). This ensures that we have your email address and can get in contact with you.
  • The giveaway will expire in 4 weeks on May 9, 2014.

David Lebovitz takes us to Paris

David Lebovitz

David Lebovitz has certainly kept busy since leaving a successful career as a pastry chef in San Francisco to move to France and begin a career in writing. His seventh cookbook, My Paris Kitchen, has just been released and promises to be another bestseller. (You can win a copy of the book by entering our contest.) On the eve of his book tour, David sat down with EYB to answer questions about the cookbook and his life in France. You can read even more about the writing of his current book on his blog.


This is your seventh book. How do you carve out the time when you also have a blog, you're busy on social media, you conduct Paris culinary tours, write articles, etc.?

Because I spent most of my life working in restaurants, I am used to working a lot, especially at insane hours, and am particularly adept at multitasking. So I also love what I do - writing books is very interesting for me as it allows me to delve deeply into a subject, and blogging is fun because it's more immediate and I love the interesting feedback from readers - and everything I do (books, blog, social media) is integrated into my life. So it's not a chore, but a pleasure.

However I have learned what my limits are. And amongst the many things I've learned from the French is how to say "Non." There's a reason that they are able to value leisure time more than we do and it's because they are better at balancing life over work, and saying no to things they don't have (or don't want) to do. So I've learned when to dial back, and to only do what I can do - otherwise, I'm spending all my time doing things other than writing cookbooks, testing recipes, blogging, and more importantly, visiting chocolate shop and bakeries!

You have been living in Paris for many years.  How difficult was it to whittle down your favorite Parisian recipes to the 100 or so in the book?

When I started writing My Paris Kitchen, originally I had thought that I would have recipes from some of the young Paris chefs and write about the current culinary scene. But then I realized that many of those dishes are not something anyone would be able to recreate at home, as many are the "personal" visions of the chefs. And they often feature complex plates with tiny greens, a few slices of smoked fish, a garnish with four cubes of various different root vegetables, and a scribble of sauce made with a reduction of quail essences.  The French are naturally pretty good cooks and people in Paris like to go out for food they can't get or make at home, and those kinds of dishes fit the bill.

I wanted to write recipes that people could make at home, anywhere in the world. And with so many lovely ingredients available worldwide it's possible. So I decided to concentrate on home cooking and my own cuisine. I wanted to include how I shop for ingredients at the outdoor markets, what I get in the specialty shops - such as at the butchers and cheese shops, and also featured bits and pieces of the multicultural neighborhoods, which are lesser-known to people who come visit or overlooked in books about Paris, but I find them fascinating to visit and inspirational to the way I cook. I was also fortunate to have a wonderful photographer, Ed Anderson, who was particularly adept at getting pictures that capture the mood of Paris.

Which are the recipes that resonate most with you and why?

I am a big fan of "apero hour", the time in France when you relax at the end of the day over a glass of cool rosé - or something more ambitious, like an apéritif. So I'm particularly fond of the salted almond crisps, which are inspired by the wispy, salty crackers from Provence that are laden with almonds and olives. Another favorite recipe is the Parisian Gnocchi, which I am pretty sure I made every week this winter. It's a dish that not really well-known outside of France (or even Paris), and is a simmering gratin dish of pâte à choux (cream puffs) nestled in creamy béchamel sauce, baked under handfuls of cheese. When it comes out of the oven, the top is deeply bronzed. It's hard not to scrape the entire dish clean! (Especially when washed down with a lovely Sancerre or Sauvignon blanc.)

My Paris KitchenI'm also a big fan of chocolate and confiture de lait (dulce de leche), so these two flavors play big in the dessert chapter of the book. I can't help using them as much as I can. And I often add a sprinkle of sea salt, such as fleur de sel, to them  which gives the chocolate - confiture de lait tart, or warm chocolate cakes with the confiture de lait  in the center, a certain je ne sais quoi. But the recipe that is probably the most special to me is the last one, the Bûche de Noël, or Christmas Cake. It's perhaps my most requested recipe and I thought it was perfect to feature at the end of the book (which is not just a recipe book, but is part storybook, with tales that mirror my life) not only to wrap up the book, but to tie up the connection between my former life in San Francisco and my current life in Paris.

Do you think an immigrant to Paris ever feels truly "at home"?

It's been said that you never feel more American than when you leave America, and that's certainly true. Like other big cities, Paris can be a tough place at time. And it's very difficult to integrate into the culture. Fortunately I have an advantage, and that's that people are always interested in pastry chefs, and writing is considered a noble profession. So those have helped.

I also have a French partner, so I do a lot of things that a typical American (or foreigner) might not get to experience. Plus being here a while, I've made close friends. But still, I'm not sure I'll ever feel exactly "at home" here. Cultural ties are very strong and there are things about the United States I still miss: Sharpies, organic crunchy peanut butter, and customer service, come to mind. But there are things about Paris that make up for it. (Although customer service isn't one of them.)

Your blog is immensely popular (and indexed on EYB). How difficult is it to keep your best recipes back for your books (or maybe you don't!)?

I think certain recipes are better on blogs while others work better in books. I cook a lot of Asian foods at home, and some Mexican, and it's hard to pop those in a book about Paris. Desserts with several components work better in books so people can have a book in the kitchen with them.

Books are part of a long, more thoughtful process than the blog, which is meant to be more spontaneous and casual. In My Paris Kitchen (as well as The Sweet Life in Paris), the recipes are part of a longer story, so they work with the text to help me communicate with readers, which I do with both working together.

Are you frustrated by the long, slow process of book publishing now that you can publish recipes so quickly on your blog and get instant feedback?

Writing a book is vastly different because you're creating a document that people will refer to for years to come, so you need to be especially careful that the text and recipes are exactly what you want to say because they can't be changed. Whereas a blog is more of a diary and running commentary, and tends to be more casual. You're right that the process of writing a book is slow, but in this age of "get it out there - quick!" it's nice to spend the time working on something that will have lasting value. (Folks write that they still bake from my first book - Room for Dessert - which was released in 1999, which shows that people still value cookbooks as much as ever.)

The process of writing a book is much more measured than writing a blog. People often don't realize how many stages a book goes through. Writing a book takes at least a year (I spent two years writing and testing recipes for My Paris Kitchen). To me, writing and recipe testing is almost a 24/7 job, and when I'm working on a book, that's almost all I think about as it becomes a major part of my life. The next stage, editing, is tough because someone else is scanning your words and thoughts, asking for revisions or following up. Then there is taking the pictures (which is one of my favorite parts), then the book goes into production with designers and so forth. It takes a while, yes. But when you hold that finished book in your hand, well, I can't think of anything that feels better.

When writing the recipes, how much did you need to adapt ingredients, bearing in mind it may be hard for your readers to get some of those you find in Paris?

Fortunately the range of what is available in America has expanded greatly and thing that are common in France and used in French cooking, like Swiss chard, Comté cheese, frisée, shallots, bittersweet dark chocolate, Dijon mustard, and olive oil, can be found in most supermarkets. For this book, I called butchers in America to find out about what cuts of meat were common, and I have my recipes tested in the US with products available there since they can be different from those in France. Most people are pretty adept at using the internet and you can really find anything you want, although I still try to stick with ingredients people can get fairly easily, because not everyone wants to wait for a delivery to make dinner.

You will shortly be doing a book tour to promote the new book.  How can your fans find out where they might meet you?

I put events on the Schedule page at my website and in my newsletter, but I also put them on my Facebook page and Twitter stream, which are more immediate ways to let people know where I will be. I always want to go everywhere because I love meeting people.

Featured Cookbooks & Recipes

With Passover and Easter right around the corner, this week's featured recipes include one for each holiday, but there are plenty more to choose from in the EYB Library for last-minute menu planning. You can browse more than  300 Passover recipes and  900 Easter recipes with online links and add the ones you'd like to try to your personal Bookshelf (if you are a free member, this feature will be available to you soon).

If you get the chance to make any of the recipes featured here, please share your experience with the EYB community by adding a Note to the recipe. Happy cooking and baking everyone!


From blogs & magazines:

Spring pea saladCherry hot cross bunsCoconut macaroon cake

Spring Pea Farro Salad from indexed blog What's Gaby Cooking

Sour-Cherry Hot Cross Buns for Easter by Alice Storey from the April issue of indexed Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine

Coconut Macaroon Cake with Pistachios & Coconut Ganache for Passover from indexed blog 5 Second Rule


Deviled eggs

21 jazzed-up deviled egg recipes from the April issues of indexed Martha Stewart LivingBetter Homes and Gardens, & Cooking Light magazines



From UK books:

The American Cookbook

10 recipes from The American Cookbook: A Fresh Take on Classic Recipes by Caroline Bretherton & Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, indexed by an EYB member


My Kind of Cooking

3 recipes from My Kind of Cooking by Mark Sargeant, indexed by an EYB member

Click "related video" to watch a demonstration by the author of the Quick Paella with Hot Smoked Salmon recipe pictured above


Vegan on the Cheap

4 budget-friendly recipes from Vegan on the Cheap by Robin Robertson



From AUS/NZ books:

Steve Manfredi's Italian Food

17 recipes from Stefano Manfredi's Italian Food


The Book of Tripe

3 nose-to-tail recipes from Stéphane Reynaud's Book of Tripe and Gizzards, Kidneys, Feet, Brains and All the Rest



From US books:

The Italian Vegetable Cookbook

5 recipes from The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone

Enter our giveaway to win 1 of 5 copies! (Ends April 19th)


Sauces & Shapes

11 recipes from Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Oretta Zanini De Vita & Maureen B. Fant


The Art of French Pastry

3 recipes from The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer & Martha Rose Shulman


Artisan Cheese Making at Home

11 recipes from Artisan Cheese Making at Home by Mary Karlin


Easy Chinese Stir Fries

7 recipes from Helen's Asian Kitchen: Easy Chinese Stir-Fries by Helen Chen, indexed by an EYB member



Cookbook giveaway - I Quit Sugar for Life

I Quit Sugar for LifeAuthor, blogger and television host Sarah Wilson's cookbook, I Quit Sugar for Life, has just been released in the United States after enjoying considerable success in Australia and the UK. We're delighted to offer four copies of this book.

You can learn more about Sarah's views on sugar in her inteview with EYB.

For your chance to win a copy, just answer the following question: what sweet would you find most difficult to eliminate from your diet?

Additional rules are:

  • Please make certain you have signed in to the EYB website (you don't have to be a paid member). This ensures that we have your email address and can get in contact with you.
  • The giveaway will expire in 4 weeks on May 7, 2014.

The sweet life, sans sugar

Sarah Wilson


Sarah Wilson is an Australian author, tv host, blogger and wellness coach. MasterChef fans may know her as the host of the first season of MasterChef Australia. Her cookbook, I Quit Sugar for Life, has just been released in the United States, so we asked Sarah to discuss the book and provide EYB members with information on sugars and sugar substitutes in our diets. You can win a copy of Sarah's cookbook by entering our contest.




Let's start with a basic question - what is your definition of sugar?

When I refer to sugar I'm talking mostly about everyday table sugar, or sucrose, as well as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This is how we consume most of our added sugar. Both sucrose and HFCS are roughly 50 per cent fructose and 50 per cent glucose. Of course it's the fructose that's the problem. Other "sugars" that I refer to include maple syrup (35 percent fructose), honey (45 percent fructose), agave (up to 90 percent fructose) and so on. I should also point out that sugars that don't contain fructose - e.g., pure glucose and artificial sweeteners, as well as stevia - also have their own set of health issues that I like to remind people to be cautious of. You can read more on this here.

There are so many different types of sugar, which are those you avoid completely and are there any you allow yourself, e.g. fructose in fresh fruit?

Avoid table sugar and HFCS. Two pieces of whole fruit a day contain up to six teaspoons of sugar, however, because fruit contains so many minerals and vitamins as well as fibre and water, consuming sugar in this way is not as problematic. Me personally, I have one to two pieces of low-fructose fruit a day. I also consume a little sugar in homemade chocolate and other foods that contain a little sugar.

How long do you think it takes someone who is addicted to wean themselves away from sugar?

My research has found that for most people it takes about eight weeks to recalibrate your metabolism and to balance out blood sugar cycles. Hence my 8-Week Program.

Given all the temptations around them, how hard is to wean children away from sugar?

I'll be absolutely honest - really difficult. Kids palates can adjust very quickly; however, sugar is marketed very aggressively at children and it can feel like an uphill battle for parents. My best advice is to not have sugar at home, not demonise sugar (so that it becomes stigmatised) and get the kids involved in cooking. To learn more, check out my I Quit Sugar Kids Cookbook.

What is your view of sugar substitutes such as stevia?

Brown rice syrup and stevia are two of the safest. But bear in mind, even non-fructose sugars (such as glucose) aren't good to eat in large quantities and can cause insulin spikes and wobbliness too, albeit in a more manageable way. Just the sweet taste can trigger insulin and metabolic responses. I choose to use any substitutes in minimal amounts, and suggest them as "treats" only. Even when a recipe contains a safe sweetener it should still be eaten with care, and preferably not every day.

I Quit Sugar for LifeWhat would you say to those who feel they do not have the willpower to quit?

I would say there are a whole range of emotional techniques to help with addiction. I was really resistant to quitting and committed to two weeks only. I felt instantly better and just kept going. This is my approach - to treat it as a gentle experiment and keep going as long as it feels good. This helps me see it through.

How hard was it to adapt baking and dessert recipes to exclude sugar?  What alternative sweeteners do you use?

It's rather simple, especially once you substitute all sweeteners for sweet foods. Like sweet potato, coconut products, fennel seeds etc. Brown rice syrup and stevia however, as mentioned above, I keep these to the lowest amount possible and use other whole foods to provide sweetness.

Your books are huge in Australia and the UK and you now have your first book published in the USA. Did you have to adapt your plan in any way for the American market?

Not really, my recipes are very much about "going back to basics" - granny cooking! The challenge has been changing metric to imperial, and changing the names of some ingredients. Brown rice syrup hasn't traditionally been used a lot in the US, however since my program has been available a number of health experts and chefs have switched to this sweetener, for example Gwyneth Paltrow, making it a lot more available now.

Your plan sounds great for people who love to cook their own food (Eat Your Books members!) - but can you help those who buy prepared foods which contain a lot of hidden sugar and especially in the USA, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup)?

Absolutely! Always buy the full fat (not the low fat or diet) versions. Manufacturers replace the fats they remove with extra sugar to make up for the lack of taste and texture. Look for the version of a food with least number of ingredients. This ensures less additives and less sugar. Also compare sugar quantities on labels and go for one with the least amount. Avoid products with heavy sauces, especially tomato-based ones. They have lots of sugar. Also be aware of Asian sauces, especially Thai. They have huge dumpings of sucrose.

Dash to the store no more?

Amazon Dash

Amazon recently unveiled a new device being offered to select Amazon Fresh customers. The small wand is called Amazon Dash, and its aim is to simplify grocery shopping. The Dash coordinates with your Amazon Fresh account and operates by voice command or by scanning bar codes, adding items to your online grocery list.

While Amazon Fresh currently operates in only three areas on the West Coast of the U.S., online grocers are poised for growth in the near future, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. After years of stumbles and failed startups, online delivery services like Instacart are establishing footholds in the grocery business. While online grocery providers may struggle to attract shoppers over a certain age, the generation that grew up with online retailers may find them a logical extension of the services they enjoy for other products. Some analysts paint a more pessimistic picture of the viability of online grocers, believing that growth will stagnate because consumers remain wary of online grocery shopping and are put off by the relatively steep delivery charges.

Cooking enthusiasts probably couldn't imagine allowing someone else to pick out their fresh produce or meats. Currently, online grocers do not allow you to view the marbling on a steak or determine if the beet greens are perky before buying. And if you lament the disconnect between farmer and consumer, these services do nothing to improve that relationship. However, being able to scan the barcode on the last can of coconut milk and have it appear on your doorstep the next day has a certain appeal. Online grocery delivery services could also be enlisted to help tackle the problem of urban food deserts.

While full-service online grocers only operate in large cities, others like the eponymous Amazon and Azure Standard ship non-perishable and specialty items to any location, a boon for those in rural areas who don't have access to products like dried porcini mushrooms or tamarind paste. Unfortunately for online grocers, while these people are likely to embrace their services, they live in areas where it is cost prohibitive to establish deliveries.

What do you think about online grocery shopping? Is the Amazon Dash a game-changing device?

Photo courtesy of Amazon Fresh

Let's Talk Lunch

 As I write this, I'm thinking about lunch, one of the three highlights of my day.  Dinner is recipe testing, breakfast is usually the same thing every day, but lunch is.....a mystery.  Sometimes (often) it's leftovers from dinner.  Sometimes it's the remains of something I just photographed for work.  Sometimes it's just...whatever I can find.

When I worked in an office, lunch was a quest - something new and interesting to bring back to my desk.  Or something to savor in a restaurant, with a book or magazine.  My husband's lunch I make every morning, and my kids have theirs at school.

But some new cookbooks challenge us to make more of lunch.  Like Lunch at the Shop, from bookshop owner Peter Miller, lovingly photographed by Christopher Hersheimer and Melissa Hamilton.  It's a serene sort of book, full of pastas and salads and sandwiches and even some ribs that take an hour to make.  It makes you wish you worked in a bookshop, with a kitchen out back.  

Gale Gand's Lunch is more utilitarian - the next entry in a series that includes desserts, snacks, and brunch.  It's full of those sandwiches you pay $8.50 for at the shop near the lobby, plus the sort of packable salads you find at the deli counter. 

I like the optimism of these books - the idea that lunch is worth thinking about.  Chances are, though, that lunch will remain a simple, improvisational meal for me.  Because somebody still has to do the dishes before dinner.

Pickle your fancy


Have you ever rummaged through the vegetable drawer, noticing produce that needs to be used but not being inspired to make anything from it? Or maybe you overindulged at the farmer's market and came home with more than you could manage. You mutter to yourself "Maybe tomorrow..." but tomorrow never comes, and you eventually discard the limp vegetables into the compost bin or trash can. There is an alternative to this scenario: turn that forlorn produce into pickles! Not only does pickling add pizzazz to almost any vegetable (and many fruits) in the crisper, it can also extend the food's shelf life.

Pickling used to be commonplace as a means to preserve the harvest, but like many traditional food practices, modern conveniences and busy lifestyles pushed it out of the mainstream. That is a shame because pickling is simple and can take your produce from drab to fab quite literally overnight. Cucumbers immediately come to mind when thinking about pickles, but you can pickle a peck of peppers, peaches,  green beans, onions, cauliflower, watermelon, and even eggs.

Pickles could hardly be simpler - make a brine, add aromatics and vegetables or fruit, and wait. If your vegetables are similar in size and density, you can make the most of odds and ends in the crisper and combine them to make a mixed pickle. Most recipes utilize a vinegar-based brine, and aromatics range from traditional dill and garlic to more exotic options like star anise and orange zest. Some "quick pickle" recipes cut the wait time down to just a few hours.

There are hundreds of pickle recipes available online from the EYB library - here are a few to get your mouth watering:

Gingered pickled carrots
Pickled red chiles
Pickled grapes with cinnamon and black pepper
Star anise daikon pickles
Pickled fennel with orange zest
Indian-spiced pickled green beans
Pickled cauliflower with pomegranate molasses 
Fig and ginger pickle

So clean out that vegetable drawer and get pickled!

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!