Read this post! Bossy cookbook titles

Every once in a while you come face to face with your own subtle biases.  When I'm reviewing, I hunt hard for them...I figure that to be aware of a bias is a big step towards neutralizing it.  But the one I discovered this week was a new one.

It arose when restaurateur Zakary Pelaccio's book crossed my desk.  "Eat With Your Hands,"  the front cover advised.  Why?  I thought.  Then I remembered--Pelaccio runs Fatty Crab and Fatty 'Cue, two greasy-finger enterprises that help keep Wet-Naps in business.  The book looked exciting, with new recipes and bright pictures. But somehow when I went to pick it up, I inevitably ended up veering away and testing something else.

After a while, I realized that--my goodness!--it was the title.  My reaction was the same one I'd had to Ann Hodgman's perfectly fine "Beat This!" and a funny little book called "Party Like a Culinista".  Apparently, I don't like being told what to do.

Now this would come as no surprise to anyone in my family, who have learned to find creative ways around the imperative case.  I'm quite happy doing anything I'm told as long as I don't realize it's an order. (This is probably why I'm a self-employed freelancer, rather than serving in the army or a restaurant kitchen).

 But back to cookbooks.  Titles phrased as commands don't mean to sound bossy.  They mean to convey playfulness, or enthusiasm!!! Indeed, many titles cast in the imperative come with a sporty exclamation point attached--"Let Them Eat Vegan!" or "Cook Wild!"   I don't mind exclamation points, and I pretty much expect them in press releases.  But I sort of don't trust authors who use them in their titles.  Because none of us!  are excited! and happy!  all the time!

And then there is the case of poor "It," as in "Dip It!" or "Stuff It! or "Grill It!" (there are at least six of these) or "Tart It Up!"  If "It" could talk, it would probably be saying something like "Give It A Rest Already!"

All that said, there's one title I rather like:  Don't Sweat the Aubergine.  Number one, it's good advice--if you try to slowly cook that baby in a little bit of oil over low heat, it will simply drink the oil and ask for more.  Number two, the subliminal message is friendly: Hey, don't worry. It's just cooking.  Don't sweat the small stuff.

But obviously, whether these commanding titles repel or attract me, they have no actual bearing on the content of the books.   Trust me.  Don't take this post too seriously.  Now go take a nap.

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