May 16, 2013

Rhubarb is coming into the markets, summer is just around the corner and I’m five months from my deadline date.

Back in October, I started working on Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry (W.W. Norton, 2014.) Whatever I might have thought about writing a book, it’s much harder than I imagined, and much more rewarding. I’m going through old notebooks of recipe scribbles, testing favorite recipes again and again, and writing all the time. I love this process and I can’t wait to share the book with all of you.

But testing and writing recipes are just a small a part of making a book. Nothing  happens without a brilliant team. My editor, Maria Guarnaschelli, is bringing her eagle eye to the project – sharpening the focus, organizing a massive amount of information into a logical form, and keeping me on track. It has been a tremendously valuable process.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with Maria to develop a photography list, identifying each and every photograph in the book. Photographs can be as essential to the storytelling as the writing, evocative and alluring and educational, and the right photographer, the right team, will help make this book replicate the one that has haunted my imagination for so many years. The season is upon us, and soon all the foods of summer will appear (and disappear.) Maria and I knew it was time to identify a photographer who would properly capture all that beauty.

I reviewed dozens of photographer’s online portfolios, recommendations from friends and colleagues and cookbooks with a photographic style that resembled my developing aesthetic.

A few cookbooks kept ending up on top of the pile. (If you don’t own these books, consider this is an unabashed endorsement.)

The Canal House series – a favorite of mine since the books first appeared, with sensible, approachable recipes and stunning, simple photographs. I give the series as a wedding gift to anyone who cooks.

IMG_8376The “big red book”  – Canal House Cooks Every Day –  published last year, featured in Food52’s Piglet Contest, and appeared on every ‘best of 2012’ list.

IMG_8383And Deborah Madison’s remarkable Vegetable Literacy, a superb collision of botany and kitchen. This lovely book explores vegetables from a new and different angle. The writing is gorgeous, the recipes are innovative and the photographs are, well, exceptional.

But really, it was Southern Living’s Hunter Lewis who provided the impetus. Back in February, over dinner in Charleston (at the incomparable FIG,) he suggested I contact Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton – “the Canal House team.” Hunter,  I am endlessly grateful.  You were absolutely correct, we three are cut from the same cloth.

Yes, yes, it’s true. The remarkably talented Christopher and Melissa will be shooting and styling the photographs for my book. I am feeling very grateful and enthusiastic and so far beyond excited that over the moon doesn’t suffice. It’s more like over all seven of Saturn’s moons.

I’ll be back here soon with a new early summer preserves. Until then, I’m busy packing up a basket of goodies to carry up to Lambertville for a face to face with my photographic team. Color me lucky.


ICYMI, recent articles:
Wine Jelly in the New York Times
Dinner Party Tips from the Deans of Domestic Pursuit in the Washington Post
Memories of my mother, larceny and rhubarb on Food52

19 Responses to “developing an aesthetic”

  1. domenicacooks

    This is such wonderful news, Cathy. They will surely do justice to your recipes. What a beautiful book it’s going to be. Can’t wait to buy it.

  2. MD Smith

    Oh, congrats! Everything you say about the book just makes the wait even longer and harder to endure! Best, best, best!

  3. Annie Fenn

    Amazing news!!My desk is littered with these exact same books as I look for inspiration for spring menus. I am always drawn back to Canal House, and I am slowly devouring Vegetable Literacy. Bravo Cathy!

  4. Maria Raynal

    It will be such a beautiful, delicious book. I cannot wait. Wonderful news.

  5. Janelle

    So looking forward to it. Congrats on the photo team: what an amazing feeling to find folks cut from the same cloth. In our world: in the same dirt;)). Cannot wait to see, share, and soak up your book.

  6. heidi defaut

    you deserve a the wonderful that is happening to continue to be an inspiration to so many of us. thank you!

  7. kate hill

    Hip Hip Hurrah! What a wonderful team to capture your Practical Pantry vision. I can hear the laughter at the photo shoots now. What a beautiful book this talented trio will make. Yeah TEAM!

  8. kirsten@FarmFreshFeasts

    I’m very pleased for you. I spent April doing a 30 days to better food photography challenge, and our instructor Neel started us off by looking at the work of food photographers to see which photos appealed to us and why. Later in the challenge we listened to interviews with several photographers. What a wonderful thing to have your book, your baby, in the hands of folks whose work you respect and admire.
    Well done.

  9. Julie E.

    Congrats Cathy, before you know it your hard will be laying open on our kitchen counters.

  10. Georgie Evans

    Can’t wait for the book to hit the market! The best part will be reading it and hearing your voice in my head.

  11. Helen

    Such splendid news! Their clean, beautiful work will perfectly complement your text and recipes. I cannot think of a more perfect fit. And what an honor! I’m thrilled for you. ;o)


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