My standard line when people ask me about my experience writing cookbooks for other people is that cookbooks are a labor of love. "Their love. My labor."
Complain as I might, the truth is, I put as much care into writing these books as I would if they were my very own, and the other truth is that I've fallen in love with almost every person I've written a cookbook for, in part because I've been lucky to work with the people I have, and in part because my job is to draw the best out of them, and when it comes right down to it, people, when you're paying attention, are pretty great. The other thing that makes the labor all worth while is seeing the book in its final, hardcover, copy-edited, graphically-designed, photograph-enhanced, glossy-paged, for sale version. I've been through this before, but I've never been as excited as when I saw The Mozza Cookbook, which I did for the first time, oddly enough, at the media party that our publisher, Knopf, hosted for the book last Wednesday. (A party hilariously chronicled in this Food Republic story by the intrepid former NY Times Style section reporter, Allen Salkin, whose eye for story never ceases to amaze me.)
While I know you're not supposed to judge a book by such superficial things, what struck me as I held the 350-page testament to two years of my life in my lamb-chop-greasy fingers, was how fat it is. And how heavy. It feels like an important book. Even the paper feels good. Of course how a book feels isn't really what matters, but since I am intimately acquainted with every last word, and since I tested every last recipe (with help, of course), I feel like I'm allowed to be superficial and say: the book is pretty.
As pretty as it is, my secret favorite thing about it, which is the case with all the books I've written for Knopf, is that the book lies flat when you open it.
This has to do with how the book is bound, a process, more expensive I'm sure, that means, for the home cook, that you don't have to stick a bottle of wine on the book to keep it from bouncing to some random page while you're checking the olive oil cakes for doneness. This is good news for those who plan to do something other than feel the paper, because this is a book that's meant to be cooked from. I can tell you that for sure.
A review like the one in today's LA Weekly Blog almost makes all that labor worth it, but only because it is by now but a vague and delicious memory.