I walked into a branch of Waterstone’s the other day and immediately gravitated to the food and drink section. And not for the first time, I was astonished by the number of recipe books on the shelves.
When I came out of the shop, I found myself musing how many copies these often lavishly and expensively produced books sell.
Okay, Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients was the best selling book in the UK last year, and people like Mary Berry and Rick Stein shift copies because they have the ability to make a connection with viewers of their TV programmes. And, of course, if you are a regular face on TV – no matter how bad you are on the screen, like Nadia Hussein or the Hairy Bikers – you will sell books.
But what about all these other chefs? How many copies of their books are actually sold?
And have you noticed how big some of these books are? They take up a lot of space on a shelf. Last year, The True Food of Spain by Monika Linton, the founder of Brindisa came out. It’s a thumping 544 pages!
It seems that every chef who makes an appearance on Saturday Kitchen has just published a recipe book. The scenario has almost become a parody. After asking what the chef will be cooking, Matt Tebbutt will then say as if surprised, “So you’ve got a book out.”
“Yes,” says the chef. “I’ve loved writing it.”
“So what’s it about?”
“Well, Matt, I want to show how cooking delicious meals at home can be really quick/I want to provide busy people with some simple ideas for healthy meals/I want to show that vegetables don’t have to be boring…”
They say this in the manner of someone who has some secret to share when what they are doing is the same as hundreds of other recipe book writers have already done.
“No!” I yell at the TV. “We don’t want another cookery book like this. There are hundreds of them out there. Please! Go back to the kitchen in your restaurant and stay there.”
Of course, only the publishers know how many recipe books get sold – and they only release figures when they want to boast. They never tell you which recipe book has been a turkey.
But I would hazard a guess that many of these books are probably bought as gifts for birthdays or Christmas, and that they never actually get used.
At least that’s how it is with me. I much prefer to watch a video of a chef cooking a dish on You Tube. It’s a far better way to follow a recipe – and it doesn’t take up space on a shelf