People still prefer cookbooks to online food videos, say food writers, publishers | books$ht-picks | Hindustan Times
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People still prefer cookbooks to online food videos, say food writers, publishers

In the digital age, where online video tutorials make the recipes of every and any cuisine easy and accessible, do people still prefer and refer to cookbooks? Yes, say food writers.

books Updated: Jul 20, 2017 11:51 IST
10 books on Indian cuisine won the ‘Best in the World’ title at the 2017 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in China.
10 books on Indian cuisine won the ‘Best in the World’ title at the 2017 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in China.

Would you prefer flipping through the pages of a cookbook to make gajar ka halwa and butter chicken or watch videos online on how to?

The online search engines have answers to all the queries. Type a word and hundreds of pages pop up. At such a time, are culinary books losing their sheen? Well, authors and publishers don’t feel so.

The touch of a culinary glossy, its images bringing alive the food, stirring the taste buds and the freedom to have your own personal cooking guide will never lose its charm, say young and veteran writers, who have chronicled recipes and a gamut of food experiences in their books.

The US-based author Niloufer King, who has penned My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking, is sure that most of her followers prefer to read about a cuisine in its social and cultural context.

“I suppose my target audience is composed of people who want to read about a cuisine in its social and cultural contexts, who don’t necessarily see a book on food as being ingredient lists and photographs,” King said.

“I think there’ll always be a future for text-heavy books on food,” says the 74-year-old author. King says she’s not familiar with the social media and neither very knowledgeable about online platforms.

“I’m of a generation who likes to grasp a book, to feel its weight, to smell the paper and ink, to enjoy the typography and graphics, to go back and forth between chapters,” she says.

Farzana Contractor, the editor and publisher of UpperCrust food magazine, feels that culinary books are “more alive and very personal” and that is their USP. “You can read it in a train, you can read it on a plane. You don’t have to put it off, like in a plane you’ve to put off the Wi-Fi. So most of the times if you’re going to sit down and look at the recipes in your phone, it’s so tiny.”

“You can’t compare the images and how alive they look in a book vis-a-vis this thing (on phone),” she says.

Contractor, the wife of “a foodie as big as” Behram Contractor aka BusyBee (noted journalist and the founder-editor of Afternoon newspaper), says books are more realistic than a screen, which is “just impersonal.”

Goa-based author and food critic Odette Mascarenhas, whose book Masci: The Man Behind The Legend won the special jury award, Gourmand Cookbooks Paris 2008, echoes similar sentiments.

Her book was a biography of Miguel Arcanjo Mascarenhas or Masci, the first Indian to be an executive chef at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai in 1939. She shared 50 of his signature recipes in the book.

“While on stage in Paris, most of the 450 food writers gathered there fondly remembered eating Calamari butter garlic and grilled fish only. The preparations are not Goan. People were getting the wrong perceptions,” she says.

“Moreover, many of the people who bought my book were keen to know the recipes of Masci...I realised that certain recipes needed to be protected. So I decided to dig into the culinary ethos and write about it,” says Mascarenhas, who also penned the Culinary Escapade of Goa.

Celebrity chef Ranveer Brar, whose first book Come into my Kitchen was published last year, feels books will never be out of fashion.

“Books still have their own charm, I mean the actual books. It’s true that information nowadays is pretty much hands-on, just a click away; but books do sell, culinary books especially,” says the 39-year-old chef, who features on various cookery shows on television.

“The USP of culinary books is the touch and feel, the whole point of holding a book when you cook, making notes, bookmarking favourite recipes and even leaving those haldi (turmeric) and mirch (chilli) stains is still endearing. Books evolve as you evolve, cookbooks especially,” says Brar.

While passion is what drives most of the food experts to document their experiences, sometimes real life demands also encourage them to jot down a book. Mascarenhas says she met a young girl who was getting married, and her mother-in-law wanted her to be was a very good cook.

“She begged me to write an easy-to-cook book...Goan and fish (Goa is known for fish). Many people dissuaded me saying recipes were available on the net. No one would buy a recipe book. My book sold out in six months. It was recipes taken from home kitchens,” says the 59-year-old author of Goan Recipes and More.

Contractor feels books will never die out. “General books, people do read on the Kindle if they are around 25-30 (age) and that stuff, but I think cook books no. Yes, when you have time, you browse through, you click, and you say mango...you get all the mango recipes.

“But it’s not so easy. A page is far easier than clicking and opening to get it, but on Internet you tend to get diverted, something else you see, your attention goes off. So I don’t think that the two compare so much when cook books and recipes are concerned,” she says.

“...whether it’s Madhur Jaffrey, a successful author, or Tarla Dalal, they are people who’ve created a reputation for themselves...their books will never die out,” says Contractor, who is in her early 50s.

Notably, even veteran author Ruskin Bond along with Ganesh Saili some years back brought out The Landour Cookbook, which offers a glimpse into over a hundred years of hillside cooking.

Joe Mascarenhas, a Goa-based publisher, also feels that culinary books still have a market.

“In the times of everything available online and on social media, I certainly think that culinary books sell. The target audience loves to read and especially when it comes to books on food and recipes, they prefer to have a hard copy for future reference and to keep in their library,” he says.

The publisher says there is a demand for these books in Goa and other cities also.

“There has been a change since the last 10 years, as now more of the youth, being exposed to so much of TV channels showing food, are buying these books, especially the soon-to-get-married types. People are more interested in food recipes and culinary books than in the past,” he says.

“As a publisher, my target audience are the upwardly mobile working class, young housewives, newly married women, home chefs and college youth, middle-aged homemakers and Goans abroad. The future looks bright as people are looking for interesting material presented in a creative and innovative style,” he says.

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