Olivia Ives shows us five cookbooks that make food an art as well as a science – and a pretty one at that. 


I’ve been warned again and again to never judge a book by its cover, but beautiful pictures of food, markets, and kitchens are something to which I am particularly susceptible. Maybe it comes from having whatever gorgeous photo graced the front of the New York Times Food Section torn out and taped to the fridge each week, or maybe it’s just a weakness for pretty things. Either way, every coffee table and kitchen shelf I ever have will invariably be stacked high with books full of brilliant, high-resolution photos of goat’s cheese, pomegranates and rosemary. Here are five of the most wonderfully photographed, inventively laid out and ingeniously organized cookbooks I’ve found to date.

1. Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink, Ten Speed Press 

The name of this book is a dead giveaway that the appearance of food is important to its aesthetic, but flipping through the pages makes it clear that the beauty of the food is in its simplicity. Vibrant Food doesn’t over-do anything or seem manufactured or contrived. It’s all down to the high quality ingredients and the cook’s willingness to let a dish’s success be based more on the amazing components than on technical preparation. The book is organized by seasons, and then by specific ingredients with beautiful photographs of the ingredients before, during and after cooking. The recipes are great, and the design is even better.




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2. The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson, Abrams Books

The delightful whimsy of this book makes me want to print out pages and frame them to hang. The author mixes typography, watercolor painting and her own handwriting to create visual recipes featuring largely local, vegetarian, and uniformly beautiful ingredients. The photos are taken at her cabin in the Santa Cruz Mountains, so the redwood trees and the fog provide a spectacular backdrop for the simple recipes. The Forest Feast includes recipes for appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts, as well as cocktails and drinks. Another bonus is that most of the recipes require less than five ingredients, making them cost-effective, quick to cook, and incredibly inviting to even the most amateur chef.


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3. The Ancestral Table by Russ Crandall, Victory Belt Publishing

It’s been impossible to avoid the recent Paleo diet trend, and – despite its being restrictive on multiple levels – people who stick to the paleo way of eating actually have a lot to work with. This book does two miraculous things: first, it makes incredibly healthy versions of common favorites that are usually the first to go on a diet like pizza, pasta and fried chicken, and second, it makes all of these revised recipes look thoroughly appetizing.  Also, rather than trying to leap over all the usual Paleo hurdles, the author looks for inspiration from other food cultures that are less dependent on non-Paleo grains, starches, salt and sugar. The result it a wonderful blend of guiltless and photogenic classics, as well as inspiring and accessible international recipes.


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4. Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, Ten Speed Press 

This cookbook functions as an encyclopedia of all things vegetable-y, and it’s an invaluable resource. Understanding the relationships between vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs makes cooking both more interesting and more flexible. Herbs from the same family often complement the same foods, vegetables from the same family often cook for the same times, and above all, vegetables – especially in gardens and markets – are incredibly beautiful in photographs. Perhaps the highest compliment a book can be paid is that it makes turnips look intriguing, and this cookbook does that and more in a stunning fashion.


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5. A Change Of Appetite by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley

While this book is the result of the author’s dietary shift to more fish, vegetable and grain based eating, there is no austerity or deprivation evident in its pages. On the contrary, actually, it’s an all-around celebration of food and flavor shown in flawless design and enthusiastic writing. And, because of the incredibly healthful and nourishing food that this book teaches, after a few weeks with the book, you begin to feel as vibrant and beautiful as the food you’re eating.


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Olivia Ives


Photo Credit:

www.forestfeast.comwww.thedomesticman.comwww.spoonfulblog.com, www.amazon.com, www.ohmyveggies.com, www.amazon.com, www.seriouseats.com, www.athoughtforfood.net, www.eatyourbooks.com, www.telegraph.co.uk, www.redonline.co.uk, www.telegraph.co.uk


Legal note: all included photographs are used solely for the purpose of criticism and review as outlined via the fair dealing exception of UK Copyright Law and the fair use clause of US Copyright Law. This work was previously made available to the public, the source of the material is acknowledged, and the material itself is accompanied by discussion and assessment in line with fair dealing/use standards. Additionally, no more material is used than is absolutely necessary for the purpose of the intended criticism and review.