I’ve just finished watching a 20 minute presentation from a US publishing guru about the opportunities created by changing technology in this industry – print on demand, e-books, words consumed on cross media platforms, the works. Publishing is turning on its head, and as fast we catch up in one area, it bolts off in another.
Australia is lagging with e-books and I for one can’t wait until there is plenty of new good Australian content available digitally, and we have some really affordable and really usable readers that don’t tie you into the American-e-tailer-who-must-not-be-named (and who takes about $150 million out of this country every year, paying zip tax here and employing nobody – don’t get me started). But however convenient, light weight and flexible the digital reader of choice becomes, it certainly won’t be the complete answer to the reading “platform”. It certainly will never take the place of books as treasured icons, serving as silent reminders of where you were and what you did at certain points in your life.
And so I come to my treasured recipe book shelf! Dusty and be-splattered as it is, it is littered with good intentions – a wide variety of macro/lowfat/food as medicine books (largely unused), my mother’s original Mastering the Art of French Cooking (talk about being ahead of the curve), a couple of Australian Women’s Weekly offerings that got me out of trouble when I was first flatting, a Charmaine Solomon from when we all first discovered that there was more to spice than a pinch of nutmeg, and my beloved Claudia Roden (sadly no longer available although her Arabesques is a good substitute) with its supremely foolproof and altogether spectacular Moroccan Chicken with Tomatoes and Honey. Of course, they all need to share now with any number of Bill Granger books, Neil Perry, Stephanie (high priestess of the kitchen) Alexander, Kylie Kwong, and soon to be added Light of Lucia (bring on its April release date).
So it was with a great deal of pleasure, and a certain amount of smugness, that I noted that Egyptian-born, London-based cookbook author Claudia Roden won an honours for her life-time achievement at the first Paris Cookbook Festival a week or two ago.
An international cookbook fair in Paris – how very appropriate! Even more so, it was launched on Paul Bocuse’s birthday. Roden was in the company of Harumi Kurihara, the Japanese celebrity chef, and Costa Rican television chef Flora Sobrado de Echandi, whose cookbook series has sold over half a million copies in her country, where the population is 2 1/2 million people.
While American books and publishers were apparently thin on the ground, this very European affair attracted participants from all over the world, with Australia, Cambodia and Argentina singled out as some of the more exotic participants. In fact, Australia picked up a gong or two, and it wasn’t who you would expect.
Chef Hassan M’Souli received the ‘Best in the World Award’ in the ‘Africa Cuisine’ category for his book Make it Moroccan. If you have had the opportunity to meet M’Souli or eat in his restaurant, you probably would have spent a bit of time pawing over that luscious book.
Ex-pat Aussie David Thompson didn’t quite eclipse his performance with Thai Food in 2002 but he certainly made it to the top four cookbooks in the world with the very wonderful Thai Street Food. Thompson is a world expert on Thai food and has had an enormous impact on eating habits both in Australia and in Thailand.
While Thai food and Australians weren’t always such easy bedfellows, we have certainly always been a dab hand at the BBQ. Pete Evans came second in the world for his version of the BBQ, My Grill, which was a star from the start. Click here to see my interview with the ever charming Evans recorded just after the book launch last August.
And how did we go in the very competitive “easy recipe” section? You don’t have to think too hard about that one. 4 Ingredients (Kim McCosker & Rachael Bermingham) come third against 53 cookbooks from 53 countries.
It seems we are finally sloughing off our reputation of being a nation of beer and tea drinkers. Cocktails and Rock Tales and Cafe Republic were both shortlisted for their categories and finally, Adelaide graphic designer Dean Lahn won Third Place in the World for ‘Cookbook Illustrations’ with Beat Heat Eat .
The categories for the awards were many, and the ceremony lasted over an hour. The taste of glory however, will linger longer in the mouth.
As an aside, the award for best cookbook of the year 2009 went to the Swiss God’s Cookbook, tracing the culinary traditions of the Levant. It is a perfect example of how the Gourmand team goes to great lengths to search out books that can be off the beaten path. The publisher, Arcadian Lifestyle printed 250 limited edition copies of the illustrated book which includes recipes from the Bible, the New Testament and the Koran. “Food is the thing we all have in common,” remarked the author as he accepted his Swarovski special edition trophy. I am not sure what language this book is written in – Swiss Deutsch? Aramaic? Arabic? It certainly isn’t listed in any of the data bases I have access to. We live in hope for the English version. I guess that would have been all sorted out at the fair as well.