Once in a while, I find a book I MUST own. (OK, almost every time I’m in a bookstore that happens – with tons of books – but I can usually hone down the urge to buying just one book at a time.) In this case, a few days ago I walked out of Barnes & Noble with a couple purchases but was especially thrilled with the most unique cookbook I’d ever come across, They Draw & Cook: 107 Recipes Illustrated by Artists from Around the World by Nate Padavick & Salli Swindell (weldonowen, 2011). We’re not talking just a few sketches here, with a recipe uniformly printed as the main event. Think: presenting the recipe as a work of art, sometimes cute or goofy, sometimes incredibly beautiful – but always someone’s visualization of how to cook or bake something. For me, this book is a keeper. And an inspiration.
The book comes from the brother&sister artist/writer team’s website, which began simply enough (quoted from the site):
Nate and Salli came up with this idea while on a family vacation. Nate was trying to recreate a favorite dish – fettucine with figs in a balsamic butter sauce – while Salli sat at the counter with her watercolors painting the crate of figs. This led them to realize how fun it was to illustrate food. They then started talking about creating a little recipe book for friends, family, and clients. They asked some of their artist pals to help, but never got enough recipes to justify printing a book, so Nate built a quick blog and Salli started to spread the word – it spread fast! They Draw & Cook now contains the biggest and best collection of illustrated recipes anywhere.
Each two-page-spread drew me in with its creative approach to visually representing the artist’s targeted dish (or baked good). Some recipes are detailed in their instructions for creating the dish. Others are more open to personal culinary creativity. As I traveled through the book (& “travel” is the right word here since they hail from all over the world), I found myself cooking up a potential illustration or two in my own mind, along with pondering which They Draw and Cook ones I might try my hand at. I decided the Madeleines look tempting (illustrated by Australian artist Jessica Barnes), and Potatoes Multilevel (from Silvia Sponza of Milano, Italy) would make for a fine, savory supper for some future eve. But first: tomorrow, when I’m going to a friend’s house to “do art,” you can just guess what I’m hoping to create!
If you love both art and cooking, you’ll enjoy this book. If you’re into sketching or painting or just plain doodling, you might want to follow the example of these writers and all the illustrator-cooks they’ve included in their cookbook and create a visual recipe yourself. They’re already contemplating publication of a second volume of recipe art (see the website) – your artwork could find its way into it!