Happiness is a Room Full of Cookbooks

It’s true that this blog is relatively young, but sometimes I feel a little disconnected from the Boston food blogging community for a very good reason: I don’t actually live in Boston. I commute to Boston for work. I went to school in Boston. My friends are in Boston. I’m a walking catalogue of where to eat in Boston. I feel like Boston is my true home, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I can’t just hop the T to get to my house at night or that I can’t just go out to dinner with a friend without advance planning.

That’s why I was thrilled when I snagged a spot to my first Boston Brunchers event this past Sunday. I always refer to myself as a “cookbook hoarder.” In recent years, I’ve changed that to “good cookbook hoarder,” as I’m awfully discerning about the sources from which I use recipes. Nonetheless, I pour over cookbooks in my spare time, treasure pulling from different cookbooks to make a cohesive menu and, quite honestly, would choose to read one over a really good novel. So a slightly unconventional Sunday brunch chez Harvard Common Press was right up my alley.

When I arrived at HCP headquarters, I decided once and for all that it must be a rule that publishing companies be wildly unassuming from the outside, because all of the ones I have encountered (besides Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) seem to be hidden in nondescript buildings. I find that incredibly charming. Once I took the four-person max capacity elevator to the fifth floor, I entered a homey and charming office space that didn’t at all reflect the outside façade of the building.

After meeting some of the bloggers and sampling the beverages that the staff provided for us, we lined up at a buffet-style table of breakfast bites made from recipes from Harvard Common Press books and carried our crowded plates to the art studio of Nancy Simonds (wife of President and Publisher Bruce Shaw) – a light and airy locale for our brunch.

Bellies full, we listened to words of wisdom from Bruce, Adam and Nancy of Harvard Common Press. Much of this conversation centered on the phenomenon of blogs becoming books. As much as I hope my passion for food comes across to people who happen to land here, my humble little blog has no prospects of becoming a book. Instead, I found this talk on both publishing and marketing fascinating, because I have always imagined myself contributing not to my own but to another’s cookbook. I have had the experience of testing recipes for a cookbook, but I would love to be on the other side, editing material that really makes me tick. I read recipes like stories, not mere steps. Each new sentence is like a secret message leading to an amazing discovery. An author’s voice comes through in not only the header, (which contributes so much to the character of a book and engages the reader with the given recipe) but in the instructions as well.

We discussed the future of cookbooks in the digital age. While I welcome the E-book conversions and apps that are making good food immediately accessible, anywhere and anytime (how can I knock them when I don’t even have an iPad, e-reader or smart phone myself?), I revel in the fast flipping, I view page stains and broken bindings as signs of success, and I enjoy feeling the heft of the anthology on my counter top while cooking or in my lap before bed. It’s the magical storybook aspect of cookbooks which has me smitten.

My only regret is that I didn’t have a chance to chat a little bit more with some of the people behind the blogs I have read for so long. Being among the last to get our food, Lena, Lindsey and I ended up sequestered at a table of only the three of us and Nancy in the back. All the more reason to attend another event!

cookbook centerpiece

I walked away with a copy of The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves, by Linda Ziedrich, which was a great gift, because it’s a topic which I don’t actually already have a book covering. Winter just seemed to start around these parts, but I’m already looking forward to summer and its produce so I can crack it.

Thank you Renee, Bruce, Adam and Nancy for making this event possible. It was enjoyed by all!

7 responses

  1. Pingback: The Boston Brunchers came to HCP… » Harvard Common Press

  2. It was great to get to meet you at this brunch! It was a great first Boston Brunchers event too, completely unconventional but so much fun. Hope to see you at an event again soon!

  3. Pingback: Happiness is a Room Full of Cookbooks – Eating In or Out | Boston Brunchers

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