The art of cookbooks

Modern Art Desserts
The Geometry of Pasta

I love looking at cookbooks.  Though many of the recipes have the same basic background, each cook or chef can give them a little twist to make them new again.  Sometimes cookbooks are also art.  There are even awards for artistic merit in cookbooks.  Two recent additions to the Appleton Public Library cookbook collection fall into the "art + cookbook" niche.

Caitlin Freeman is a baker at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  She and her coworkers take inspiration from the works of art in the museum, creating masterpieces of flour and sugar to feed hungry people in the museum’s café.  In her book Modern Art Desserts:  Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art she showcases some of her creations.

The first part of the book discusses how she came to be a pastry chef, and how SFMOMA became her baking home.  A section on the basics of baking, as well as photos showing how to manage some of the more unusual processes, help the average baker understand how to create their own masterpiece.  Reproductions of the inspirational works of art are juxtaposed with the cakes and other treats produced from their bakery.

Two of the most fascinating works to me are the Mondrian cake from the cover of the cookbook and the Lichtenstein cake.  They are beautiful to look at, reflect the art that inspired them, and sound delicious.

 If you are looking for a challenge in your baking, this would be a good place to start.


The Geometry of Pasta, by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy, falls into this category.  Striking black and white illustrations use simplified pasta shapes to form black and white geometric patterns.  Each pasta shape has a brief description of how the pasta is shaped, the size, and other names for the shape.  There is also a bit of history--for example, if the pasta was usually eaten on a special day, or where it was developed. 

Recipes for the pasta and accompanying sauces are included, along with suggestions for serving.  While there are some unusual recipes, such as Dischi Volanti con Ostriche e Prosecco (Oysters, prosecco and tarragon sauce on “flying saucer” pasta), there are also variations on macaroni and cheese, eggplant lasagna and Alfredo sauce.  If you love pasta, this would be a good book to check out.



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