Friday, October 28, 2011

Not Mastering the Art of French Cooking

 There are many ways to present recipes in cookbooks designed for people who need instructions on how to cook. It’s helpful, say, to provide a list of ingredients up front, and layout the steps clearly so that the harried cook can find their place easily when glancing at the open page while stirring the pot. This book scoffs at all of that. “The secret is in the timing,” the introduction claims. No it isn’t: the secret is in the design.

For a start, this is a paperback. It does not stay open; it’s even hard to crack open when holding with both hands; it would be necessary to break the spine in order to see what lies in the gutter.

The gutter, deep in the fold (the most difficult part of a book to see), is where all the action is: the glorious “Timer” that allegedly provides an easy to follow timeline upon which the book is based. It’s punctual to the minute, as if any individual amateur cook could possibly stick to such regimentation! What would happen if you fell behind?

The text to the side is so small and crammed together that it’s impossible to find your place in a hurry. One side contains so much instruction while the other remains blank.

Finally, at the end, is a menu with a comprehensive list of all that you’ll need: why isn’t this at the front?

Chessy Rayner, New York style icon, was known for her eclectic yet simple design — in fashion and decor. It’s a mystery how she could get this so wrong. 

French Cooking By The Clock, William and Chesbrough Rayner, The New American Library, 1965

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