Countdown to the Best Cookbook of the Year

THE best food books take you on culinary excursions that leave you salivating over every page.

The search for cookbooks that provide that experience narrowed last week when the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) announced its nominees for The Julia Child Cookbook Awards for 1993. From among the nominees, one book will be selected as the best in each of 11 categories. One of those will become the ``Best Cookbook of the Year.''

``What we look for are creative recipes that worked, tasted good, and have originality,'' says Lucy Waverman, a Toronto food consultant and chairwoman of the IACP awards. Many books fit this bill so the judges also want to see an index and clear instructions. But what really starts to separate the books is food writing that is beautiful as well. ``We want books that make you want to eat the pages,'' explains Ms. Waverman, who adds she is not talking about the photography.

What the judges look for is not always what the publishers look for. Susan Friedland, an editor at Harper Collins says she will buy a book that has a good idea, is well expressed, or written by a ``star'' with a track record. She says as soon as she read ``The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia,'' written by Darra Goldstein, ``I knew it was important.'' The book is a nominee in the international category.

Although the nominations and selections are comforting to a particular book's editors, Ms. Friedland says it may only result in a little improvement in sales. This year's nominees are a little different than in the past because they are more internationally oriented, partly because there were judges from England and New Zealand. Thus, Australian author Stephanie Alexander (``Stephanie's Seasons'') and Aglaia Kremezi (``The Foods of Greece'') are included in the nominees.

One of the most prestigious categories is the first book award, known as the Julia Child Award.

The nominees this year are ``The Il Fornaio Baking Book: Sweet and Savory Recipes from the Italian Kitchen,'' ``The Foods of Greece,'' and ``Fields of Greens: New Vegetarian Recipes from the Celebrated Greens Restaurant.'' Winners will be announced April 23 in San Francisco.

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