Year-end lists are as arbitrary as human nature. Cookbook lists pose even more of a problem, mixing in more variables. (What sort of food do you like, compared to the person compiling the list? How skilled are you in the kitchen?) along with the usual issues of writing and style.
Adding a little analytical heft to the process, Publisher’s Weekly took on the job of “rounding up the roundups” and comparing eight year-end cookbook lists, from the New York Times to websites like SeriousEats.com. To my pleasure, they also included one of my favorite sources of cookbook reviews, EatMeDaily.com, a site that only launched in October of 2008, and regularly features smart, in-depth, and unflinchingly honest assessments.
PW’s conclusion? There were two “gimme” cookbooks of the year, both featuring celebrity chefs: The much-heralded "Momofuku" by David Chang and Peter Meehan (on five of the eight lists), followed by "Ad Hoc" by Thomas Keller with Dave Cruz (on four lists). I was surprised to see that "Well-Preserved" by Eugenia Bone, which seemed to me a landmark heralding a new era of home cooking, only made one list (Amazon.com), and that Molly Wizenberg’s lovely “A Homemade Life” wasn’t on any (perhaps it was classified as a memoir). I never would have heard of “The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook” if the Denver Post hadn’t listed it as a favorite (one of the choices PW classified as “rogues”); now I’ll… well, I’ll at least pick it up if I come across it.
Curious? Here’s the PW roundup. And I’d love to hear about it if you have a 2009 favorite that’s not on anyone’s list but your own.
Rebekah Denn writes at eatallaboutit.com.