Cookbooks – Old Favorites and the Latest Trends

By Fern Hallman M.Ln

Times have really changed in the cookbook market. Over the past year, Americans have resorted to cooking for themselves more as they stay closer to home. Cookbook sales have risen more than 15% over the past year, and bread cookbook sales have increased by 145%. Not surprisingly, cocktail recipes have also been in high demand. In the beginning of the pandemic, comfort food was all the rage. Now that we’ve been at this for a while, the tide may be turning toward healthier options.

Cookbooks as we know them today have been around for a long time. More than seven million copies of "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" have been sold since the original publication in 1896. Here's an article specifically about female cookbook authors.

What might be the most classic cookbook of all, Irma Rombauer’s "Joy of Cooking," was first published in 1931. The latest full revision came in 2019, when Rombauer’s great-grandson and his wife presented a thoroughly updated version of this standard text. Weighing in at nearly five pounds, the 1,156-page tome features small print and no glamourous photos. A total of 600 recipes were added and more than 4,000 were revised. Most of your old favorites are probably still in there. The editors are already thinking about the next edition, scheduled for the book’s 100th anniversary in 2031.

One of the goals of The Joy of Cooking is to provide some information about everything. It’s often mentioned as the one cookbook you’d take to a desert island. The newest edition includes a lot more international foods than the original, reflecting the way Americans eat today. It reveals how to make kombucha, but it will not answer any of your questions about West African cooking.

It’s common in libraries to retain only the most recent edition of nonfiction titles, under the assumption that the newest version includes the most up-to-date information and that errors in previous editions have been corrected. Here’s an article that explains why you may need more than one edition. Many people are quite nostalgic for the version that was in their moms’ kitchens.

The celebrity cookbook has taken over a large share of the market over the past decade, with lots of offerings from the Food Network and other TV stars. Ina Garten, Martha Stewart, Ree Drummond (a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman), and Bobby Flay are among the superstar authors. Joanna Gaines, lifestyle guru, was second only to Michelle Obama in 2018 in nonfiction book sales. Julia Child’s "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," published in 1961, returned to The New York Times Best Sellers List after the hit movie "Julie and Julia" was released in 2009.

These days, fewer general interest cookbooks are coming out, and it seems like there are far more super-specific ones. If you are a vegan, you’re in luck. There are recent offerings for vegan junk food, vegan Asian food, vegan meat, vegan baking, vegan ice cream, vegan baby food, and more. The possibilities are endless as authors and publishers try to find their audiences while competing with the Internet’s giant mosh pit of recipe variations and nutritional advice.

Cookbooks will always be an integral part of a public library collection. Even those who are not great cooks can enjoy titles like these, which allow the armchair traveler to enjoy some great meals in quarantine.

Cookbooks: Old Favorites and the Latest Trends