For the best part of two years, I’ve been art-directing and designing for the digital cookbooks start-up, 1000 Cookbooks. Having been on the inside looking around this incredible resource for so long, I rather vainly considered that my own top-ten list was possibly of interest, not least because it’s been formulating in my head for most of the time I’ve been working on this project. So, start with #10 and then take a look at the rest, none of which appear in any order of preference…
#3 The Geometry of Pasta
Caz Hildebrand & Jacob Kenedy
I’m a designer, especially of books, specifically food books. Many people think book designers make things beautiful and sometimes we do. But first and foremost we make things work. In the case of books, we give form to an author’s ideas and construct a space for visual aids which can support that text. Over many years of creating, buying, reading and talking about cookbooks, there are a small handful which have registered as love at first sight. Fergus Henderson’s Nose To Tail Eating was one of them, with its compact size, black-and-white restaurant-echoing aesthetic and Jason Lowe’s beguiling photography (the further treat of Henderson’s beautifully succinct writing came later); Tessa Kiros’ Falling Cloudberries was another: so different, almost embarrassingly beautiful. The Geometry of Pasta is another and the one which has endured most.
In the case of this book, it was an author who pinned flesh on a designer’s idea. Caz Hildebrand was that designer, who conceived the idea of a book of recipes which would illustrate how to pair pasta shape with sauce in the most harmonious way possible, and so telling the story of Italian regional cooking in microcosm in the process. Hildebrand’s Eureka moment came when looking at a wallchart of black and white illustrations of plumber’s grommets and realising that she could define the individual characteristics of each type of pasta in this way, recommending which sauce would prove the most suitable partner for each. She took the idea to chef Jacob Kenedy and The Geometry of Pasta was born.
I love this book, and I’m happy to admit that a beautiful title, clever idea and immaculate execution invert my standard initial criteria for deciding on the merits of a very good cookbook. Hildebrand’s idea couldn’t have found a safer pair of executor’s hands: Kenedy’s recipes are utterly satisfying and believably definitive. In a publishing age when high-end production values meant full-colour photography and gimmick finishes and flourishes for cookbooks, this one was bravely bold and minimal. The Geometry of Pasta is admirably different. Books such as this restore your faith in the power of ideas and the art of commissioning; they remind you of the beauty of craft (both of design and writing); and they reaffirm the classic tradition and power of the printed word and graphic.