In the Presence of Greatness

Cookbooks are the new coffee table art book. And among the many stunning culinary tomes out there, none are more conversation-stopping than the beautiful books of Phaidon.

Phaidon books on the coffee table

I currently have four Phaidon titles on my coffee table. The newest is “Noma,” featuring the culinary art of Denmark’s renowned René Redzepi of the restaurant Noma — frequently named best restaurant in the world, and sure to solidify that position with the closing of Spain’s famous el Bulli. It is not so much a cookbook — to make these dishes, you would need equipment like blast freezers, Superbags and refractometers, and ingredients run the likes of hay ash, sea buckthorn, lumpfish and cloudberries. What books like these are for is inspiration. When I go to a museum and observe the works of masters, I come home feeling inspired to paint. When I read “Noma” or “A Day at el Bulli,” I feel compelled to push myself in the kitchen. No matter what level you are as a cook, pushing yourself to the next level is a thing to aspire to.

Phaidon is best known as a publisher of high-quality large-format art and architecture books. Their first foray into food books was an English translation of the Italian classic “Il cucchiaio d’argento” — “The Silver Spoon.” But while each of their 20 or so food titles is as exquisitely beautiful as their art books, not all feature dishes as unattainable as those created by René Redzepi or Ferran Adria. “Pork & Sons,” for example, is an encyclopedia of rustic pork dishes, mostly from France. Yet it is also a valentine by chef/author Stéphane Reynaud to a way of life, where the procurement, preparation and eventual consuming of food is sacred. It is this treating of food — visually and narratively — as at once both the most elemental and the most venerated of the arts, that more than anything defines and differentiates the cookbooks of Phaidon.

The art of René Redzepi

Visit the Phaidon website for yourself and discover these spectacular books. There’s a tapas book that’s next on my list. And there’s even a title for kids. My son’s 8th birthday is coming up… I wonder if “The Silver Spoon for Children” would suffice in place of the usual Star Wars Legos?

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mom
    Sep 06, 2011 @ 03:34:16

    Nicely written My Child. My only question is do you call that thing a coffee table?


  2. Benjamin Thompson
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 19:17:58

    Thanks for the temptation, dude. Already have Pork & Sons and just pre-ordered The Silver Spoon. I’ve been looking for a good Italian cookbook.


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