Sunday, 13 March 2016 21:24

Writing a Coobook - a labour of love

On Healthy Cooking - available via Amazon On Healthy Cooking - available via Amazon

Writing a cookbook is a laborious but also fascinating and very rewarding process.

Most of us own at least one cookbook, more likely several, even with internet ‘s increasing dominance in the world of cooking.

I personally am a cookbook lover. Not that I ever follow any recipes, but I do love flipping through those glossy, colourful pages, getting endless inspiration, thinking up mouth watering variations with additional exotic ingredients which I'd create if I had the time, the muse, or the patience to do so.

But even as a cookbook fan, one does not usually think too much about how they are actually made. Unless you decide to write and photograph your own - which is what I did in 2014.

So I’ll share with you how a cookbook is made. Let me just tell you, there are no ‘five simple steps’ ... or even ten.

No matter how basic, writing any kind of cookbook is a lot of work and I can honestly say, that since I’ve made my own, I’ve stopped calling any cookbook ‘expensive’. Mine has 50 pages, sells for 10 euros, and certainly worth every single cent.

I have always loved cooking and during the over 200 dinner clubs I hosted at my Limassol home I used many amazing recipes, some of which I shared in my weekly event blogs at Cyprus News Report and on my recipe blog.

A good friend of mine who is a career coach, kept saying “You should write a book! You should be able to say ‘I am a published author’. It looks great and it feels pretty good too.”

He also said I should not expect to make any money from it. And he was right on both accounts. I love being able to call myself an author and I just about managed to cover the printing costs.

I liked the idea of writing a book, but for a long time put it off, unsure as to where to start. My ‘little push’ came when I was organizing a dinner club with a nutritionist as a guest speaker. The idea was that she would talk about the health benefits of certain ingredients and I’d be making dishes with them.

I prepared a buffet dinner with the recommended ingredients which were healthy and gluten free: quinoa, buckwheat, oats, lentils, sweet potatoes... I also prepared a few pages with information and recipes for each participant. The evening was a great success with guests oohing and aahing over every single dish. I decided then that my handout for that evening would be a great base for a cookbook.

I got myself a book on food writing entitled ‘Will Write for Food’. I loved it. And I decided the making of mine would not be as time consuming as they made it sound. Little did I know.

Looking back I don’t even remember what took the longest. Probably because I am impatient, particularly the final stages seemed to take forever. Especially as I had initially done a somewhat ‘makeshift  version’ with one of those free online bookmaking programs which lets you make your own book within a few hours. Fortunately, a friend upon seeing it, kindly commented that it may need ‘some more work’.

I had recently taken food photography classes which were a great inspiration and which had sent me on a food photography frenzy during which I styled and photographed pretty much every single bite I ate, even before the cookbook came into play.

As luck would have it, my photography teacher and mentor, the renowned Vassos Styliano from Limassol’s 6x6 Centre for Photography, also helps people publish books. He put me in touch with his graphic designer. That’s when the real work began. I learned about making a ‘real book’ - the result of which is THIS. ‘On Healthy Cooking’  - Quinoa, Chard & Co made easy.

Like I said, I am impatient and cannot bear reading through complicated, long-winded recipes. So in my book I give basic information on the ingredients, some of my favourite recipes and lots of ideas on ‘what else you could do’.

The assumption is that my readers already know how to brown onions or prepare a cake pan, so most recipes use very few steps and 3 to 6 ingredients and take 20 minutes or less to prepare.

The graphic designer then put those steps together in a visually pleasing way. This is when I understood the importance of layout and style and the true value of a professional designer. Together with Vassos Styliano, who also edited my photography we chose the best photos.

Sometimes there was no ‘best one’ which would send me back to the drawing board or the rather cutting board. The time that goes into a food photo: the shopping, the cooking, the set-up, the plating, the photography, the editing... I’ve never eaten so much pretty but cold food in my life.

By the time I had taken my last picture for the book, I had come to understand the intricacy, the nuances and the beauty of food photography, the value of late afternoon sun, the power of colours,  of layers and backgrounds.

Then there still was the printing. Another process that is best closely supervised by expert eyes - something I am again thankful for to Vassos Styliano. I will never forget seeing the first sample prints of huge sheets of paper with several book pages on each. “Oh wow - these are MY photos?!” I kept exclaiming over and over like a child asking ‘Is it really mine, I can keep it?’

It WAS mine and a few weeks later we celebrated its launch at 6x6 Centre for Photography together with about 70 friends, and music and speeches and photos AND of course my food.


What makes me AS happy as the fact that I NOW am a published author,  is the fact that I now also understand what it really takes to make a cookbook and thus appreciate them even more. 

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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