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The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook: A Case for No Photographs

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We’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover, but what about its photography, layout, typefaces, paper—and how they all interact with each other? Each week, we’ll be sharing a book spread that’s worth taking a close look at for one reason or another. And we’ll ask you: What do you think about it?

Today: When to pass on photographs.


The original Silver Palate Cookbook was published in 1982. It had 350 recipes, along with sketches, and the only color to be found was the occasional red text or illustrations. It did not have photographs. It went on to sell 250,000 copies in the first year (a record at the time) and has eclipsed 2.5 million copies in its more than 25-year life. It is a required cookbook to many and is responsible for introducing new ingredients and comforting many with homey recipes that stand the test of time.

To celebrate the book’s 25th anniversary, a “deluxe edition” of the book came out in 2007—and this time around, there are photographs. The quaint sketches of latticed pie and farm animals are now paired with styled shots of sliced cranberry loaves and a tower of mini quiches. It is not the Silver Palate most of us remember. And, for me, it’s lost its charm. The feel of a book changes when full-color, styled photographs sit next to spontaenous-seeming, sometimes-random doodles. It's like a personal diary got made into a book to be marketed and sold, but it can't fully commit to its new life in public.


The good news (for many reasons) is Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso went on to publish other books, the next one being The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, which you see above. It has passed its 25-year anniversary without the addition of photography—luckily. It’s full of great recipes, short headnotes, and useful nuggets of cooking wisdom that remind us that simplicity is oftentimes better—something that seems a little less clear in the now photo-heavy Silver Palate Cookbook. And that is reason enough to spend a few moments with a couple whimsical drawings and text-heavy pages.

Do you own one of the Silver Palate cookbooks? What do you love about them?

Thanks to Kitchen Arts & Letters for letting us borrow this book.

Tags: cookbook, books, design, silver palate, silver palate good times cookbook, illustration