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When you go to a bookstore, the first thing you see—the thing that makes you most excited to scoop a cookbook up, take it home, and cook with it—is the cover. But there were likely covers before that cover. In the case of our next two books, Vegan and Baking, there were a lot of covers.
Oops, are we getting ahead of ourselves? Breaking: We have two new books coming out this fall! And they're already available for preorder. They'll be smaller than Genius Recipes (60 recipes instead of 100—which we think is just right to dive deep into a single subject), but still full of favorite and all-new recipes, photography by James Ransom, and kitchen confidence tips. Think of these as trusty Food52-style handbooks on vegan cooking (written by New Veganism columnist Gena Hamshaw) and baking (written by the editors, with tons of contributions from all of you).
While we can't show you the insides of the book just yet (we haven't seen the books yet either—they're currently off being printed and bound), we can show you the final covers—and some of the ones that came before them. If we posted all of the cover options, this post would go on for way too long and you would start thinking about what to eat for lunch. So here are the pivotal ones and a little info about how we got to them and why we moved on.
The first cover of Vegan had the Chilled Cucumber Soup with Mango Salsa. We and the team at Ten Speed Press, our publisher, both really liked the colors and the lightness of this image, and how one soup was ready to eat and the other was in the process of getting garnished. It felt like we were about to dive into a delicious meal—a meal we might have in summer. This book is being published in September, when fresh corn would be going out of season in North America and less available to many of our readers, so it wouldn't be a good idea to put it on the cover. Plus, a green soup might not look delicious to lots of people (though we can attest that this soup is delightful).
So, we tried to recreate the image with the Gingered Carrot Soup. Thing is, we had rented the wooden surface in the green soup image and couldn't get ahold of it again. The surface in the orange soup image wasn't quite right—it was a little too rustic for the story we wanted to tell in this book. We wanted to present vegan cooking as casual, but not crunchy. So we moved on—to something totally different (seatbelts on?).
What if an image wasn't the majority of the cover? What if there were two tiny images, side by side, with a mostly cloth cover? The book would feel intimate, like an heirloom cookbook, which we liked, but these images weren't right. The two utensils "are mating," said Contributors Editor Sarah Jampel. And the food looked delicious, but not fun.
Then, we tried an all-cloth cover without any images. We're inspired by books like Canal House Cooks Every Day and Eat, which save the images for the inside and have cloth covers, but it didn't feel right for our books because photography is so much of what we do and we wanted the book covers to be more closely related to the Genius Recipes cover. So we moved on—to salad. Did you know we love salad?
Was salad too obvious for a vegan book? How many salads aren't vegan? Then again, this Snow Pea, Cabbage, and Mizuna Salad with Tempeh Salad looks so good—we want to eat that whole bowl, slathered in creamy dressing. We don't want to share. And this is the feeling we wanted to get from the cover of Vegan. So the image stuck, but the purple spine had to go. We like muted colors, like cream and gray. So up there on the right is the final cover of Vegan by Gena Hamshaw (!!).
After eating lots of salad, there was dessert to look at:
We started with Brown Sugar Shortbread on the cover of Baking. The shortbread pieces were graphic and alluring, but we wanted the cover to be luscious and crave-worthy, something like Phyllis Grant's Brown Butter Cupcake Brownies, which you see on the right. Aren't you jealous of whoever got to take that bite out of that ice-cream topped brownie? But we also wanted the cover to feature a recipe you could potentially make and eat every day. These brownies read more special occasion than afternoon tea, weekday dessert, or breakfast—though we wouldn't turn them down if offered on a Monday morning.
We tried the cloth iterations for Baking as well. We skipped past them, searching for something in-your-face scrumptious.
These Double-Layer Coconut Pecan Bars on the left had the right balance of weekday-friendly and luxurious, but the cover was looking very beige. And then, as if the answer was staring at us in the face the whole time, we found our dish: brownies. Brownies. Right.
Ta-da! You can preorder signed copies of both books in the Food52 Shop now and count down the days until September 22, when we'll send them to your doorstep. We'll be doing the same.
Would you have crowned a different cover the winner? Let us know in the comments!