A Look Back on the 2016 Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks

March 16, 2016

My favorite comment from our Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks, hands down: “I listened to Eye of the Tiger while reading this judgment.” (The rest of you: You still have two days—we’re posting the final judgment tomorrow—to top ariel a.)

This comment was in reference to Phyllis Grant’s record-breaking she-tested-how-many-recipes? decision on The Food Lab vs. Zahav—and I loved it for how perfectly apt it was then. But I also loved it because that song—all full of winner cliches, a stampeding herd of power chords—could easily be the soundtrack for the whole Piglet season. That song, in all of its overwrought glory, is how I feel when I edit; it’s how I feel when each day’s judgment goes up. It’s how I feel the moment before we announce the last known survivor.

Before we do, I wanted to take a quick look back on The 2016 Piglet. What were the upsets? (There were a few.) The highlights? (Plenty.) The books you thought were unfairly disqualified? I’d ask you to tell me your answers in the comments, but I have a feeling you already will.

Here are mine:

  • Brooks Headley kicked off the tournament beautifully—and declared his affinity for glossy food photos. (Really, Brooks?) A number of you—judges, included—went on to decry them. Could this be our next face-off?
  • Co-founder Charlotte Druckman and I made an attempt to elucidate parts of The Piglet we thought might not be registering with certain readers. We tanked.
  • Undeterred, we tried again. We haven’t heard much about how our second attempt went, perhaps because the request I sent my producer to disable all iTunes reviews went through.
  • I met Esther, of Read It & Eat bookstore in Chicago; she was kind enough to share her (very adept) predictions with you, too.
  • It can’t be overstated: Phyllis Grant dropped the mic during her decision. Here is a margin note of mine from her drafts in the weeks before we published, highlighting the line “I am proud to say that my kids and I managed to cook over 20 recipes from each of your books”: You are an animal.
  • Receiving this text from friend (and ace contributor Erin McDowell): “We keep seeing these all over Powell’s and had to show you!” She meant Powell’s Bookstore, in Portland, Oregon, and here’s what she saw:
The Piglet on the West Coast!
  • That time Julie Klam posited a question almost too real, while referring to flipping back and forth to recipes-within-recipes: What am I, made of bookmarks??
  • Daily text color commentary from Piglet co-founder Charlotte Druckman's mother. Such as: Lovely review today. Near & Far doesn't entice me. You really have good reviewers this year. All have been consistent and diligent except for the one who should have made more recipes but still wrote a good review."
  • Remember when Chris Schonberger compared leading a baking book with “Bloombergian finger-wagging” about sugar to opening the Kama Sutra with a warning about genital warts? Let me remind you.
  • You won’t remember this one, but a personal highlight: My family sending me, mid-Piglet, this scan of a watercolor my grandfather did over 20 years ago. It’s got to be some kind of sign, right?
Grandpa knew. (P.S. Cam is my brother.)

We’ll see you back here tomorrow.

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Seriously though: Tell us your favorite moments of this year’s tournament!


The Piglet—inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books—is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a NCAA-style bracketed tournament. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • SpringUp
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • JulieQC
  • allie
  • Greenstuff
Kenzi Wilbur

Written by: Kenzi Wilbur

I have a thing for most foods topped with a fried egg, a strange disdain for overly soupy tomato sauce, and I can never make it home without ripping off the end of a newly-bought baguette. I like spoons very much.


SpringUp March 21, 2016
The Piglet is interesting and entertaining. Would Food52 consider holding it twice a year so that seasonal books can be considered by reviewers as well?
LeBec F. March 17, 2016
p.s. the Modern Jewish Cooking step is what I meant.
LeBec F. March 17, 2016
My fav moment, oddly enough, was when I finally decided to let it all out, and lambasted the pathetic 'reviewers' for the Jewish step of the contest. What made it my fav moment was that a paRADE of irate 52ers- felt the same "oh, the horror" as I did; that really made me feel more bonded with the 52 community. We were all routing for the same qualities, and ethics, in the piglet reviewers.(i.e. Do your homework, girls! and if you can't, then politely excuse yourselves from the task at hand.)
JulieQC March 16, 2016
I loved all reviews where i got a good grasp of the experience of cooking with the book and of the food itself. As long as i felt the love of cooking, i liked That level of skills varied. I especially appreciated Michael Twitty, Ari Shapiro, Epic Phyllis, Ottolenghi and Brooks Headly. I also enjoyed reading all the comments ! Lets not forget the community picks reviews as well :)
allie March 16, 2016
My 11 year old overhead me telling a friend "Read the Piglet, it's truly hysterical." Said daughter interrupted and declared: "Cookbook reviews, hysterical? No, go read Dave Barry - he's truly hysterical."
Greenstuff March 16, 2016
Charlotte Druckman's mom nailed it. The crop of reviewers was especially good this year, even when the books didn't always entice. But the one thing most Food52ers can't forgive is testing too few recipes, regardless of the minimum guideline of two recipes per book. Looking forward to next year!
Sarah S. March 16, 2016
This year's reviews have been strikingly funny this year, I especially loved the Kama Sutra comparison as well. I've been savoring the reviews over my coffee break each morning, often hemming and hawing over whether I need to add my 2 cents into the comments, which seems not altogether unlike wading into the waters of Lord of the Flies at times. It's all in good, food geek-y entertainment though, so I look forward to finding out the winner!
Zoe R. March 16, 2016
I must say I'm still sad that both Seven Spoons and A Girl And Her Greens got knocked out so early on- not saying they weren't fair reviews, just bummed! That said, it's always so interesting to see which books get winning reviews from multiple judges with different backgrounds... Excited to see the ultimate winner this year! I must admit the final two cookbooks are pretty surprising!
ChefJune March 16, 2016
I love Piglet! When I first saw the lineup of books, I guessed "A Girl and Her Greens" would go far, if not win. So much for that!! I'm always cool with how it turns out, because so much depends upon which books are paired together and who does the judging. One of the things I love most is the diverse backgrounds of the judges. [Hint, hint... I would love to be a judge sometime.]
I've been a fan of the Hot Bread Kitchen and their products since I first tasted their lavash in March of 2011. I love their products and their concept. And the book is not bad, either. Wish I could be at the party tonight to hear the verdict, but I'll be logging on at midnight to see the result. You rock, Kenzi!
Kenzi W. March 16, 2016
Late night Piglet judgment viewing party!! Thanks for reading along, ChefJune.
Taylor R. March 16, 2016
My roommate and I made brackets. And printed some (most) of the reviews to dissect over dinner. We are ready. With wine.
ChefJune March 16, 2016
Taylor, I like your style!
Taylor R. March 16, 2016
Loser cooks winner dinner from the Piglet champion!
LauriL March 16, 2016
Great synopsis of the 2016 Piglet tourney! Love the insertions of some of the highlights. The Podcast about how the Piglet came to be and the amazing amount of thought and coordination and strife involved helped me get a handle on what really goes on in order to make this a fun event for us all. Yes...all the authors are indeed winners....and the rest of us FOOD52 groupies are in love with being Piglet cheerleaders. Thank you.
Isabelle J. March 16, 2016
Kenzi, two weeks ago started listening to Burnt Toast. Your 'Behind the Scenes of Piglet' actually changed my perspective on a few of the judgments. Because I was actually feeling, um, judgey about a couple of them.
Kenzi W. March 16, 2016
It makes me really happy to hear that.
Erin J. March 16, 2016
The anticipation is PALPABLE!
Meghan March 16, 2016
Tomorrow? Does that mean we don't hear who's the winner today?
Kenzi W. March 16, 2016
Correct! The winner's being announced at the Piglet party tonight—the judgment will go live at midnight.
Meghan March 16, 2016
My bad! I saw stuff about the party but didn't look closely at the dates! Thanks, Kenzi!
MelMM March 16, 2016
Michael Twitty's review was the highlight for me, and judging from the comments, many of your readers.