The Piglet

Why These 4 Latest & Greatest Cookbooks Need to Be on Your Shelves

The Piglet's round 2 ends with controversy, and some really good BBQ chicken.

March 22, 2019

The Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks is here! Inspired by The Morning News' Tournament of Books, this annual event is where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off in a rousing, NCAA-style bracketed competition. Watch the action and weigh in on the results!

“Why do people buy cookbooks in this day and age?” As a food writer, I ask myself this all the time, worrying that even my most brilliant of ideas won’t be considered a must-buy for the masses. There were over 200 cookbooks released last October alone—64 of those were released on one single Tuesday. It’s very easy to spend years writing a masterpiece, only to have it stocked on a bottom shelf where it will fade into obscurity within days. Thousands of incredible cookbooks fail to find an audience every year, passed over by the masses in favor of ones by reality television stars or well-established food celebrities.

But at The Piglet, we're equal-opportunity haters. See how our survivors—food celebs and newcomers alike—fared in round 2.

Season vs. Coconuts & Collards

Judged By Matt Sartwell

There is practically no one better to address the above question on cookbook-buying than Matt Sartwell, who runs one of America’s greatest cookbook-only shops, Kitchen Arts & Letters. Barnes & Noble will never ask this question and stock their shelves based on merit. Amazon will never ask this question and give you a recommendation based on emotional connection. Matt knows cookbooks on a level better than you do, I do, or just about anyone does, and this judgement is proof.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“And don't worry, we love Kyle MacLachlan as much as you do, and realize what a gift he is to us all. Go ahead and read those comments - after Roxanne Gay's review you'll think we all have split personalities. ”
— Stephanie B.

Matt may never have co-starred on an early ‘90s sitcom, he may not post glamour shots of himself on Instagram, but he has written one of the most important reviews in the history of this tournament: A masterclass on not only why you should continue to buy cookbooks, but how to love and appreciate them.

Here’s your to-do list for today:

  1. Search for a small bookstore dedicated to cookbooks in your area. If there isn’t one, check out Kitchen Arts & Letters online—they ship and are happy to have a conversation with you over email or social media.
  2. Ask them to sell you a copy of Robicelli’s: A Love Story with Cupcakes, a brilliant, hilarious, Piglet-nominated cookbook/memoir that has been called "one of the funniest cookbooks of all time" by a lot of very, very important people.
  3. If you’ve got some extra cash, then buy Season, the book that won this round. It's pretty good, too.

Shaya vs. At My Table

Judged by Jenny Avins

Jenny’s bio mentions she’s recently moved to Los Angeles from New York, making this the ideal time for her to be judging The Piglet. Everyone in New York City dreams of throwing dinner parties that don’t involve piling dirty dishes in the bathtub, using an ironing board for counter space, or forcing your guests to sit on stolen milk crates.

And what a dinner party she throws! She shows us her menu, her very lengthy shopping list, the notes she makes along the way. She neglects to discuss her guests’ reactions, but why should she bother? This woman spent, like, $300 of her own money to feed those people, not to mention the labor and cleanup.

We may tell ourselves that dinner parties are about our guests, but they’re not. Dinner parties are personal feats of strength, taxing us at every step, producing intense anxiety about nearly part of the event. Will anyone show up? Will I screw up the food? Is everyone having fun? Are any of these people going through my medicine cabinet? I CLEANED MY BATHROOM FOR THESE PEOPLE AND THIS IS HOW THEY REPAY ME.

Shaya wins for being a little more challenging, with recipes that are so memorable that your guests will go home thinking about dinner instead of all the crap you threw in a pile in your bedroom to hide it. Yup, they went in there, too. They’ll never admit it, but they totally did.

All About Cake vs. Bottom of the Pot

Judged by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay never gives any fucks about what you think of her, so she has no problem volunteering the fact she’s a picky eater right up front. Then, just to make sure she pisses you all off as quickly as possible, she tells you about how much she hates everybody’s favorite source of heart-healthy saturated fats—avocados—in precise detail. Fuck grains. Fuck eggplant. Soups and stews? Doesn’t matter what ingredients are in them, because the entire genres can go straight to hell where they belong. I haven’t even scrolled down to the comments yet, but I already know they are going to be fun.

People hate the judgment. People hate Food52 for allowing this to go live. People hate this so much that it triggers memories of judgments that happened years ago, and then they start hating on those judgments, too! There is so much anger in the crowd that it needs to be spread across time and space, threatening to destroy the fabric of The Piglet itself! Guys, I don’t even want to recap this thing. This comment section is a work of art. I want you guys to print the whole thing out and laminate it. I want someone to engrave 362Heather’s review of this review on a bronze plaque and then pay to have it hand-delivered to Roxane Gay by the Soup Nazi. I have never been prouder of you all.

Soul vs. I Am a Filipino

By Kyle MacLachlan

Holy crap they got Kyle MacLachlan to do a review?!?! Agent Cooper?! Dougie Jones?! Blue Velvet?! DUNE?!?!?!

I am a massive—and I mean massiveTwin Peaks/David Lynch fan, so I’m not even going to look in the comments because God forbid one of you jerks says anything bad about Kyle MacLachlan; I swear to everything that’s holy that this will be the last Piglet ever. I don’t care if I technically don’t have the authority to shut it down—it will be shut down, even if I need to assemble a small militia of owls armed with creamed corn to storm the Food52 offices.

There are a bunch of words in the judgment and then there’s a picture of Kyle in peak Silver Fox form eating in his undershirt and that’s when I blacked out. Go read it yourself and then tell me what happened, because my delicate constitution can’t handle this one.

See you next week for the final rounds (if I'm up again by then).

What were your favorite moments in The Piglet's round 2? Let us know in the comments!

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.

  • Raye Pride
    Raye Pride
  • Stephanie B.
    Stephanie B.
  • Erin P-S
    Erin P-S
  • Allison Robicelli
    Allison Robicelli
  • greg t
    greg t
Allison Robicelli is a James Beard-nominated food writer, a Publisher's Weekly-starred author, and lots of other fun things. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she currently lives with her two sons and four cats in Baltimore, Maryland.


Raye P. March 22, 2019
I love these recaps! Thanks for brightening my day and making me laugh out loud.
Allison R. March 22, 2019
YOU’RE WELCOME. (Please buy my book / listen to my podcast / send me cookies and/or cash)

(Small bills ONLY)
Raye P. March 22, 2019
I have ONLY small bills anyway because...Piglet cookbooks!
greg T. March 25, 2019
Just listened to your podcast. Really great. But you know that already :)
Allison R. March 28, 2019
You are the best, Greg T! Not like Raye P who has NOT mentioned listening to my podcast.
Stephanie B. March 22, 2019
Allison recaps FTW. And don't worry, we love Kyle MacLachlan as much as you do, and realize what a gift he is to us all. Go ahead and read those comments - after Roxanne Gay's review you'll think we all have split personalities.
Allison R. March 22, 2019
Oh I already think that, don’t worry.
Erin P. March 22, 2019
Allison, thank you 😄 I was actually looking forward to waking up early on a FRIDAY so I could read this. [Dont hate me, I might be looking forward to your recaps even more than the reviews.] Happy weekend to you! Thank you for being the frosting on the Piglet cake ... also, for validating my dinner party shove-everything-in-my-bedroom cleaning method 💛
Allison R. March 22, 2019
Sometimes I give up early and just make guests sit on piles of unfolded laundry.
Raye P. March 22, 2019
Oh man! 😂 That’s perfect. It’s no different than having an ottoman that doubles as storage. 👍🏼
Allison R. March 22, 2019
Life hack: throw a cardboard box over unfolded laundry and you have an instant ottoman for next to nothing!
Erin P. March 22, 2019
Pinterest Win