The Piglet

Hey, What's Happening With the Piglet?

After ten memorable years, we're shaking things up with our beloved tournament of cookbooks.

by:
January 25, 2020
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Dear Food52ers,

Whether you’ve been part of our community for one year or all ten-plus, you’ve probably heard about our Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks (and if you haven’t, take a gander here—there’s quite a bit to catch up on!). Fifteen-second version: The Piglet is our annual month-long cookbook competition, in which sixteen of the very best cookbooks of the year enter into a bracketed-style face-off until one is deemed the winner. The judges—some of our favorite voices both in and outside of the food world—write (or video-record, or draw) an extended judgment declaring the winner and explaining their selection process.

We love the Piglet for its impassioned controversy, friendly competition, and insightful, in-depth coverage of the year’s top cookbooks. Most of all, we love the Piglet for its spirited community involvement: A dedicated group of you returns year after year to catch all the action and weigh in yourself. But as our community grows larger, and your interests become even more wide-ranging, we’ve realized we need to take a step back to listen and learn from you.

What we’ve learned is that the current way the Piglet’s run might not be working for you anymore. The last few years in particular, we’ve seen that readership has fallen quite a bit. Far fewer of you are engaging (and debating!) in the comments, or following along on social media. This could be because of a few things: You’ve mentioned that you’ve had a harder time finding the Piglet on our website lately; that you’d already heard about the books in the running that year, or didn’t like the sound of them; and that you didn’t get the message when we’ve had to make tweaks to the tournament’s dates or features.

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Top Comment:
“Well, that stinks. ”
— mrslarkin
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We’ve also learned that you appreciate two things in particular about the Piglet: deep-dives into cookbooks and thoughtful takes from our community. Case in point: Excitement around the Piglet Community Picks has remained stronger than ever. (This is the mini-competition that takes place alongside the Piglet, where you select and review a small handful of books that didn’t make it into the main tournament, but that you still thought should get their fair shake.) This past year alone, hundreds of you reached out to us with book ideas, generously offered to test recipes and write detailed reviews of each title, and helped folks discover some of their new favorite cookbooks as a result.

Taking all of this feedback into account, we’ve decided to do things a little differently this year. Starting in February, we’re going to be replacing the Piglet in its existing shape with another type of cookbook competition. Instead of naming the best books of the year, we’re on the hunt for the best cookbooks of all time.

While we’ll give you the full scoop in just a few weeks, the gist is this: We’re going to ask you to nominate your go-to cookbooks in specific categories (say, breadmaking, grilling, Sichuan cuisine, and so on). Then, we’ll identify the five most-nominated books in each category, and ask community members to test through and review all five at once. What we hope will emerge is a series of thoughtful, considered, canonical reviews—and a group of all-star cookbooks that we’ll gladly pile onto our shelves.

We know many of you look forward to the Piglet each spring, and we’re so thankful that you’ve stuck with us for its ten action-packed years. We’re really excited about this new initiative, and can’t wait to kick things off in just a few weeks. We hope you’ll love it as much as we do.

Yours in cookbook appreciation,
The Food52 Team

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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!

GET THE LATEST

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • mrslarkin
    mrslarkin
  • Leil
    Leil
  • NRenee
    NRenee
  • debra kane
    debra kane
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    Ruth
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Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.

69 Comments

mrslarkin February 20, 2020
In case you missed it: https://food52.com/blog/24999-big-community-book-off-cookbook-competition-announcement
 
Leil February 18, 2020
I’m really sad about this change to the Piglet. Even though I thought it was hard to find in the website and I had to search it out, I did every year because I loved it so much. i never understood why it was so hard to find or why you never sent out notices about it. I loved the subjectivity of it, the reviews whether thoughtful or not, and learning about books I might never have picked up. I am also not interested in all time cookbooks. That’s completely different from looking at current books. I wish you could have done both of you wanted this other thing. These awards were so much more transparent than other awards and I loved that, as well as that not all these people were experts in their area.
 
NRenee February 16, 2020
Didn't see this until now--even when I disagreed with the Piglet, it was interesting, and exposed me to new and interesting cookbooks that I might have missed. The new format seems like something you could find in any corner of the internet...not creative or interesting in the least. Seems the problem was a website accessibility issue, and not the Piglet itself.
Anyway, RIP to the whole reason why I was interested in Food52 in the first place!
 
debra K. February 16, 2020
Very very disappointed. This was without a doubt my favorite part of Food52.
 
Ruth February 16, 2020
I am so sorry to learn about this. Echoing the comments that these last couple of years it seemed as if Food52 did everything possible to downplay the Piglet: it was nearly invisible on the website, and the emails and social media you generate mentioned it rarely. I often disagreed with the choices, but I did love reading about them, and the contest impelled me to try many cookbooks I otherwise wouldn't have known about. It does seem to me that Food52 seems to be shifting ever-faster to an online retail site, and I miss the vital discussion centered around food and cooking. The fact is that I don't need to buy very much from the site, but I love the conversation about food, so the site feels overall less valuable to me.
 
Judy February 13, 2020
I am so very sad to hear this. I looked forward to Piglet every year. I have bought books I have come to love and books that the reviewers loved but once I bought them I said - what were they thinking? (i buy a lot of cook books!!) Ultimately, it did not matter because I have curated a collection of cookbooks that make me happy. I am just sad I will not be able to capitalize on the collective wisdom of this community in my purchases.
 
LizyB February 13, 2020
Seems like a bit of a cop-out. If it wasn't easy for people to find Piglet postings, then you could have fixed that. I am totally uninteresting in any best cookbook of all time, and am so disappointed I will not have the Piglet to help me in creating my spring reading list.
 
Deborah R. February 12, 2020
This communication piece fails on so many levels. The abridged version: Nothing matters more than our algorithm. Not naming people like Charlotte Druckman and acknowledging their brilliant work on the Piglet speaks volumes about your skills in community building. The best cookbooks "of all time" is a measure of your imagination. Boring.
 
Nancy February 19, 2020
I guess those of us who like Charlotte Druckman's writing and work will just have to look for it at other sites.
 
healthierkitchen February 12, 2020
The Piglet was a brilliant and fun idea when it was started (maybe by genius Charlotte Druckman?). It was a highlight of the year for some years. There were dust ups and lazy judges from time to time, but it was always a great way see in depth into a range of books, some of which were not on every year end list a couple of months earlier, and which I might not have otherwise have paid much attention. The last couple of years it was most definitely hard to locate on the site and required real persistence. But staff comment below says it all: "Finally, about the navigation question: The Piglet was run on a very specific part of our website, which didn’t have much interaction with the homepage or outside blog feeds/readers." Food52 made a choice to silo the Piglet, and then cite low readership? If its time had come, perhaps it would have been cleaner to just let it go, mercifully, in one clean blow.
 
Carol P. February 12, 2020
Yes, super disappointed. I loved the Piglet and learned so much from hearing different voices and how we all engage with cookbooks in our own individual way. It definitely has allowed me to look at my own approach to cookbooks in comparison and I love the insight I've gained. As covered with other commenters, The Piglet was hard to find on your site. I usually just googled it since it wasn't easy to get to from your home page. I also subscribe to your emails. If there were emails announcing the start of the Piglet I must have missed them. Usually partway through March, I'd get one email heading about the Piglet, but it was midway through the competition and I'd catch up, surprised I hadn't learned about it starting. I love to learn about new cookbooks and what is something fresh and exciting that I might want to buy. I'm personally less excited about books from the canon. I hope the Piglet returns next year!
 
stefanie February 10, 2020
Just reading a few comments, it sounds like the engaged viewers on your site generally feel the same: the thing that sank the Piglet's engagement numbers was that it was weirdly difficult to find on the website. I didn't check it every day, but when I did actively search it out, it was hard to find and then articles showed up out of order.
I'll check back in to see what you guys come up with, but I do hope that the Piglet returns after a year at rest.
 
Solveig M. February 10, 2020
I can only add my voice to what everyone else are saying. I was really looking forward to the piglet, I've bought many of the books and learned about new books I never otherwise would have considered, I've agreed with and disagreed with reviewers and enjoyed their fun and struggle, and I'm going to miss the piglet.
 
Veronica P. February 9, 2020
This is super disappointing and sounds more like an error in website management than an error with the Piglet itself. I agree with the others before that besides being hard to find, many of your reviewers the last few years weren’t very good (didn’t one explicitly state they had their assistants to the project?!). The best cookbooks of all time is something that is overdone, while the piglet was more original. No one else was comparing the year’s best books the same way. While you may find willing people to review 5 cookbooks at once, will you find that big of a variety in demographic and skill? As a late 20-something who has followed Food52 since my teens, I don’t know of many people in my age or tax bracket that would have the time/money to do so (even if you’re providing the books, that’s a lot of ingredients and possibly equipment to buy). We have families and jobs to concentrate on. It just feels like Food52 cares more about cash grabs than original, meaningful content (hello new branded products they don’t print reviews on very visibly because they usually aren’t great, I’m looking at you).
 
Joan O. February 8, 2020
I loved the piglet and look forward to it every year. My world has been a little crazy lately and I'm just now seeing this. Sad but curious.
 
Zoe R. February 8, 2020
How do I stay in the loop on this new and exciting event? I want to nominate, test, and review! Yay!
 
greg T. February 7, 2020
Wow. Who could judge 5 books at once? This is wildly disappointing. Piglet was the main reason you were bookmarked for years on my browser. I just removed you.

It's hard to find things that are different on the net. Piglet was one of those. Wish you well but Im outta here..

Greg
 
Megan February 7, 2020
I am also so disappointed! I am one of the readers who was very engaged in the Piglet since the beginning and reviewed a book for the Community Piglet once. But last year, I didn't read it at all. This is because 1) I used to look at Food52 every single day, multiple times some days. But all of the cumulative changes over the last several years have caused me to "check out" 2) It was really hard to find. So when I did check the site, I didn't even realize it was happening. Seems really silly to justify getting rid of it when you acknowledge that it was run on a more hidden part of the site. Yes, the Piglet catered to a small, dedicated group. Once upon a time, all of Food52 catered to a small, dedicated group. I miss it so much. I have come to accept reality. But losing the Piglet just...sucks. I don't love the new model at all. And having one person adequately review 5 books seems questionable. And as someone else said, if you do the best of all time this year, what will you do next year?
 
Lyrajayne February 7, 2020
I'm also one who primarily stayed linked to Food52 for the Piglet. Even though it was often hard to find (I only found out it was going away from a Slate article), and I used to have to catch up half the first round. My solution for the hard to find part was a Google reminder the first of March every year - which I suppose I can now cancel. Most of my cookbooks were purchased after reading reviews, and I always forwarded multiple of them to friends as well. I'm very sad to see it go and I can only hope that this new format is more engaging and exciting than it reads on paper.
 
Nicole H. February 6, 2020
I will absolutely miss the piglet. I have purchased so many cookbooks based on piglet reviews, followed the progress eagerly, and enjoyed the different perspectives not just on cookbooks but on cooking itself. It was one of my favorite things on food 52, and the entire reason I signed up for emails. I understand you have to make business savvy decisions, but one thing I find odd is saying that people can't find it, so you're going to cancel it. If people can't find something on your website that they are looking for, why not fix that problem, and make the site more user friendly? I had so many friends who wanted to read along with the piglet, but could never find it; some years, I found it well into the competition because it was so buried. It felt like you wanted it to be a secret, or wanted us to click through a thousand items from your store first. Whatever you opt to replace it with, listen to your readers and make it readily accessible. Otherwise, there's no point in changing format in the hope of improving participation. Furthermore, I agree with all those who said there are many best cookbooks of all time lists. The piglet was unique. I'm not sure how doing what everyone else is doing helps, but hope it works for you...And for us, the followers, whose input was not sought apparently.
Also please please leave us an easy to find archive of past competitions so we can grieve properly and relive the good old days.
 
txchick57 February 6, 2020
Sounds like the buyer of this site realizes it got suckered and is trying to up engagement/page views. Oh well, not interested.