Food Job: Mom

The oddest “job” I have ever had was at the invitation of a very large home builder. I was asked to stand in the kitchen of a model home, look like a mom, and cook little snacks for the house hunters. It was a hugely successful promotion. Not surprisingly, everyone gathered in the kitchen. Neighbors met neighbors and shared notes about schools and other areas of mutual interest. Sales soared.

M. F. K. Fisher, The Other Culinary Goddess

I was proud to serve as president of Les Dames d’Escoffier. Every year, we honored a star from our dining and drinking galaxy. During this time, I stumbled across the writings of M. F. K. Fisher, and I applauded her designation as America’s so-called “epicure laureate.” I unhesitatingly chose  M. F. K. when it was my turn to choose the honoree for our annual dinner.

The New York Public Library’s private dining room was the destination for the event. A committee formed to plan the evening. Tables were set with beautiful floral cloths, upon which her books were placed as the centerpieces.

I stepped into the library elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. At that instant, a seemingly homeless woman shuffled through the closing doors. “Crumbs!,” I thought. What could I say? “Grrumph! Madam! This is a private dinner. Buzz off.”? No, I couldn’t possibly say that.

But what? How could I explain the situation politely? It took only a moment to arrive at our destination. The host of the hospitality committee stepped forward to greet us. “Welcome, welcome, Ms. Fisher!” she gushed addressing the old lady.

Crumbs, thought I.

Cookbook Folk Face the Future

The wise are forever issuing dire warnings about slippery slopes. Here is one that has become a very steep slide indeed: Traditional publishers are taking fewer risks on unknown authors and are producing fewer cookbooks. This means that there is less need to maintain high-priced publishing offices in high-rent districts. Costs are cut as publishers’ profits decline. The agonized staff is laid off or offered freelance or part-time employment without traditional benefits.

When the demand for physical, hard- or soft-cover books is reduced, there are fewer orders placed with printers. Fewer printed books result in empty warehouses, and this, in turn, means that there is a less inventory to insure. Fewer trucks are needed to carry books to and from bookstores. We are all painfully aware of the demise of small, independent, neighborhood bookstores, and even of the disappearance of large bookstore chains. Even so, don’t abandon hope.

Food for Thought
The following fact was provided by R. R. Bowker at The Roger Smith Cookbook Conference in New York City in 2012: Cookbooks account for four percent of all book purchases.
The speaker went on to ask the following questions:
? Who buys cookbooks, professionals or home cooks? Answer: both.
? Where do they buy cookbooks, from bookstores or online? Answer: both.
? How does a prospective buyer hear about a cookbook at a time when there are fewer newspaper and magazine reviews and virtually no extensive author or media tours? Answer: Radio interviews and bloggers spread the word. Amazon is the key to sales.
? Why does a buyer purchase a specific book? Answer: Most books are bought as gifts. There is a spike in cookbook sales during the Christmas season. (Diet books, however, are not given as gifts, but are purchased by the intended user.)
? What is the average price paid for a cookbook: Who buys a fifty-dollar cookbook? Answer: some people—a few.
Purchasing decisions are based on
? how many children there are in the recipient’s household;
? whether the buyer or recipient is married or single;
? whether he or she is high-school or college-educated;
? and whether or not the buyer has some income to spare.

Profile of a Cookbook Buyer
Women buy sixty-nine percent of all cookbooks. The largest purchasing group is between the ages of thirty and forty-four, though there has been growth in the eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-old group. This change is attributed to cable-TV cooking programs.

Conclusions: Fewer cookbooks are published every year. Thousands upon thousands of recipes are available online, for free, so a prospective author must ask: who truly needs, or wants, or will buy my book? This is a harsh reality, but it is vitally important to nail this information down.

It is therefore essential to have a clear profile of the prospective buyers of your book. Ask yourself, “To whom am I speaking?” Answer—honestly. Careful research is the foundation on which to build future success.


Let ‘em Eat Croissants

Fast-casual chain Au Bon Pain combined high-end protein with specialty bread in June with its lobster salad BLT. Available as a limited time offering for the summer, the sandwich is served on an eggless brioche, which the bakery café’s customers preferred over brioche that contains eggs.

A brioche made without eggs (and butter) is like a bacon and eggs without the eggs or “going to the circus on the elephant’s night off.”

Stand, Sit or Lie?

I’ve adapted this original quote because I liked it so much: “Because you’re good at math should you work in a bank, be an accountant, or an economist?  Not necessarily. Instead, decide what it is you most want to do. If you like standing up all day, begin by looking at the options that are available; you could be a train conductor, an orchestra conductor or a waiter.

If you are good with your hands, you could be a pianist, a watch repairer, a pickpocket or a cake decorator. I

f you prefer to lie down on the job, you be an auto mechanic, an astronaut, a hypochondriac” — or a thinker, food writer or consultant. (If an intruder stumbles across you when you have your eyes closed, admit you are…thinking.)