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The American Cookbook

The American Cookbook

the american cookbook

At the end of May I got the strangest email. Reminiscent of the first email I got from Marian at Southern Living, it said something along the lines of “will you take a phone call about a book project.” It was from DK, a UK based publishing company (that is part of Penguin Random House), and I almost didn’t answer it. I get a lot of PR emails and I ignore most of them, but for one reason or the other this one struck a chord. So I set up a call and before I knew it I was agreeing to help with a cookbook project. A cookbook project where at the end of the day my name would be on the cover. And a cookbook project with an incredibly short deadline.

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The sequence of events was as such– my co-author, Caroline, who has published many books with DK and is generally amazing, pitched the idea of doing an American cookbook. DK sells to an international audience and as a Brit living in North Carolina (just down the street from my Aunt Lori and Uncle Kevin, actually) the idea of a cookbook full of classic and modern American recipes made sense to Caroline and to the folks at DK. The only hangup was that they wanted an American author to be involved, which put Caroline in a hard place. That’s where I come in. I was asked to come in and co-author the book, to work with Caroline to create a cookbook that was authentic and fun and that explored the regional intricacies of the American food culture. It’s a tall order.

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The original timeline that I was given was 90 recipes (the book has 160 total) in 9 weeks. I thought it would be tight, but doable. Later that got condensed to 90 recipes in just over 4 weeks. Which was a little bit insane. I spent most of the summer waking up at the crack of dawn, writing recipes all morning, going to work, writing recipes during downtime at school, coming home, cooking and photographing and writing more recipes. And then responding to comments from Caroline and the publisher and recipe testers. And some nights I stayed up so late that I probably should have pulled an all nighter but I’m a preschool teacher and 4 year olds really loose their appeal when you’re working on no sleep. So I wrote and I cooked and I wrote and I cooked and sometimes I cried (like everytime I was converting recipes into the metric system for the first 30 recipes), but the whole time I was remembering that eventually I would look back and I would only remember how amazing it was. Which is very true and happened the day after I sent in the last recipe.

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With the timeline being the way it was we had so much more food than we could ever eat. I gave food to friends, I gave food to people who needed it, I threw parties (including a Thanksgiving in June party that was a great success). We ate and cooked and ate and cooked until I was pretty sure I never wanted to eat or cook ever again. Some things were foods I love and make often (like shrimp & grits), but others were foods I’d never even tried before (like cioppino). I made cakes for a solid week straight. I fought tooth and nails to convince the recipe testers that brunswick stew really does need to cook for a few days. It was exhilarating and frustrating and incredible.

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The book is called, as you may have guessed by the title of this post, The American Cookbook. It features about 160 recipes, 30 of which are classic recipes from across the United States. The remaining 130 recipes (approximately) are twists, fun adaptations of old favorites. In addition to the 90 recipes I contributed I took some photos, which are woven in with photos shot in the publisher’s studio. It’s due out on February 17, but it’s available now through pre-order on Amazon. The UK edition (hence all the converting) is also available on Amazon. When it comes out I’ll be throwing B&S into a frenzy of cookbook giveaways, recipe challenges, and recipes from the book, but for now I just wanted to share a peek at what I was working on this summer and what’s in the larder.

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11 Comments

  • Miriam Dutra

    26.10.2013 at 23:59 Reply

    That’s a nice project! Well done. I will be moving to the US in January. I am looking forward to acquire your book and see what this country has to offer in terms of foods.

  • Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon

    27.10.2013 at 15:19 Reply

    Congrats Elena. I can’t wait to see the final product.

  • DK

    30.10.2013 at 02:23 Reply

    A fantastic blog – we loved working with you on this…the best line: ‘I wrote and I cooked and I wrote and I cooked and sometimes I cried (like everytime I was converting recipes into the metric system for the first 30 recipes)’ – we appreciate all your hard work!!

    • elena

      30.10.2013 at 04:04 Reply

      Aw, thanks guys! I loved working with you too.

  • The Making Of The American Cookbook « the dk blog – behind the scenes at dorling kindersley books

    31.10.2013 at 09:10 Reply

    […] At the end of May I got the strangest email. Reminiscent of the first email I got from Marian at Southern Living, it said something along the lines of “will you take a phone call about a book project.” It was from DK, a UK based publishing company (that is part of Penguin Random House), and I almost didn’t answer it. I get a lot of PR emails and I ignore most of them, but for one reason or the other this one struck a chord. So I set up a call and before I knew it I was agreeing to help with a cookbook project. A cookbook project where at the end of the day my name would be on the cover. And a cookbook project with an incredibly short deadline…  read the rest of Elena’s blog about the making of The American Cookbook on her website. […]

  • Mallory P

    03.11.2013 at 16:38 Reply

    So proud of you and can’t wait to get my hands on it!

    -That Insomniac near Boise

    • elena

      07.11.2013 at 03:51 Reply

      Thanks Mallory! I hope you’re beating the insomnia these days!

  • Jane Lawrie

    13.12.2013 at 07:20 Reply

    Hi I’m the food stylist who cooked up all those amazing recipes at the studio in London. Wow it was quite a schedule indeed, not helped by the arrival of a heat wave! Boy I felt I was working in the heat of the Deep South some days! It was a real delight to learn so much about American food and create some real classics.
    I hope you like the shots. I’m looking forward to seeing then in print soon. Regards Jane

    • elena

      13.12.2013 at 10:52 Reply

      Thank you so much for all your hard work Jane, the shots look amazing! I know it must have been tight for you guys, it was a whirlwind!!

  • | Fig, Marsala, & Sausage Biscuit

    05.03.2015 at 20:54 Reply

    […] that she gives frank, honest, and compassionate advice. When I called her a few months ago about The American Cookbook her response was that she was very proud of me, that I deserved it, and that she wasn’t just […]

  • biscuits and such | The No Time to Cook Book

    07.04.2015 at 12:07 Reply

    […] to crack open the fridge and try your hand at some new recipes. It was quite a process to write (isn’t it always?) and I am incredibly happy with the end result. Thank you, DK, for giving me the opportunity to […]

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