My New book Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen is available nationwide April 5th. It’s been two years since I started working on it for publication. The time has gone by so quickly, I can’t believe it’s finally here. I thought I would share with you some of the behind the scenes insight of making a cookbook.
This is my fourth cookbook and probably the one most dear to my heart because it has so many family recipes and memories. Working on the books is an extension of being in the kitchen and a different outlet for creativity. Collaborating with the photographer, co-author, prop stylist, food stylist, editor and designer are similar to working in a restaurant with the chef, sous chef and front of the house co-workers. Seeing the process through from beginning to end is the same satisfaction and commitment of working a busy night in a restaurant or catering a large party.
There are many things I enjoy about this process; here are a few of my favorites, first coming up with the concept. My new book, Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen was inspired from my grandmother’s collection of recipes, (most of them hand written on small pieces of paper) and my love of southern ingredients. Cooking locally and seasonally is something I grew up on and having a backyard garden made it easy. Many of these recipes are rooted in southern tradition but made modern and my own with simple techniques and cultural influences.
Putting together the table of contents is probably the hardest part of the book but it ultimately becomes the outline for the book. It allows you to start developing and testing the recipes to get them just right. Often, this means testing each recipe 5 or 6 times, which can be really fun, filling and demanding. Testing is actually different from cooking as most of us know it. You have to be very precise in your measuring and timing, I like to have other people test my recipes because they’re not familiar with them. They’ll use different equipment with different stoves and ovens. And of course there is the tasting. Everyone has a different sense of what tastes right for them.
I work with a co-author on my books because I like having someone to bounce ideas off. Also it allows me to focus on the food and the recipes, which is the part of the book I enjoy most, and have the most experience with. My co -author for this book is Tema Larter. Tema and I have a conversation about a recipe, or I tell her an antidote, then she writes the headnotes, sidebars, chapter introductions and more. There is also quite a bit of editing which is key to outcome of the book.
I am responsible for photography and styling. This means I find a photographer I want to work. I usually pull shots from magazines and collect them for a year or so before shooting, then I go back and see which photographer’s work I’ve pulled most often. For this book I worked with Peter Frank Edwards, a great photographer from Charleston. Next I decide what recipes will look the best in photographs, prepare and style the food for the photographs, pull props (dishes, plates, glasses, silverware, linens, etc. that will be seen in the shots). I have a huge prop closet because I like to collect. And, lastly, I’ll work with the photographer to set up the shot. I work with another stylist, Wendy Goldstein that helps with food and props, and makes the day go smoother.
Here’s a short video Peter shot while we were working on the book.
At this point we turn the book in to our editor and go through a series of edits, usually to shorten the first assembly. Once we have the final edition we can start the layout and design. The publisher is responsible for this process, but I like to get involved because, of course, I have a vision. This is the first time you get to start seeing it as a complete book and not just recipes. Choosing color palettes, fonts, styles and photos make the pages come to life.
I look forward to using my cookbooks for years and years with the pages of my favorite recipes eventually stained with oil, butter or sauce. I know everyone has their own favorites and you want to be able to see and feel them lying on your counter as you refer to them.
We will be posting recipes from the book over the next few weeks, so check back with us in our recipe section.