the everlasting meal cookbook

publisher: Scribner

type: Book, complete project

spec notes: One-piece case-wrapped hard cover. 538 pages, printed full color.

This collaboration with Tamar Adler produced the latest “my favorite thing I ever did.”

She had written a new book but wasn’t sure what the best format would be to make it useful to the reader—exactly the sort of challenge that I love solving for. I don’t want to give away some of the ideas we went through not only because they didn’t provide the clear solution we ended up with, but also because the clear solution we ended up with is so good I don’t want to muck it up by putting images in your mind of what could have been (but shouldn’t).

The question was, how will a reader find this book useful? Most cookbooks get picked up before making a shopping list and going to the market. This book instead starts with something in the fridge that the reader doesn’t know what to do with. In other words, with a cookbook about leftovers, the leftover itself should be the starting point. So rather than a set of recipes in a more traditional structure (breakfast / lunch / dinner, or salads / mains / desserts) with the expectation that the reader will use the index to find recipes that mention an ingredient, the book itself is an indexed guide.

The result is a set of categories (vegetables, grains, meats, drinks, etc.) and within each category there is an alphabetic list of possible leftover ingredients, whether raw and alone, or already cooked (carrot tops, eggs bennedict, cold french fries). And all of it is cross-referenced to other recipes.

Once we set that structure, typography came next. Larger, light sans serif entry names offset on the page to help the reader find each ingredient with a rhythm of smaller bold sans for recipe titles followed by semibold list of the oter ingredients in the recipe, and roman for the instructions. Even if an ingredient entry has more than one recipe below it, the reader will typographically get a sense of where their eye is within the entry and not feel lost.

All of that plus beautiful paintings by Caitlin Winner for the cover and each of the section openers, providing also a key color for elements within the section such as the side tabs that help navigation as well as brighten up the whole thing in colors juuuust outside of rote primaries and secondaries.