the tenderloin cooking school

publisher: Leah’s Pantry

type: Book, complete project with a specific parameter to consider

spec notes: Spiral-bound hybrid with soft front cover and self-standing easel made of bound boards, full-color printing.

Leah’s Pantry, a San Francisco nonprofit committed to a vision where all people are nourished regardless of socioeconomic status, wanted to make a book that would be useful to the community it serves and attractive to the general public so that it could serve as an outreach and fundraising tool, as well as a lovely giveaway to the authors who participated and other residents in the Tenderloin.

Let’s back up to understand that better. The Tenderloin is a historic neighborhood in SF that over time has come to be a community of housing insecurity and low-income subsistence. In the Tenderloin there are several former hotels and some apartment buildings that are designated as single-occupancy residences (SROs) and that operate through lowered or subsidized rent prices. Not to mention other forms of housing insecurity in the area that put a barrier to proper individual nutrition whether through lack of housing, lessened personal space, or even the ability to store and prepare perishable or non-processed foods.

Lean’s Pantry wanted to provide a cookbook that addressed all of those limitations (lack of space, a seeming lack of nutritional food, and a narrow set of tools to prepare meals) with a set of recipes created by SRO residents who had found ways around those obstacles. Each author provided one or two inventive recipes that truly leveraged the circumstances into flexible and adaptable ideas—meals that could be cooked in a microwave or a liquid warmer or a rice cooker or a hot plate, natural ingredients that were inexpensively available at the Civic Center farmers’ market or any of the small local stores, and that were simply inviting. And within all that, the question arose, what is a format that lent itself to answer all those parameters including and not least of all, a lack of space.

An SRO can be very small. One wall might be the length of a bed or cot; the other wall even shorter. The counter space, if there’s any, serves as all of: a shelf for possessions, a place to sort laundry, a temporary table, AND the place to cook on. So… in all of that, where does the cookbook go??

It goes on that counter. But it has to do it in the least obstructive way possible, with a tiny footprint, in a way that shows the entire recipe at once so that flipping through pages isn’t necessary, and making clear all the ways the recipe can be adapted for different equipment.

And that’s where the inspiration came from for this A-frame styled, spiral bound, market-signage inspired cookbook came from. Here’s a link if you’d like to support Leah’s Pantry.