Why you should care

Because it’s time to put cookbooks back in the kitchen.

Modern cookbooks aren’t just about measurements these days. They’re more like coffee-table books, with hardbound spines, glossy pictures of food porn and cosmopolitan spreads of celebrity chefs du jours in their idyllic French country kitchens or noir New York restaurants. Forget that, says one indie publisher. It’s time to cook.

Short Stack Editions, which began as a Kickstarter in 2013 and is now self-supporting — though not wildly profitable — has a simple approach: publish six recipe collections a year that are original and easy to follow but don’t waste paper on culinary glitz and glam. Kind of like what our grandmothers learned to cook with (and considering the best cooks around are always grandmothers, they may be on to something). Also, each of the Short Stack Editions is based on a single ingredient. Because that’s how most of us cook. You buy a beautiful eggplant at the farmer’s market just because it’s so beautiful, but then you don’t know what to do with it. Enter Short Stacks.

Each slim volume, tucked in a catchy cover and brought to life with tiny drawings, is just 4.5 inches by 7.5 inches.

The project’s goal is to “give people an analog and more trustworthy alternative to googling tomato recipe,” explains publisher Nick Fauchald. Though Fauchald personally tests each recipe, the authors concoct them and pick the ingredient themes, which include summer squash, buttermilk, grits, eggs, chocolate and maple syrup, to name a few. The series’ distinctive style takes a visual cue from midcentury recipe pamphlets put out by food brands in the ’50s and ’60s. Each slim volume, tucked in a catchy cover and brought to life with tiny drawings, is just 4.5 inches by 7.5 inches. Rebekah Peppler, who wrote Volume 8, Honey, recalls Fauchald sending back her first draft with the feedback “too magazine.” He wanted to hear her voice.

And that’s the real key ingredient: the individual food writer’s flavor, Fauchald says. Throughout a career of writing cookbooks, food styling and working behind the scenes in the industry, he noticed fellow authors who aren’t celebrity chefs or internationally known food bloggers don’t get due recognition for their work. Instead, they’re relegated to creating recipes that other entities end up taking credit for. However, ensuring that the authors are compensated for their culinary expertise translates to a hefty price tag. Each booklet contains 20 to 24 recipes and costs $14. Compare that with shelling out $21 for Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, with 127 recipes and lots of pretty pictures.

But really, how many of those 127 fancy recipes are you going to make? That’s a cookbook you keep in the living room; Short Stacks belong in the kitchen.

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