Our Picks for the 2010 James Beard Book Awards

beard-award1The James Beard Book Award nominations were announced yesterday, and since last year we boasted a better than average accuracy in our predictions, we're fancying ourselves experts in this field.

Nominees this year featured some books we expected (Momofuku, Ad Hoc at Home), left off some that surprised us (where was Sam Beall's fantastic The Blackberry Farm Cookbook? Or The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook?) and decidedly favored Southern cuisine. We've made some tough calls below.

 

American Cooking

realcajun

  • American Cooking: My New Orleans by John Besh (Andrews McMeel) [buy it]
  • Real Cajun by Donald Link and Paula Disbrowe (Clarkson Potter) [buy it]
  • The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern: Knockout Dishes with Down-Home Flavor by Matt Lee and Ted Lee (Clarkson Potter) [buy it]

While we're not exactly surprised that Marcus Samuelsson's New American Table is not included in this category, which tends to emphasize regional cooking as opposed to general American, it's definitely a bit of a burn that his book got bumped to the photography category. As for the books that did make it, clearly it's the year of Southern cooking. Our vote is with Donald Link's book, Real Cajun. Even though we loved John Besh's effort, the JBF loves an underdog, and Link's gritty, personal book certainly is that.

Predicted Winner: Real Cajun by Donald Link and Paula Disbrowe

 

Baking and Dessert

damgoodsweet

  • Baking by James Patterson (Ten Speed Press) [buy it]
  • DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style by David Guas (Taunton Press) [buy it]
  • Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press) [buy it]

Again, it's the year of Southern cuisine. We're going with DamGoodSweet on this one.

Predicted Winner: DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style by David Guas

 

Beverage

beendoon

  • Been Doon So Long by Randall Grahm (University of California Press) [buy it]
  • The King of Vodka by Linda Himelstein (HarperBusiness) [buy it]
  • World Whisky by Dorling Kindersley and Charles MacLean (DK Publishing) [buy it]

While we loved the Imperial Russian intrigue of The King of Vodka, we think wine writing is due for a moment in the sun. Been Doon So Long will take this category.

Predicted Winner: Been Doon So Long by Randall Grahm

 

Cooking from a Professional Point of View

momofuku

  • Araxi: Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant by James Walt and John Sherlock (Douglas & McIntyre) [buy it]
  • Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan (Clarkson Potter) [buy it]
  • The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts by the French Culinary Institute and Judith Choate (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) [buy it]

If there's one thing the Beard Foundation loves more than Southern food writing, it's David Chang. While Araxi has geographic obscurity going for it, which the Foundation also dotes on, we just think Momofuku is a better book. Given Chang's snub this year by the IACP, he's a shoe-in.

Predicted Winner: Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan

 

General Cooking

adhoc

  • Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller (Artisan) [buy it]
  • Salt to Taste: The Keys to Confident, Delicious Cooking by Marco Canora and Cathy Young (Rodale Books) [buy it]
  • The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones (Knopf) [buy it]

In our opinion, this is the most exciting category this year, with three heavy-hitters nominated. While there's a definite possibility the prize could go to Judith Jones based on her name alone, when it comes down to it, we think Ad Hoc is a better book. The fact that Keller managed to get this book nominated in this category at all is a feat in itself.

Predicted Winner: Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

 

Healthy Focus

lovesoup

  • EatingWell Comfort Foods Made Healthy by Jessie Price (Countryman) [buy it]
  • Golden Door Cooks at Home by Dean Rucker (Clarkson Potter) [buy it]
  • Love Soup by Anna Thomas (W. W. Norton & Company) [buy it]

This is a hard category for us, because it seems like the nominees usually break down into two categories: books that bill themselves as healthy, and books that are sort of "accidentally healthy," or feature recipes that just happen to be good for you. The latter tends to be more successful, and Anna Thomas' vegetarian tome is a great book without cutting corners. Plus we like the title.

Predicted Winner: Love Soup by Anna Thomas

 

International

ireland

  • Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italyby Lidia Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali (Knopf) [buy it]
  • Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo (Chronicle) [buy it]
  • The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews (Chronicle) [buy it]

While we would love to see Lidia Bastianich win this category since she's co-hosting this year, we think Colman Andrew's Irish cookbook will win, with its lush photography.

Predicted Winner: The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews

 

Reference and Scholarship

larousse

  • Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States by Andrew Coe (Oxford University Press [buy it]
  • Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini de Vita (University of California Press) [buy it]
  • Larousse Gastronomique (Revised and Updated) Prosper Montagne, Editor (Clarkson Potter) [buy it]

Although we enjoyed Chop Suey, Larousse Gastronomique will win this category based purely on name recognition. Chinese food nonfiction is so 2009, anyhow.

Predicted Winner: Larousse Gastronomique (Revised and Updated) Prosper Montagne, Editor

 

Single Subject

wellpreserved

  • Pasta Sfoglia by Ron Suhanosky (Wiley) [buy it]
  • Weber’s Way to Grill: The Step-by-Step Guide to Expert Grilling by Jamie Purviance (Oxmoor House) [buy it]
  • Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods
    by Eugenia Bone (Clarkson Potter) [buy it]

We simply adored Eugenia Bone's Well-Preserved, which makes this category kind of a no-brainer.

Predicted Winner: Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods by Eugenia Bone

 

Writing and Literature

henrysfarm

  • Save the Deli:In Search of Perfect Pastrami, Crusty Rye, and the Heart of Jewish Delicatessen by David Sax (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) [buy it]
  • The Seasons on Henry’s Farm by Terra Brockman (Agate Surrey) [buy it]
  • Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal by Tristram Stuart (W.W. Norton & Co.) [buy it]

There is a good chance that Save the Deli will win this, but our money's on The Seasons on Henry's Farm. Everyone loves a good "get your hands dirty" narrative, and in the middle of this recession, who hasn't fantasized about chucking it all and living off the land?

Predicted Winner: The Seasons on Henry’s Farm by Terra Brockman and Deborah Madison

 

Photography

sevenfires

  • Eat Ate by Guy Mirabella (Chronicle) [buy it]
  • New American Table by Marcus Samuelsson (Wiley) [buy it]
  • Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way by Francis Mallmann and Peter Kaminsky (Artisan) [buy it]

We give it to Seven Fires for the shot of the strapped, butterflied cow carcass being raised on poles, silhouetted against the sun. For that shot alone.

Predicted Winner: Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way by Francis Mallmann and Peter Kaminsky

 

Check back after the awards to see if we can hold on to our winning streak.

—Paula Forbes and Helen Rosner

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3 Comments

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  1. emily

    This year's nominees seem kind of ... boring?

    • Helen

      Yeah, they do, and I'm not sure why, since 09 was such a vibrant year for cookbooks. There are some real notable omissions here, though: for my money Blackberry Farm was robbed in its exclusion, and I'm sure Paula would go to bat for Herve This's Building A Meal.

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