Anatomy Of A Cookbook

"I am very meticulous and organized when I am working on recipe writing and testing, so I crave routine and a certain order."
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Book cover and photography by Aran Goyoaga 

Book cover and photography by Aran Goyoaga 

It's rare to have a behind the scenes glimpse at someone's creative process. We are so accustom to seeing the finished product that when given a look into the methods, the idiosyncrasies and the rhythm that created said product, we cannot help but develop a deeper appreciation for the artist and their work. Such is the case with our friend Aran Goyoaga's new book, Cannelle et Vanille.

We have gotten to know Aran over the past few years and were privy to witnessing the recipe development and editing process, the styling, photo shoots and—on occasion—even got to sample some of dishes that made it into the book. It's no surprise that Aran cooks with an ethereal ease, and the familiarity in the way she navigates not just her own kitchen but an open fire, is in itself fascinating to watch. 

But what we found most impressive? That the production was a one-woman show. The entire book was conceived, proposed, written, prepared and photographed by Aran. (An example is the photo below: Aran holding the gluten free bread, a recipe she has worked tirelessly to perfect, shot on a timer in her studio.)

We were eager talk to our friend about this over-two-year investment and to illuminate what really went into bringing Cannellle et Vanille to life. 

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Many people don't realize all that goes into producing a cookbook. For starters, will you share how long the entire process from start to completion was for you?

My first book came out seven years ago, and I feel it took this long for the idea for a new book to mature in my head and finally produce it. I started writing the proposal for this book three years ago. It took a total of two years to write it, photograph it, edit it and send it to print.

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Was this time frame increased due to the fact that you did everything from cooking to styling to shooting to writing on your own? 

I think two years is the average amount of time it takes to produce a well-edited book. I don’t think the fact that I wrote it and photographed it prolonged the process, but it was all-consuming for me. It has been a very visceral, physical and emotional process for me because I really did pour everything I had into the book

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Can you share (roughly) how many recipes you submitted and how many were approved for the book? How many locations you used? How many images you shot and styled, and how many made it into the book? And finally, again roughly, how many hours you spent creating this beautiful body of work?

Honestly, I cannot remember! There are over 100 recipes in the book and I would say that 25 or so got left behind during the testing process. However, when I stop to think about it, more than the recipes themselves, it was the overall tone of the book that went through different iterations. The book had a bit of a memoir component in the very beginning. It was a mix of memoir and emotional journey of my life through the way I cook. It was a beautiful idea in theory, but I wasn’t able to make it work in a practical sense because after all, this was a cookbook and I wanted it to work as such. I love the mix of story and function that can happen in a cookbook, and I think we finally arrived at a perfect balance.

As far as photos, there were so many! I could probably publish another book just with photos that didn’t make it into this one. I shot the book mainly at my studio and at home, with a couple of recipes shot on Lopez Island and Vashon Island.

Oh and time… so much time. A whole year of actively working on the book every day. After that during the editing and copyediting process, things slowed down a bit, but I was still involved in design, publicity, etc. 

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This book feels uniquely and distinctly you, and one of the reasons for this (aside from the incredibly recipes and stunning photos) is that—even though this was a solo endeavor—the importance of community reverberates throughout the book as a seminal theme. How important is that theme for you personally and professionally? And how has it nourished you both personally and professionally?

It’s funny you say that because the writing and photographing process was quite isolating. I spent a lot of time on my own. I am very meticulous and organized when I am working on recipe writing and testing so I crave routine and a certain order. I did feed my friends and family and of course involved them in photo shoots, but I really did spend a lot of time in my own head.

At the same time, all these recipes that are in the book come from years of opening my home to people. I love having people over. I think it comes from growing up in a large family that owned a pastry shop. The doors are always open. The more the merrier. The kitchen table is the perfect excuse to check in with friends, to linger, to learn stories, to exchange ideas and really broaden perspectives. I love a colorful table where different ideas are represented. It’s just how I grew up. I remember as a kid sitting at my grandparents’ kitchen table after the Sunday two-hour-lunch listening to the adults argue about politics or who made the best puff pastry. The details were important. It was never about being fancy but making sure everyone felt welcomed and seen. 

So that is what I seek now and what really is behind this new book. 

Cannelle et Vanille  was released today and is available for purchase!

Aran Goyoaga by @belathee_2019

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