Amazon has just rolled out an interactive infographic, a map of the United States called "Great American Eats," highlighting "editors' picks for the best new and classic cookbooks from culinary innovators across America, region by region."
It's curated by Mari Malcolm, Amazon Books' food editor. In an email, she explains, "I've long been intrigued by the regional trends in cookbooks, so I decided it would be fun for foodies and our cookbook customers if I actually mapped them. I started with my (super-long) long list of semi-recent and even upcoming favorites by American authors and categorized them by home state. Then I added the classics that I knew had to be there — trailblazing books like James Beard's 'American Cookery' and 'The Fanny Farmer Cookbook' and more recent books every cookbook collector considers essential, like 'A Platter of Figs' from David Tanis and Alice Waters. And then I added tried-and-true customer favorites, things that were consistently getting 4- or 5-star reviews over a period of years."
Some states with smaller populations required some sleuthing, she says, via small-town online newspaper reviews. She points out that every book on a list is hand-picked and vetted. Books are displayed in order of what's selling best, "which keeps it dynamic. I'll also keep adding the best new books as they come out."
Click on the frying pan labeled California and you learn that the top spot has been given to "Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans" by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong.
That's followed by a cookbook with the world's longest title: "Clean Eats: Over 200 Delicious Recipes to Reset Your Body's Natural Balance and Discover What It Means to Be Truly Healthy" by Dr. Alejandro Junger. The third spot goes to "The Fast Metabolism Diet Cookbook: Eat Even More Food and Lose Even More Weight" by Haylie Pomroy.
California might as well take it on the chin. The list feeds right into the stereotype that everybody out here is on some kind of extreme diet. We can take some comfort in the fact, though, that the No. 4 spot goes to "The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks" by Amy Stewart, a very good read.
But then we're straightaway back with "Giada's Feel Good Food: My Healthy Recipes and Secrets" and "The Blender Girl: Super-Easy, Super-Healthy Meals, Snacks, Desserts, and Drinks — 100 Gluten-Free, Vegan Recipes" (just to hit all bases) by Tess Masters.
Going further down the list, at least we have "Bouchon Bakery" by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel, with all its butter and sugar and delicious master recipes. That's followed by, sigh, yet another diet book, Marlene Koch's "Eat What You Love — Everyday!: 200 All-New, Great-Tasting Recipes Low in Sugar, Fat, and Calories." Who do you think would win in a bake-off?
Big surprise, the heavy tome devoted to Spanish cured meats, "Charcutería: The Soul of Spain" by Jeffrey Weiss, Sergio Mora, Nathan Rawlinson and José Andrés wins spot No. 9. This book is serious, and a must if you're into either charcuterie or Spanish cuisine. No. 10 is another score for the serious cook: "Tartine Bread" by Chad Robertson and Eric Wolfinger, originally published in 2010.
I'm done with this list, because -- ouch! -- No. 11 is "The Paleo Foodie Cookbook: 120 Food Lover's Recipes for Healthy, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free and Delicious Meals" by Arsy Vartanian, Amy Kubal and Liz Wolfe.
Okay, I can't help myself, I'm going to peek at what books they've picked to represent New York tastes. Actually, they don't have a New York category, so I'm going with Mid-Atlantic. Out of the top 10 cookbooks, not one is a diet book. Not one! It seems New Yorkers (and Mid-Atlantic folks) are into sweets, crafts, Italian cuisine and easy and/or foolproof recipes. The 10th anniversary edition of Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" hogs the No. 6 spot followed by "Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking" and Oh.My.God., a book devoted entirely to pies! That would be "First Prize Pies: Shoo-Fly, Candy Apple, and Other Deliciously Inventive Pies for Every Week of the Year" by Allison Kave and Tina Rupp.
I had to look in on the South too, to see if, by chance, a Paula Deen book has made the cut. Yep. You can look up books by state, and there she is under Georgia with "Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible" along with two cookbooks from her son Bobby Deen and the quite lovely 2013 cookbook "Summerland: Recipes for Celebrating With Southern Hospitality" from Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia in Atlanta.
Enough for today. Comparing tastes and sensibilities across America via this site could easily become an obsession.