My old friend Michael Ruhlman has come up with a terrific holiday gift not only for cookbook readers but for cookbook writers. Always out in front of the technological curve, Ruhlman and his photographer wife, Donna Turner Ruhlman, have just released a mini-cookbook for the iPad called “The Book of Schmaltz: A Love Song to a Forgotten Fat” (perfect timing, no? There are still four days of Hanukkah left).
It’s gorgeous. If for some reason you never thought frying chicken fat could be made beautiful, you really need to check this out. Especially on the iPad, the colors just glow. There’s great information too. The Ruhlmans and their neighbor Lois Waxman Baron walk you through the rendering of the chicken skins to make the schmaltz (and gribenes too!). Then they cover traditional recipes such as chicken soup with matzo balls, and chopped liver; and contemporary recipes such as vichysoisse with gribenes and chives (dairy and meat, oy vey!), and pâté de foie gras en terrine with croutons (actually, a smoother, more refined chopped liver).
All of this is nice enough for cookbook readers, but what makes this a special gift to cookbook writers is the fact that the Ruhlman’s self-published it, going outside the traditional publishing channel and winding up with a product that can stand beside anything the big boys could do. And, most important, not having to share the $7.99 price. Self-publishing is still too often regarded as something for failed writers, but this mini-cookbook demonstrates just how far off that is from reality.
Of course, not everyone is blessed with an in-house photographer who can make gribenes shine like rare jewels, but at a time when it is getting harder and harder for writers to get published, this could be the start of a new business model.
“The Book of Schmaltz,” for iPad and iPad mini, is $7.99 from the iTunes app store.