Thursday, January 07, 2010

My Newest Creation: Eat•Drink•Merry

I’ve spent the last year laboring on a special project for my family and friends. It’s been a long-requested item and something that I have been meaning to do, and I finally made the time. I worried as I wrapped each one and sent it on its merry way to nestle under Christmas trees across the country, thinking that it was too simple and unsubstantial, but those fears were unfounded, as it was well received, seeming to delight each and every recipient.

The project: A cookbook of my favorite recipes. The recipes come from a variety of sources—websites, newspapers, magazines, friends and family, as well as from my own experimentation—and all have become regular items at our table. Many have been featured on this blog. But to put them together in one place took a bit of effort, on my part and that of Brilliant Daughter.

The title came to us fairly simply. Last year I celebrated my 50th birthday (I know, you thought I was soooo much younger!). I did so in a rather lavish fashion by renting a hotel/retreat in the Sierras for 3 days of partying with family and friends. In planning the party, I wanted a theme that could carry through from the invitations, to the gift bags, to the party favors (embroidered aprons, what else?). We came up with a simple Eat•Drink•Merry because that is what we intended to do for 3 days together. The hotel had an amazing kitchen where we cooked about 65 pounds of meat, 20 quarts of chili, and six pans of Pain Perdu, as well as a beautiful 100-year-old bar where we managed to finish off 3 kegs of Gordon Biersch, two cases of wine, and an abundant amount of tequila while playing dice. The rooms were light and sunny and sufficient in number for all our guests, meaning no one had to drive anywhere. We definitely lived up to the Eat•Drink•Merry theme and it felt perfect for the cookbook: simple and easily conveying who I am. To further define it, we opted for a subtitle as well: Good Cooking & Good Eating with Mrs. B.

Identifying all the favorites was probably the most difficult part editorially, as we have so many. We spent several Sunday family dinners discussing what to include, debating the merits of each. We came up with 10 sections, nine of which are recipes and one which contains my favorite recipe resources. The sections include: Breakfast, Salads & Vegetables, Soups & Stews, Quick & Easy, Main Dishes, Desserts, Cookies, Miscellaneous, and Drinks (couldn’t forget the Merry!). I also took the time to include intros to each recipe and scattered sidebars throughout, which I think adds to the book and provides a little more of Mrs B. Then stepped in Brilliant Daughter.

Alexandria, my oldest, has worked in publishing for 7 years, since she was a college intern at the age of 19. In addition to having a degree in English and an Editing and Publishing Certificate, she has developed skills in both design and typesetting. We put those to the test with the interior design of the book, as well as the cover. Fortunately she knows her mother well and I only had to request minor tweaks to the initial design. The cover, however, was a different matter.

We found the cover to be the most difficult production task. We had been looking for cover images for about 6 months, in our own photo libraries and on stock photo agencies, including two separate days scanning through over 4,000 images. I was practically cross-eyed by the time I went to bed. We even considered staging the shoot ourselves, but time and energy made that impossible. In the end we narrowed it down to two. The family voted, and everyone was partial to the one I liked least. Of course. Since the cookbook was supposed to be a surprise it was hard to ask anyone’s opinion, but I finally broke down and sent the images to a publishing friend to weigh in on. Her answer: Pick the one you love. Her rationale: I was the one with my name on the front and I needed to be happy with the decision. So there you have it, a simple table setting that is bright and light and relaxed.

I had the books printed at Lulu, an on-demand self-publishing company. Lulu also provides a marketplace for books, meaning anyone can buy one in hard copy or download a version. While it was never my intention to actually sell books, some of my friends and family have bought additional copies to give to their family and friends, and you are certainly welcome to do so as well, should you be so inclined.

Eat•Drink•Merry: Good Cooking & Good Eating with Mrs. B

132 pages
Spiral bind
$14.95 hardcopy
$7.00 download


Anonymous said...

hi susan.
i visit your blog from time-to-time, and it's always a pleasure. your latest creation--your book--sounds INCREDIBLE, a labor of love. i'm heading to to go buy it right now. wow, what an accomplishment. it must've been a cool experience to do with alex. can't wait to have it in my hands. by the way, this is amelia. i used to work for wenda at birdcage press, back in 2006 before i had my first baby boy, bohdi. we had a second child in june 2009, a boy named neo. much less dramatic and way more enjoyable the second time around. hope you are doing fantastically. same goes to alex!

Mrs. B said...

Wonderful to hear from you Amelia. I can hardly believe that Bodhi is almost 4! I actually ran across pictures of your baby shower not that long ago. I do hope you enjoy the book. and I'd love to meet Neo some day.

Anonymous said...

Susan- Of course I loved the book, and have already got some sitting in the computer room (for believe it or not) Christmas presents to my family and friends- so proud to be your God Mother. Joyce

Mrs. B said...

Thank you Joyce! I appreciate all the love and support from family and friends.

Anonymous said...

ohmygod, help me. just one bone is all i ask/beg/plead for?
thank you for any tips!

hi susan,
sorry, this is a little long, but...i and 3 other moms are trying to create a small cookbook for a friend who's moving to santa barbara in a couple weeks, and am using your fantastic book as a model :o)
i'm feeling really stupid because i can't figure out how you made your OWN cover and your OWN pages, and not those hideous "theme" pages. did you & alex just create your pages using InDesign and then convert to pdf and then upload all pages to lulu? sorry, please only respond if you can do it quickly. i'm just looking for a couple pointers that won't take you more than a couple minutes. no need for details. don't want to take up your time or exhaust your typing fingers. hope you are well and your kitchen renovation is coming along as well as renovations can! have not had time to check out the progress. will soon.

p.s. did i tell you that i made your corn recipe for a friend (and for us), and it was FANTASTIC? wow. thanks for that.

Mrs. B said...

First, thank you for the compliments. This was a fun project and I really did enjoy doing it.

We bought the cover image from IStockPhoto and Alex mocked it up in InDesign. Alex created the interior design, also in InDesign, and then did the pdf, per Lulu instructions. I'm not sure if she created a template, but if she did, you are welcome to use it. You can email me directly at

And I am always happy to answer questions like this, tired fingers or not.

And that corn recipe is the best in the peak of summer when the corn is fresh and sweet. Little kernals of heaven bathed in butter....

Anonymous said...

oh, thank you so much for the lulu help. i got it now. all makes sense. and, thank you for replying so quickly! will let you know how it all goes.
hi to alex.