My only exposure to Grand Central Market has been on Food Network, such as when The Next Food Network Star competitors shot video interviews with chefs at the Market. It looked a fascinating place, so I was eager to read The Grand Central Market Cookbook.

You know you’re in for a treat before you even open it. The cover is rich in nostalgia with the vintage oilcloth cover that evokes summer picnics. The colors and style remind me of Lotería cards from that old Mexican game. Before turning the first page, I was smiling with remembrance.

fun with fonts
Fun with Fonts

It opens with the weakest section of the book, the business history of Grand Central Market. Since it founded in 1917, there must be a rich anecdotal history full of life and passion. This is not it. This history would fit better in something to send to investors. It’s about development, urban renewal, marketing, and business plans. There’s an interesting interview with someone who has been going there for years, but most of the introductory text is geared toward a different audience. Some of it is an unnecessary response to local criticism that is just odd to present to a broader national audience who would not be aware of the criticism as they don’t live there.

The recipes are organized in an interesting way. It seems haphazard. There are chapters for breakfast and happy hour, but not lunch and dinner. There is a dessert chapter, but that is the only one organized by course, no salads, no soups, not entrees. Then there are chapters on tacos which is pretty specific. Then a few by food group, veggies and fish and meats. So, instead of being organized by meals, food group, or courses, it’s a mix of all three.

It makes sense in a sort of haphazard way. Breakfast includes some donuts, some juices, and a bloody mary. Also, a chop suey which I might have thought would be a carb, but that’s the kind of haphazard I mean. While I don’t know it’s in the breakfast section, why not? It’s better than cold pizza for breakfast. The other sections are much simpler. Meat and fish, for example, has meat and fish. It just seems as though there was no decision made about how to organize, it just happened.

I like The Grand Central Market Cookbook, but it is filled with pretty standard fare that many people will know how to make. What I found myself enjoying more than the recipes was the design. Normally, good design avoids a superfluous number of fonts, but The Grand Central Market Cookbook is full of fonts, part of that nostalgic vibe. The regular text is an easy-to-read serif, but the headings and recipe titles are someone having fun. The playfulness of the design appeals to me. I also love the photos which are much more human-centric than most cookbooks. Ice cream is actually in a cone in a human hand. People hold drinks, stir pots, drop garnish and otherwise connect the food to people. I love this. Food without people has no purpose.

I also like the ordinariness of the recipes. Yes, they are things many people know already and things people usually buy from a food cart, but it’s kind of nice to see a contemporary cookbook that is filled with recognizable foods that we know, love, and probably should cook at home.

I received a review copy of The Grand Central Market Cookbook from the publisher through Blogging for Books.