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Cookbook Authors Lead Backlash Against Food Porn

A new minimalist movement may be taking hold in cookbook design circles.

There aren't any finished dishes pictured in The Geometry of Pasta, a new noodle field guide and recipe collection authored by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy. The stunning black-and-white book is illustrated with life-sized line drawings of dozens of pasta shapes. The only visual inspiration for a home cook intrigued by a spaghettini with shrimps, clams and ginger is a single striped page that could pass for a swatch of seersucker fabric.

"I think people have become almost lazy about looking at gastroporn," Hildebrand says. "Maybe the time has come to reinvent the cookbook."

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There aren't any heaving cheesecakes or sweating lemon bars in Ikea's new Swedish baking book either: The design-rich Homemade is Best features pictorial ingredient lists, with sticks of butter neatly aligned with pyramids of flour.

Hildebrand thinks drawings can be more evocative than photographs, which she worried would become monotonous in a book about matching pasta shapes and sauces.

"Endless photographs seemed quite difficult to do well," she says. "It seemed it could be achievable to make a cookbook that didn't depend on glossy photographs."

Hildebrand says her publisher was immediately receptive, partly because he recognized the cost savings.

"It is more economical," she says with a laugh.

Hildebrand and Kenedy would like to apply their pared-down visual approach to other foods, but admit not every edible is as inherently graphic as pasta.

"The pasta itself is an example of design," Kenedy says. "The geometry of rice wouldn't have worked as well."

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