Book Riot sends a link to this Epicurious story by Charlotte Druckman comparing the covers of several British and American editions of various cookbooks. The first example makes the point.

Simple, witty, British cover at the left, bland US version on the right.

The article features a lot of books by Yotam Ottolenghi, someone who I’d thought of as less well-known in USA than in Britain.

In trying to isolate the main differences between British and American approaches to design, Stephanie Jackson, Commissioning Editor at Octopus in London suggests “‘What the British market is generally aiming for’ in order to ‘make the books visible in an incredibly crowded market, is a distinctive cover — something not obvious, [that will] pique the browser’s curiosity’.” Of course there’s a close relationship between market expectations and cover design. A picture of the author/celebrity cook on the cover is not much use in a market where they are not familiar from television. I guess it goes without saying that a picture of some dish for which it’s difficult to buy the ingredients in your country is not perhaps the best choice for a cover. And then there are national preferences to take into account. Apparently you can’t put clams or tofu on a cookbook cover in America. I imagine we can all think of dishes which would put us off buying a book. Just think tripe.

I’m not so sure about the British tendency to use just type and a drawing on cookbook covers, though maybe it’s just the three examples shown, Ottlenghi’s Plenty, his Jerusalem and Sami Tamimi’s Falastin that I find less welcoming than the conventional, food-shot US versions of these three books. However it obviously works triumphantly well on Simple. Maybe the impact is greater the rarer the approach is. C. Max Magee used to do an annual round-up comparing British and American cover design in general. I did a post in 2015 which links to seven-year’s-worth of these comparisons. Unfortunately Mr Magee seems to have given up this little tradition.

That iconic lemon has eventually made it over here: apparently it’s being used for The Essential Ottolenghi, a two-volume boxed set.

In a way it’s a bit of a surprise that we can have this discussion about transatlantic design of cookbooks. One of the features of the cookbook business is that there seems to be no shortage of projects, especially in America, so you might think that importing books, and having to change the units of measurement, was unnecessary. (Maybe there really are relatively few of these both-sides books, and that’s actually why the hot Mr Ottolenghi looks like he’s overrepresented in this cover comparison project.)