For starters, anybody who has ever written a cookbook, recipe tested a cookbook, or maybe even read a cookbook, will be seriously impressed by the sheer number of recipes in Maureen Evans' Eat Tweet, A Twitter Cookbook, published last fall by Artisan. Most cookbooks have a hundred or two, some far less than that: Evans' first cookbook has 1,020 of them.
Okay, okay, so they're in 140 characters or less, but she still had to come up with them, test them (or not), get them by editors, etc. (Can you imagine line editing this book? Typos suck generally, but imagine the difference one or two characters could make here.) Evans' book is hardly your standard cookbook, but it's an enormous lot of fun for anyone who spends too much time on Twitter. It's also a lovely exercise in condensation: she is to the art of the cookbook what Bashō was to the art of poetry.
Roughly the size of a Moleskin notebook, Eat Tweet is a nicely organized compendium of Evans' tweeted recipes (Evans tweets under the name @cookbook) that's divided logically into traditional sections, like Getting Started, Breakfast, Mains, Desserts, etc. There's also a Chart of Symbols by way of introduction, in which Evans provides a kind of abbreviated mathematical chart (@ = at, ; = next, / = and) for the, um, abbreviations. Of which there are many, of course, this being Twitter.
This being Twitter, one should also note that Evans is a pioneer in the field of Twitter cookbooks for a very good reason: she's the domestic partner of Blaine Cook, Twitter's original programmer. She may therefore also be a pioneer in how to monetize it, we don't know. (Good for her if so, cookbook advances having recently declined as much as housing prices.)
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Evans' recipes are, as they would be, small miracles of conflation. Marcella Hazan's roast chicken with lemons becomes a haiku: Bruise,stab2whl lem. Stuff in∼4lb whlchicken, tie shut,s+p. h@350ºF(turn1x); +20m breastup@400ºF. As does Julia Child's beef bourguignon: Brwn,rmv1/2c lardon, 2lb beef,carrot&onion, Flr,s+p. 8m@450F; +2c pinot. And even Jim Lahey's no-knead bread: Mix4c flr/2t salt/½t yeast/ 2c h2o. Rise18h@70º; +2h as round loaf. Flr,flip t preheateddutchoven. Cvr30m@450º; +20m uncvrd. Yes, they're all under 140 characters. Those are just a few of the Big Name recipes that Evans has translated. There are about a thousand more of her own, some complicated, some simple, including a happy number of ethnic recipes.
We wished the chapters had been organized alphabetically, as it's dangerously easy to get lost in the code of the text as it is, and the reader needs as much structure as is available. Did Evans test the recipes? It would be nice to know. (If testing 1,020 herself was unreasonable, she could have asked her Twitter followers to test them and report back.) We also wish, perhaps childishly, that the book had pictures. Maybe the next edition of the book can somehow include Twitpics of the dishes.
Will it replace the actual Hazan and Child cookbooks, or that sauce-stained, dog-eared copy of your go-to Craig Claiborne? Of course not. Even if you spend your days on Twitter, there is a luxuriousness to reading actual prose. And one does wonder how many people will actually cook these recipes -- or if they'll just tweet them and go eat a sandwich. But Eat Tweet is a lot of fun, the way jigsaw puzzles are fun, and there's a beauty to her brevity, the way a good mathematical equation is starkly beautiful. And it's a glorious way to transmit recipes to friends on your iPhone, like over dinner, whether you made it yourself or not.
If the cookbook thing doesn't work out, Evans can always write code for Steve Jobs. In the meantime, one does wonder what it was that started the whole thing in the first place: Whtsfrdnrhoney?? Hngry! Pkup chkn enroute? Xox. Or something like that.