There are those moments in life when what you intended to do – say, review a cookbook – turn you on to something else entirely. Such is the case when flipping through The Nordic Diet by Trina Hahnemann, a slim paperback touting the benefits of cooking up traditional Northern European foods (essentially a regional slant on the now ubiquitous seafood, fruits, vegetables, whole grains mantra). All well and good, and this book certainly doesn't lack interesting recipes. That leek and goat feta tart with rye dough, cauliflower soup with green chili and shrimp, and spelt baguettes and pancakes are among the potential new kitchen staples.
In fact, The Nordic Diet is pretty great until you get to the “diet” angle of the cookbook. What we hoped to see from Hahnemann was a more interesting focused encore to The Scandinavian Cookbook. What we get is a book with a diet angle that feels forced. Which gets us to our non-diet related discovery, the publisher of The Nordic Diet — Skyhorse Publishing.
While we won't term this an Aha! moment, as that would support a genre of publishing (self-help books) as surface-obsessed as diet books, we were intrigued enough to stick around the website for an extended stay. Skyhorse was founded less than five years ago by Tony Lyons, former president of Lyons Press. Not exactly the sort of upstart media business analysts suggest you jump into these days, but Lyons seems to be having a Chris Kimball moment, albeit on a much smaller scale.
For starters, Lyons has already published more than 100 books. They are distributed by W. W. Norton – a key point for consumer accessibility – which means the books show up front and center at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon (a hurdle many small publishers can not surmount). And judging some of Lyons' books by their cover, several in the cookbook category actually sound interesting. Some do not.
The most promising are those whose titles read like they slipped through the cracks at a large publisher, such as The Nordic Diet, yet may still have merit (Hahnemann's previous book on Scandinavian cooking was published by Andrews McMeel). Books like Authentic Norwegian Cooking and Cheese Making: Self Sufficiency. Or The Complete Book of Making Jerky for those who want more than the few pages dedicated to the topic in The Art of Charcuterie — or who simply don't give a flip about duck terrines.
Others, like Foods Jesus Ate and How To Grow Them, are begging for a look to glean the author's promised “nutrition tips” (fish, water?). There is also the potentially intriguing Who Put the Devil in Deviled Eggs? Where America's Favorite Food Dishes Originated, a book that promises to explain the name deviled eggs. The spiced-up egg recipe, we are told, was common by the 1600s in Rome but the name didn't evolve until later because “well, it's hot in hell.” Now you know.
Yes, those diet and self-help books are still front and center at Skyhorse. But if publisher/CEO Lyons considers Around The World in 80 Lays a self-help book (he's not talking about potato chips), perhaps we could be persuaded to pretend The Nordic Diet is not a true diet book and give Hahnemann's venison stew another bite.