THE CLASSIC ASIAN COOKBOOK
photography by Clive Streeter and Patrick McLeavey
Dorling Kindersley, London; Reader’s Digest Association, Canada 1998
French edition: La Bonne Cuisine Asiatique, Solar, Paris, 1998
Spanish edition: La Cocina Asiatica Clasica, Javier Vergara, Madrid etc, 1998
German edition: Klassische Asiatische Kueche, AT Verlag, Aarau, 1998
Dutch edition: Het Beste uit Oosterse Keukens, Culinaire Boekerij,
Utrecht and Antwerp, 1998
‘The Rice Book’ and ‘Indonesian Regional’ were, so to speak, the books of my second period: large texts with some excellent line drawings but no colour photographs. I’d had plenty of experience with food photography by this time, after writing for several colour magazines and doing a little book for Sainsburys. When Dorling Kindersley asked me to contribute to their ‘Classic’ series, and to cover more or less the whole of Asia, I knew this was a very different proposition. It would have to be written to a formula, and to a timetable. I would be less an author than a member of a production team. I felt my status as a professional was being challenged, and I can’t refuse a challenge, so I signed up and off we went.
It all turned out quite well, the people I was working with were highly skilled and we all respected each other and were good friends. The book has a good deal of me in it, it’s more than a production-line job. It got some good reviews and I think sold pretty well, though by this time I was getting fairly substantial advances which I knew, and the publishers knew, were unlikely to be covered by royalties on sales. But there would be a profit for the publisher, and they’d just move on to the next thing. Any author knows that publicity for a book, after the first flurry of review copies and the launch party, is his or her responsibility, and I’ve always worked hard to promote my own books. (This website is part of the effort, even if most of the books are out of print.)
So by and large I was pretty happy with my relationship with DK in London, and quite sorry when they went bust soon afterwards. I was not always happy with the publishers elsewhere - the book was translated into German, Dutch, French, and Spanish, to name but a few. Solar, the French publishers, in particular upset me by completely re-writing the Introduction to the book, saying things I would never say, and then printing my signature underneath.
Anyway, I was now definitely into my third period, my glossy-picture period. If I’d been a top model, that would have come at the beginning of my career, but we cookery writers do everything back-to-front. One thing I must make clear: all the food photography in my books is real - no glazes, cotton wool, spray paints or any other unnatural aid to beauty. When the picture was taken (often only one or two pictures in a hard day’s work) we sat down and ate the food, and it not only looked good, it tasted good.