How to Eat – Nigella Lawson



How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food
Nigella Lawson

Published by Chatto & Windus, 1999 (Paperback), 1998 (Hardback)
Designed by uncredited
Photographs by Richard Caldicott

How to Eat is a book aimed at the home cook with uncomplicated, easy to understand recipes. It is Nigella Lawson’s first book, published in 1998, ahead of her first television series in 2000. Visually, white space, a restrained colour palette and the use of the sans-serif Futura with its single-storey schoolbook letterforms suggest simplicity. This is tempered with a sophisticated typographic hierarchy that guides the reader through the different levels of information present: chapter headings, recipe titles, ingredients, method, commentary, tips etc. At this stage, Nigella Lawson was not a household name, and it is perhaps for this reason, that the book is not illustrated with (expensive to commission) photographs of finished meals - or of herself. Lawson’s relative newness is reinforced by the typographic hierarchy of the cover with the author’s name relatively low in the hierarchy of the cover elements and by the placing of two quotes to establish the author’s name to the reader. Interestingly, both of these quotes are from voices that represent ‘middle England’ - not the audience that Lawson eventually appealed to.

Front cover
The cover shows a photograph, by Richard Caldicott, of random pieces of kitchen equipment (grater, plastic beakers etc) and food (a cabbage, boiled egg etc) shot against a white background with a suggestion of the edge of a white table or shelf against a white wall. The photograph, in its hyperreality, primary colours and with little or no shadows appears Photoshopped/processed and the items are shot in such a way that they appear more like objects in a decorative frieze. The title of the book, in uppercase Futura, is printed at the top of the photograph in magenta with the subtitle below in cyan blue. The author’s name appears at the bottom in blue. There are two quotations on the page, from the Daily Mail and from Delia Smith.

This book is unusual for cook books in that it is mainly white. The dominant element on the cover is the photograph of the food and equipment - these feel quite subdued and occupy approximately a quarter of the cover. In the typographic hierarchy, the title and subtitle of the book, because of their position and size on the page, are the dominant elements. The quotation from the Daily Mail second in the hierarchy; the author’s name is third in the hierarchy with the quotation from Delia Smith is fourth in the hierarchy of cover elements.


Inside Pages
The book is 19 cm by 24.5 cm and is printed on white matt coated paper in full colour - although most of the book is actually designed in two colours: black for the body text and a second colour for headings, titles, and recipe ingredients; these colours are chosen to indicate the chapters of the book. The symmetrical layout is based on a simple one-column grid with a wide margin that is occasionally used to highlight sections of the recipes. The book uses two typefaces in different weights and colours: Futura medium in colour, for chapter headings, running heads, ingredients and, in uppercase, for recipe titles; Futura light is used for the methods of recipes and a serif, possibly Bembo, is used for the commentary. The book contains very few photographs: the images used are of kitchen equipment and random items of food, as on the cover. Small black and white photographs of food and kitchen utensils are used throughout the book. Chapters are announced with a double page spread with a full colour photograph at full bleed, with text reversed out on the left-hand page; on the right-hand page the photograph shows an item of kitchen equipment or food on a coloured table or shelf against a contrasting coloured wall.

Running heads are set in Futura medium, arranged vertically on the edge of the page in a coloured block, these blocks move down the page with each chapter, creating a visual index on the outside of the book.

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