A popular cookbook can sell hundreds of thousands of copies and have a shelf life far longer than that of the average nonfiction book. Laura Pazzaglia, the brains behind the hip pressure cooking site — the go-to spot for all things pressure-cooker related — has just launched her new cookbook, Hip Pressure Cooking: Fast, Fresh, and Flavorful. How did she write it?
In this interview, you’ll learn:
- How a popular blog can lead to a book project.
- How to adjust your vision to your publisher’s reality.
- How to identify what will make your cookbook different from the competition.
HDYWT: How did you come up with the idea for Hip Pressure Cooking?
Laura: It all started from the website. Many asked if I had a book, and I noticed a glut of cookbooks for the pressure cooker from non-experts — a couple of the authors had already written cookbooks for the slow cooker or toaster oven, and the pressure cooker was just the next appliance for them. The recipes were uninspired and they really didn’t take advantage of all the great things the pressure cooker can do.
HDYWT: How did you begin work on this project?
Laura: Well, my first idea was to write a cookbook in a completely different format. I would write 10 master recipes — steps and sequences that could be applied with any ingredient combination — with about 20 variations. The publisher liked the idea of re-inventing pressure cooking but they weren’t ready to re-invent cookbooks, so they shaped and molded my proposal and ideas into a more classic cookbook format.
I was able to include all of the pointers I had in mind for the master recipe at the beginning of each chapter — this turned out to be some of the most valuable information because it turned the book into more than a collection of recipes — it was a reference to pressure cookery.
HDYWT: How do you organize your research?
Laura: Usually when something goes wrong, I get researching. I do all of my research on the internet and I generally look at scientific principles related to the pressure cookers. I don’t look at other pressure cooker recipes because I don’t want to be unduly affected by someone else’s work and I’m usually disappointed, anyway.
For example, after watching a roast go from plump to shriveled minutes after it was pressure cooked, I began to research evaporation. It might not seem obvious for a cookbook, but many of the recipes in the book use techniques that are based on scientific principles — that’s how I come up with some of my pressure cooker techniques. So, back to the roast, when I read a little tidbit about how evaporation happens faster when there is a bigger temperature difference I realized that meat, in general, needs to be opened with the (slower) natural release method and then covered tightly to cool so it doesn’t become tough and dry. I also changed my go-to pressure cooker tomato sauce recipe from using the natural release to use the (faster) normal release to quickly evaporate and reduce the sauce in no time!
HDYWT: What does a typical day of research/writing/promotion look like?
Laura: I live in Italy and over 80% of my readership is American, so I wake up early in the morning — 4 or 5 am — and check email and social media because it’s late evening/night in the US. Then I organize my plan for the day — will I be writing a bit for the book (working on the next one)? Photograph a recipe for the book? Do some website maintenance?
HDYWT: What are your favorite tools in your writer’s toolbox?
Laura: I use a thesaurus — a lot. Saying the same thing over and over (like how the pressure cooker works) but using different words, angles and voices keeps it fresh and interesting.