FK chats to Katherine one third of super talented and delicious cookbooks, The Hungry Girls Cookbooks!
Tell us about The Hungry Girls’ Cookbooks and what delicious recipes we can expect to discover?
The Hungry Girls’ Cookbooks volumes 1, 2 and 3 are hand-bound with fabric spines and hand-stitching, making each one individual. Each petite book has 12 recipes by Rachel Pitts, playful illustrations by Katherine Bird, and bold, lush photography by Leah Holscher. Our books should be a joy to behold – both something to cook from and cherish.
We’re happy to say that while the books are small, some people have said they feel compelled to cook every single recipe. The books aim to inspire you to cook something new, and yet don’t call for intricate cooking methods or a long list of hard-to-find ingredients. They are rooted in cooking with seasonal produce, from Persian carrots, Quick Spanish dinner or a simple chicken and potato curry from Laos, to rhubarb sour cream pie or lemon curd cake.
What are your backgrounds and how did you all meet and decide to work together?
The three of us are friends from high school and we wanted to get together and have some fun with a project combining each of our talents. Over brunch in 2006 we hatched a plan for our first little cookbook, then immediately started writing, designing and scouring op shops for interesting and beautiful props for the photos. The backyard photo shoots were fantastic fun, with the simple aim for all the food to look natural and delicious. We finished our book in time for Christmas so we could give it as a gift to our families and friends.
While not a trained chef, Rachel has worked as a cook and has a passion for food. She is a freelance writer and cookbook editor. Katherine is a freelance designer and illustrator, and Leah is a photographer who otherwise specialises in her own unique style of travel photography zooming in on the small details that often go unnoticed.
Your books are beautifully detailed & tactile. Why did you feel it was important to add art and handmade details to The Hungry Girls’ Cookbook?
Our first cookbook was initially intended for our loved ones, so adding handmade elements was integral to creating a special gift. We also wanted the book to feel worthy of sitting alongside other tried and true recipe books, even though it was small, so adding a layer of art to it felt right. Each of the Hungry Girls’ Cookbooks have included illustrations by Katherine, and we’ve continued to bind the books by hand even though our readers have grown.
Where do you find inspiration for The Hungry Girls’ Cookbook? and what other cookbooks do you love?
Inspiration for the recipes comes from all over the place – from travels, leafing through old hardback cookbooks without pictures or new glossy ones, and from food you come across when people cook for you or when eating out in restaurants. But dishes only become Hungry Girls recipes when they start to work in Rachel’s own kitchen and they begin to have their own confidence and style, and maybe a twist of two. Some of her favourite cookbooks are Moro and Casa Moro by Sam and Sam Clark, and the cookbooks/travelogues by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid.
What is your working process in creating your books and what have been some of the challenges?
Recipes come first, then searching for props and photo shoots, and then Katherine works on the illustrations and design. Working on a new cookbook is an exciting and fun time for all of us as we watch it grow and develop. Once we have the book back from the printer and screen printer, a new phase of work begins – the binding! This involves lots of scissors, paintbrushes, glue, stanley knives, scissors and thread. We’re very grateful to friends who have helped us at our binding evenings over the years, lured by the promise of a meal and good company!
The challenge for the Hungry Girls now is that we don’t all live in the same city, so getting together to bind books is not as easy as it used to be. And having young families also makes the project a bit more of a juggle.
What advice would you give others wanting to follow a similar path?
If you really want to do something you should give it a shot, as you never know where it might lead. And instead of starting on your own, find some friends to collaborate with who you admire and who inspire you. Being able to combine your enthusiasm, bounce ideas off each other and take feedback on board is invaluable.
What direction and ideas do you have for the future? Can we expect to see Volume 4 of The Hungry Girls Cookbook?
We’d love to keep making delicious and beautiful recipes, illustrations and photographs, and at this stage we’re committing to doing this on our blog on the Hungry Girls’ website. Rachel had a second baby last year and hasn’t had nearly as much time to dedicate to blogging as she’d like, but the blog should pick up speed as the year progresses …