I am not a writer by nature and I did poorly in primary and secondary school English courses. I am not a chef by training, never took a cooking class and have mediocre knife skills at best. I just simply like produce, markets, cooking, a bit of humor and an occasional service related rant. This blog started out as a â€œdiversionâ€ from real life and it has rapidly become a major part of my day, nearly every single day. At nearly 1,100 posts and more in the works, I am frankly shocked that you guys havenâ€™t yawned several times and nodded off to a deep slumber. For this blog, I take notes in dozens of different notebooks, notepads, leather-bound travel journals, etc. but all in a rather disorganized manner (photo above). Over the past year, I have struggled with the â€œwhatâ€™s next?â€ question. I have always wanted to write a book of some sort, but was just seriously insecure whether there was a reasonable, intelligent, useful point of view that I could take. I have recently gone to several local bookstores and stared at the offerings of local cookbooks. Is it just me or are the offerings rather dismal? There are several books that are interesting and contain key recipesâ€¦ but the combination of bad visuals, photos, paper quality, weak writing and editing, etc. seemed incredibly glaring in a negative kind of way, for a country so well known for constantly eating, and for a nation whose citizens currently reside in nearly every corner of the planetâ€¦
I note with interest the success of two U.S. published â€œPhilippineâ€ cookbooks. First, Memories of Philippine Kitchens, by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan (a self-taught chef) which recently bagged an IACP award. They are the owners and proprietors of Cendrillon Restaurant in New York and I reviewed the book here a few months ago. A second book that made the finalist list was The Filipino-American Kitchen by Jennifer M. Aranas, previously of the Rambutan Restaurant in Chicago which she sold in 2002. Both cookbooks strike me as being successful partly because they are targeted at both Filipinos and non-Filipinos, and well, have a whole lot of fusion in them to make them that way. I realize publishing is a HUGE business and the concept of a book from the writing, the photos, the editing and actually making the cut is a long, involved and tedious process. In many ways, as I have done with my own life, career, choices, I am wondering if I should be so stubborn about my objectives and how I go about achieving themâ€¦so what are they?
I want a book that I can be proud of. That many of you would like to have on your bookshelf or in your library. That addresses many of our basic and favorite dishes but with some additional thought and insight. That covers some of the key ingredients and provides variations on key dishes since we all have our own favorite ways of preparing a â€œnational dish.â€ That newlyweds would be happy to receive as a present, and that they would bring with them wherever lifeâ€™s journeys takes them. That Pinoys residing abroad would refer to so that when they get a hankering for the food of their childhood, so they can whip something up even if there is two feet of snow outside. That readers might like so much that they would give them as presents to other Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike, and would be proud of the quality of the book from its recipes, photos and even paper quality. That is written by a Filipino in the Philippines who visits Philippine markets and buys according to the season. That incorporates the comments and suggestions of thousands of readers who have left comments over the past two years. It might only have 30-40 key recipesâ€¦ but with several variations on each. For example, a recipe on sinigang, then perhaps 3-4 ways that it is possibly done (unripe tamarind, guava, kamias, etc.). Or adobo, ensaimada, pinakbet, etc. And possibly a chapter on how to make a lechon from live piggy to crisp skin.
But I donâ€™t want to compromise my view of this book. I donâ€™t want marketing experts telling me how to make it look. I want to do it my way. And yes, I will get a brilliant editor or more because I totally need them. But that means I need to possibly underwrite it all by myself. I could lose a whole lot of money. I could have very limited distribution. I could be jumping off a very high cliff in a very naÃ¯ve and expensive manner. To produce a â€œhigh qualityâ€ book, I figure it will cost SEVERAL million pesos because an initial print of say 5,000-10,000 copies alone of a high quality book would cost PHP3 million or more. And thatâ€™s not counting the recipe development, photos, editing, layout, design, etc. And what if NO ONE buys it? What if NO ONE sells it? I only have a few dozen friends I can think of to give them to as Christmas presents, then what? I am curious what you guys thinkâ€¦ There are several thousand regular Marketmanila readers, 90+% of whom have NEVER left a comment, but if I could ask for one thing in exchange for all of the posts of the last two years, it is your opinion/comment on this issue. Should I pursue a book? Should I do it my way and suffer the consequences or gains as a result? Should I focus on say 40 key dishes or make it more of a compilation of Marketmanilaâ€™s posts? Is this useful at all? And finally, will I be able to sell enough books to make this a breakeven endeavor? Be totally honest, I will not be offended. Your input is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much!