The Psychology of Recipe Books & Covers


What is it about grocery check-out lines that make people buy this?


I mean – even self-proclaimed "NON-COOKS" get sucked into the whole marketing thing.  I’m not talking about anyone specific here-  just sort of in general terms.  And you know that when they’ve bought that, you can BET there’s probably something like this at home:


Or does this look more familiar? (to you "organized" types)


I wonder if it’s the size – the convenient, easy to grab, pictures of each recipe advertising that is most appealing?

Or maybe it’s the promise of something "Easy."

Or possibly the fact that anyone who makes these purchases is a closet-lottery-winner wannabe?  Or desirous of being proclaimed the greatest mom-cook EVER in the ENTIRE world.

I mean, who doesn’t want to be a winner?


But in some cases (again, no finger-pointing or name-calling going on here), what would make this inexplicable hankering for instruction books to do things a person never intended, wouldn’t promise, didn’t claim to do, and family makes out fine without?  It’s a mystery!


But if you start to classify these impulse buys, you’d have to take a stab at guesses as to what was going through said shopper’s mind.  And it must happen in sort of waves, because there is generally a fairly consistent theme going on.  Maybe there is a need for a home-spun holiday – something that might not really have happened (or been perceived to have happened) in a childhood.  Maybe only read about in magazines.  During these people’s/shopper’s childhoods.  (Because living in the southern hemisphere where "Homespun Christmas" took on a whole different meaning.)


And maybe that need was bigger than just a few small books.  Maybe the need qualified for a BIG book.


Or maybe, just comfort food.  Possibly during various cold spells – the draw of a warm, filling, but not-too-heavy meal.  With an emphasis on the ease of accomplishing this task.


Of course, if the shopper is a mom, with – say, the job of promoting wellness (in their out-of-home life), you could well expect this possible addition to the collection:

But one would notice that this collection of "health-related cooking" is markedly smaller than the collection of holiday-baking of UNhealthy things.  One would wonder what that might mean!?


And, since that mom might have issues around children, disrespect, observation of lack-of-parenting-skills in some peers, and feelings of general disconnectedness with the home-room type moms who tolerate everything and still feel great about pumping sugar into classrooms regardless of how out of control their kids might seem, you might even understand this purchase:



Of course, because of that desire to connect, the progression easily follows to the possibility of these purchases:


This entertainment obviously stretches across seasons and times, because there’s a strong possibility of this addition to the collection:



At times when cooking seems downright avoidable, why would this purchase ever occur?  I mean – really!  Bring in the professionals here, because to me -

when someone says "let’s beat the heat" or "Celebrate summer!" – it means "let’s jump into the pond."  It certainly NEVER has a cooking connotation.  And does that cover even look  appealing?


Casually browsing this collection of over-the-years purchases, one would observe the fact that with one exception (because of sheer carelessness, I’m sure) each of these books are in pristine condition.  NO dog-eared pages, no flour-stained covers, no "flop-open to a timeless favorite" – NOTHING.  They could be sold as antiques (in 10-15 years) in mint condition.  Were they maybe purchased from a "collectors" standpoint?  It seems highly improbable, based on their "everything in it’s place and a place for everything" dwelling.  I mean, you could most likely find this hodge-podge collection right here


Where the actual family favorites and commonly eaten recipes are kept.  Where you’d find something along these lines:


No, there MUST be some sort of DSM-IV code for this phenomenon.  Maybe this research should be submitted for DSM-V consideration.



Tags: , , , , , ,

8 Responses to “The Psychology of Recipe Books & Covers”

  1. Becky Says:

    In search of the almight dollar. That’s why they keep printing. And if you print it, they will buy it.
    I have my own collection that I don’t have time to look through.

  2. Louise Says:

    I agree that is should be submitted for DMS-V consderation. Mostly because this does not affect me at all. When you get to something that DOES affect me, I will vehemently aruge why it is so important to be that way.

    So come to think of it, as your good friend, I should be defending this behavior, shouldn’t I? Hmmmm… I think it is important to have such pretty and pristine things in one’s home. Looking at them is relaxing and comforting.

  3. Lady Fi Says:

    Gosh- what a great post! I think that these magazines are very American… over here in Europe, you see a lot MORE magazines that are concerned about the health aspect of cooking. Cooking that is meant for kids/teens are all about cutting down on sugars and fats. And all about giving kids healthy and tasty options. Although, of course, good old buns and cakes still get a look-in.. but never as treats for schoolkids…

    I think the words that appeal to people are EASY and maybe even QUICK. Who has time to prepare a meal that takes hours?

    As for me, I might occasionally (but not often) buy a glossy magazine as a form of window shopping or window cooking, if you like. A glimpse of what might have been if only I could cook…

  4. Deirdre Says:

    Becky – I wasn’t looking for confessions here – just recording a general observation :-)

    Louise – don’t you mean as my “dearest” friend? AND, let the record reflect that this post was NOT about a specific person. I emphatically stated it was about the general population who MIGHT be inclined to purchase these STUPID books.

    Lady Fi – kudos to the European publishers who peddle healthy options. There is a fair share of that in the States now too, but for some reason those options didn’t work their way into this research report. I’ll have to do some more investigating.

  5. Derek Says:

    Interesting observations Deirdre. I was reading how some people have a cook book addiction. Is this more desirable than a Harlequin Romance addiction? It seems that with addictions we tend to replace one craving with another. This addiction might prove beneficial for a church group raising funds with a cookbook, but ruinous for someone in the throngs of cook book addiction. My Grandmother favors the “Southern Living” and “Taste of Home recipes”. I am far too Scottish to buy magazines with anything other than sky miles. The internet is a recipe treasure trove with Epicurious and the other dedicated sites. Do you have recipe sites that you would recommend?

  6. Mandy Says:

    And what about those “friends” who insist on buying these things & giving them to unsuspecting others? Was the disaster with the chocolate cake & the seagulls not enough for everyone??

  7. Zriz Says:

    Oh well…I haven’t caught the sickness yet… :)

  8. carol ascher Says:

    HAHA..I have the same sickness! While cleaning up last year I found more cooking magazines! I vowed I wouldn’t buy anymore, it has been very hard not to do!

Leave a Reply

Site Hosted by