The first New York Book Fair opened today at the brand-new Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, and continues tomorrow and Sunday. Programs over the weekend include lectures (Carolyn Steel, author of ‘Hungry City’) and panels with titles such as Food+Cooks+Books or Food+Porn (Gael Greene is on that panel). You can see the full program here.
I went today, and in addition to the easy on-street parking, found myself sitting at the East River Ferry pier looking at a great view of Manhattan, drinking good bubble tea from Saint’s Alp Teahouse on Bedford Avenue. Maybe I should have had lunch at Egg, since it has its own farm, but instead I had a great farro salad (with mint, chickpeas and, I think, fennel) at the book fair itself. And I found lots of great books, about chutneys and jams, about beer and wine, about cheese, and about terroir. Oh, and cookbooks.
Which brings me to the panel I attended. It was called Food+Tech+Content, and featured Kara Rota of Cookstr and Danielle Gould of Food + Tech Connect. Elissa Altman moderated. The discussion, and questions centered around how to recover lost or underused cooking techniques for people whose parents never learned to cook, and how to make the best use of technology to spread the information. Altman, a food blogger and cookbook editor, made the point that all the great food sites are forcing cookbooks to improve, and wondered whether enhanced e-books for cooking might be next.
Both tech gurus suggested that there were better ways, and that cooking applications can provide information not available in books. Information such as popups that identify local providers of ingredients, or sites such as Recipe Relay, an attempt to engage cooks worldwide in adapting a recipe weekly, or Zokos, a way to organize parties or potlucks. As one of them put it, “books versus e-books misses the point.”
I learned a lot. I’m sure the panels tomorrow and Sunday will be equally interesting. If you’re not doing anything else this weekend, it’s worth a trip.