Last year we told you about MENU, a cookbook focusing on food but with a bit of a conceptual twist – mixing culinary talent and design to celebrate the idea of food as community in an experiential way. Well this limited edition collectible is back and this time the emphasis is on food with nomadic twist. MENÜ 2 is part storybook/recipes from Budapest centered people and part culinary wanderlust, as seen through the eyes of their Hungarian counterparts.
All the things I loved about the first edition of MENÜ are back for MENÜ 2. The idea of the traditional cookbook turned into a print collectible via design. Sporting a blind emboss on the front and back cover as well as the spine, each book is hand stamped, reinforcing the special quality of it.
Much like print, cooking is a true sensory experience and the tactile nature of both are conveyed perfectly through the book’s substrates. The rough hewn book cover features an earthy canvas and minimalist design with a blind emboss, allowing the contents featured within to be the true hero of the piece. The pages, the star of the piece, are filled with stunning food and travel photography featuring some pretty heavy ink coverage on unspecified offset paper stock.
Admittedly I have not examined the piece up close, but typically offset stock is printers house stock (meaning it’s readily available and pretty inexpensive) uncoated white paper – nothing too special about it. Given the limited quantity, budget might have been a factor when it came to paper specification. While I understand and completely adore the use of uncoated paper for this design, I can’t help but wonder if by upgrading to an opaque grade, like Cougar or Finch, in a toothy finish like vellum wouldn’t have elevated the entire piece.
There are two crucial things to remember about uncoated paper, especially when laying down some heavy ink coverage like this book has. One, it’s really porous and you run the risk of dot gain which can really muddy up images, especially detailed ones (look at the mid-tones). Two, sheet formation (uniformity) gets exponentially worse the further down the food chain you go- and this is really noticeable when you have large swaths of solid ink coverage, especially black. Hold a sheet of copy paper up to the light, do you notice cloud like clumps? That’s what I mean by sheet formation, offset papers are not known for their formation, they are known for being inexpensive. They have their place; for example, a throw away piece like statement inserts – no need to invest money in a good quality sheet for this end use.
However, the attention to detail in MENÜ 2 is stellar. Check out the maps on the inside book leaves. They are hand drawn maps of Hungary and Europe, giving a geographical overview on the authors entire journey. The ribbons are a nice touch, symbolizing the authors unity, while being super useful for the reader. I love the illustrations featured among the recipes. The delicate line drawings throughout the book demonstrate the proper preparation techniques and the same visual indications appear on every recipe page in the form of pictograms such as gluten-free, lactose-free etc. If you’re like me and dream of taking a culinary tour of Europe, MENÜ 2 may help get your wanderlust fix.
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