Hurray! The Banh Mi Handbook went to print late last week. It was a push at the end to polish all the elements before the files were sent to China. As I mentioned earlier, the book won’t be out until July 8 but it has to get into the production queue. With people taking a huge chunk of time off for Lunar New Year, things would be delayed if we dilly dallied. We hustled to cross the finish line.
After I returned from Asia, I reviewed second proofs – which were basically the first proofs with the edits having been inputted and some minor layout redesign. At that stage, I huddled with my editor, Melissa Moore, who in turn huddled with designer Betsy Stromberg.
What those two women came up with was reviewed by a handful of other people at Ten Speed Press, including the publisher, creative director, and folks in sales and marketing. Things got tweaked, re-reviewed, and vetted at Ten Speed before I got my looksee. Above is the final cover and spine, which will be printed directly on the board that serves as the cover of the book; "POB" books do not sport jackets that slip off.
During the first proofs stage in December, we sent the book to people who may potentially provide an endorsement on the book jacket. The industry term for such remarks is “blurb” — which sounds awkward since it’s suppose to be a positive thing, a giant thumbs up.
The Banh Mi Handbook blurb due date was January 31 and as usual, I was nervous. The reviewers were friends and colleagues who can be persnickety. If they didn’t totally like something, they may write a lukewarm statement just to be kind, or decline to write anything at all.
As things turned out, their comments startled me, full of genuine enthusiasm and depth. With each one that came in, Melissa and I gave each other virtual high-fives. Betsy positioned them on the back of the cover along with one of the recipe photos:
Here’s a closer (better) read of the book blurbs:
“Andrea perfectly tells the story of how Vietnamese food culture was influenced by French colonials. Her simple recipes elevate very humble ingredients to heights you would not expect. I can’t wait to incorporate some of these ideas into our sandwich menu.”
— Sam Mogannam, owner of Bi-Rite Market
“Who better than Andrea Nguyen to unravel the mysteries of one of the great sandwiches of the world? Her book is deceptively simple on the outside but bursting with layers of flavor and complexity within— just like the best banh mi. As always, Andrea puts mastery within the reach of any curious cook smart enough to take her advice.”
— Joe Yonan, author of Eat Your Vegetables
“ Brimming with information, inspiration, and smart advice, this is much more than a sandwich book. Andrea Nguyen once again demonstrates her commendable talent for writing recipes that deliver great tasting food and teach you to become a better cook.”
— Molly Stevens, author of All About Roasting
“Through these recipes, Andrea tells her life story: from childhood lunches of silky sausage on toasted baguettes to postmodern banh mi smeared with curried edamame pâté. She sketches the transformation of a simple sandwich, born of French and Chinese colonization and Vietnamese ingenuity, into a global culinary phenomenon.”
— John T. Edge, author of the Truck Food Cookbook
All four of these individuals are well-known experts in their fields. They’ve authored outstanding books and they’re also super fun people. I wrote The Banh Mi Handbook for a broad range of cooks and readers. These people represented that audience in many ways.
Sam Mogannam is the founder of San Francisco’s famed Bi-Rite Market, a beloved institute for local food lovers. The giddy tone of Sam’s quote sums up his zest for bringing good food into people’s lives.
Washington Post food and travel editor Joe Yonan injected his charming personality into capturing the gist of the book. We talked tofu for his latest book, Eat Your Vegetables, which presents feasible approaches for incorporating vegetarian options in your diet. I’ve cooked from Joe’s recipes too, which are about straightforward, tasty, home cooking.
Molly Stevens is among my cookbook author heroines. Her works, such as All About Roasting, offer deep and comprehensive insights into cooking. She only writes what she truly means. After sending in her comments for the banh mi book, Molly emailed me, saying that she read the proofs from beginning to end because it was so interesting. WOW.
I was hoping that John T. Edge, author and director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, would enjoy the story that I wove into The Banh Mi Handbook. He’s a chronicler not only of Southern food traditions but also of the evolution of America’s multi-cultural table, as evidenced by his latest work on food trucks. Reading John T.’s (that’s how people refer to him) comment brought yet another giant smile to my face.
The cover is one thing, the interior pages, the meat of the book is another. After perusing every line of text in the first and second set of proofs, I mostly look at the macro-level at the end of the line – to make sure that the book flowed well in terms of layout and pacing. My screen often looked like this:
I worked with PDF files and any last minute edits were noted in a Word document sent to Melissa for review. The two of us, along with Betsy, have worked together for years and with each new project we do something a little different, push ourselves a bit, expand our horizons.
For The Banh Mi Handbook, we decided to include drawings along with the studio photography. I wanted to inject a little levity to change things up. I did a little sketching and Betsy did the rest in a stylized, graphic art manner.
Compared to photographs, the drawings were challenging, very time consuming. We were meshing three approaches to creating images of food and cooking. There was some fine tuning and a little tension last week as we strove to make the best book possible. There was a point that I let it go and wrote to Melissa, "You take it on home."
What went to print looked fabulous and most importantly, is filled with terrific recipes and information. When you get the book in July, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
(If you'd like to reserve a copy, ask your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore or pre-order through an online vendor.)
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