The reasons for this hadn't registered until recently, but I've noticed that I really only use cookbooks that have pictures of the dishes in them. What I love about the pictures is how all you have to do is glance at the page and doing so allows you to take in enough information quickly enough that you get an idea of whether you'd like to make the dish. It's very little work because you can a) see the ingredients, mostly, without bothering to read the list, b) tell whether it would appeal to your tastes or not, and c) even get an idea of how much work the dish involves. It's much better than reading a block of text and trying to hold all of the information in your head as you evaluate whether you'd like it, have the ingredients and time for it, etc.
I have also found that if I'm using a cookbook with only a few pictures, I tend to end up cooking the dishes that are featured visually. I thought at first it may be a generational thing to be visually
oriented this way, but I spoke to my Grandma (who has loved
cooking since she was in high school) and she feels the same - as does
almost anyone I have spoken to about it. The exception to this rule for me would be the The Joy of Cooking, (which I really, really love) because I can refer to it for specific how-to information or information about a certain type of cooking, etc. For example, how to roast pumpkin seeds, or what exactly a bain-marie is.
The book that has me thinking about cookbooks and pictures is Salad Love, which has not only beautiful, uniform photographs of each of the 260 salads for all four seasons, but also has photographs of the tools, spices, dressings, and toppings that are used throughout the book. The author states up front that, "This is not a cookbook," and that is reflected in that the recipes are just a simple list of ingredients for the salad and next to it, the dressing, with no instructions for preparation. With the photo, that's all you need, because you can see the way the zucchini is sliced and what size and type of shrimp is used.
Before I go, I thought I would toss in a few of the "recipes" that I really like the look of: Purple Potatoes, Peas and Carrot with a creamy dressing; Shrimp, Zucchini, Carrot & Pine Nuts (and I see arugula in the picture!); and Brown Rice, Mozzarella and Mushrooms. Are you getting hungry yet? I am! Please share any thoughts you have with us about cookbooks of all sorts - we'd love to hear your favorites or how you feel about the photograph issue.