Deb Perelman was working as an art therapist in 2003 when she decided that she wanted to tell stories about her life in New York, mostly about the bad dates she was going on. She started a blog and called it Smitten.
As fate would have it, the fourth person to write a comment was Alex Perelman, her future husband. Deb Perelman says the comment was enough to get her to agree to a drink and to realise that a dating website was not in her long-term plans.
Increasingly, she turned to writing about the recipes she was trying as her interest in cooking deepened in parallel to her relationship. Nine years later, Perelman, who never trained as a chef or even worked in a restaurant, has an established cooking blog, SmittenKitchen.com, and she’s extended her franchise with ‘The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook’, published in October by Knopf. The book made its debut at No. 2 on The New York Times’ best-seller list for hardcover advice and miscellaneous.
Transferring readers—even loyal ones—from a blog to a book is tricky business. Editors say there is no magic formula for knowing which bloggers have audiences that are invested enough in them to purchase an expensive hardcover when much of the material is available free online.
In 2005, a book by a blogger named Julie Powell about her year cooking her way through a Julia Child tome led to a 2009 film, Julie & Julia, and a spate of cookbooks spawned from blogs—sites like Cake Wrecks, Food Porn Daily, Delicious Days and Chocolate & Zucchini.
Perelman, 36, offers no easy explanations for how she has persuaded some 75,000 fans to pay $35 (list price) for recipes similar to the ones she gives away on her blog. Lexy Bloom, a senior editor who acquired the book for Knopf, said Perelman was a good choice because she “is a terrific writer and storyteller” and has an unusually tight bond with readers.
Perelman’s style appears to resonate particularly with young women learning to cook. She is conversational, self-deprecating. In her recipe index under D, she has a section listed as “disasters,” like one entitled “flan flop” about a custard that would not jell.
A former vegetarian, she focuses on produce, especially on the farm-fresh kind that is currently in vogue. Her scones are made with heavy cream. Her spinach quiche has cream cheese. And Perelman,