How to judge a book by its cover

Photograph of the cover of Breakfast Lunch Tea book

Allowing yourself the freedom to own something simply because you like the way it looks should be a simple matter. Yet for me it’s a constant inner dialogue, skittering between loaded thoughts of having too much stuff already, through to the epiphany that all books are educational – via bloody-minded acquisitiveness.

Breakfast, Lunch, Tea is my latest worry in this regard. I spotted it in a bookshop and huddled over it. Coveting is an intensely private matter, coming from all sorts of fetishised, curatorial and just plain weird inner urgings. I consulted briefly with my conscience, put the book down and walked away. Yet I knew I would get it. The internet is an enabler and soon the book arrived in a not quite plain brown wrapper.

The cover of this book is redolent of all the things that speed my pulse – sharp layouts, pre-war typefaces and colour palettes, shop graphics, cafes, domesticity. Designers Kerr Noble take the honours here. They have combined all these elements with a contemporary, yet knowing, freshness. I do love an adventurous design and this is mercifully free from publisher’s blurb and not-quite-striking cover imagery. The plain and restrained apple green fairly zings compared to all the busy covers out there. The very words – Breakfast, Lunch, Tea – are great to look at. Satisfying, evocative and intriguing when left to themselves and our imagination.

Phaidon have produced some tasty covers over the past few years, celebrating lettering and graphics. This is another, a book that is all the more of a visual joy for its restraint. Underselling, especially in a cookbook, is rare today – it has been subsumed in favour of pictures of slightly sweaty chefs. Yet, in the end, this is a cookbook from an art publisher and aimed at those sad sorts who never get much past the cover or the pretty pictures inside. Guilty as charged.

Content? A mere detail that.



I am astounded that this book -of all the ones I imagine in your existing collection- could inspire the kind of longing you describe so brilliantly. Doesn’t the ‘Phaidon’ moniker disappoint you: remind you that it’s pastiche of something better (that presumably you own)? The Rose Café itself (in Dover Street Market) is far more modern in its expression.


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