Julia Rothman couldn't tell you how cashews grew. "I realized I was eating them by the handful, and I had no idea what the plant that created the nuts looked like. I Googled it, and when I saw the cashew apple. It blew my mind," said the Brooklyn-based illustrator. "I knew a book about food was my next project." Rothman, a RISD-educated designer, draws as a way to investigate the world around her, and she's put her findings into a series of three books, Farm Anatomy, Nature Anatomy, and her newest release, Food Anatomy.
"I use these book projects as a way to learn as much as I can about a subject." For Food Anatomy, that included a global survey of fried potatoes, horticultural renderings of Brassicaceae, and step-by-step analysis of the tofu-making process. "I loved drawing the Asian noodle-making section. It was hard because the noodle-makers move so fast. I've seen some in person, but I had to watch YouTube videos slowed down to really understand the process and be able to draw the steps." Written with food journalist Rachel Wharton, Food Anatomy bursts with colorful trivia. "Working on this book, I learned about how different cultures eat—setting a table in Korea takes a lot of small plates—and the basic steps to making so many of my favorites."
Rothman's delightful trio makes the perfect gift this year for everyone on your list with a curious spirit and adventurous palette. Maybe they'll inspire you to pick up a pencil and explore the world around you, or at least what's on your plate.