Behind the scenes of the Hip Pressure Cooking book


Laura Pazzaglia with a fresh copy of “Hip Pressure Cooking: Fast, Fresh & Flavorful” (St. Martin’s Press, September 2, 2014)

Three years ago, almost to the day, I was sitting on a couch in Seattle frantically re-typing the book proposal that my husband had accidentally deleted from my laptop.  After a dozen refusals I finally snagged an agent with my e-mail pitch, and she wanted to know more.

The page lay-outs of the Hip Pressure Cooking Cookbook

The different page lay-outs of the Hip Pressure Cooking Cookbook

The book I thought I was going to write, and the one I actually wrote turned out to be quite different.  I had always planned to write a be-all reference to pressure cookery.  But, my original idea was to write a book with only 10 master recipes with a gazillion variations which was likely never going to work out.

With so many involved in the creation of the Hip Pressure Cooking book, my manuscript was shaped and molded into a more classic cookbook format (collections of recipes grouped by ingredient class) which gave  me the opportunity to add, what I believe, is the most prized feature of the book: the chapter introductions.  While recipes are great, some cooks rarely use them. It’s for these cooks that the information at the beginning of each chapter will come in handy.

Knowledge which took me 10 years of cooking, experimentation and observations to acquire will now be in the hands of cooks within the minutes it will take to read those pages.

The ball is rolling.

My agent got several big-name publishers interested in the hastily typed- then carefully perfected – book proposal.  She arranged phone interviews with a few of them and after a little negotiating we were able to get a book deal!

Not only would I be writing the book, but I would be taking the photos, too!

That hump.

By the end of the first year, the time it was taking to put the book together was wearing on me. Whereas a recipe on the hip pressure cooking website could go from concept to testing to photography to being online in a few days the book was still years away from being published.

The manuscript kept getting rejected by the publisher for not being grammatically correct enough. They insisted that I hire a copy editor to work out all of the kinks. I fought the suggestion (and expense) tooth-and-nail, but I had to do it or the book was never going to see the light of day. However, once I started working with the copy editor, I quickly changed my mind.


Waves of Red – a few pages from the copy edited manuscript.

For the first time I saw my percepts and concepts expressed in crystal clear, concise language. Wow.  I objected over my recipes looking a little too plain and concise. Eventually,  the copy editor conceded that it’s hip to have potatoes “tumble” and oil “drizzle” instead of pouring; and, “whacking” things is a lot more fun than just breaking them up. The book was going to keep its personality.


Photographing the stuffed mussel recipe, at 9 in the morning, on the balcony, in the middle of winter.

Photographing the stuffed mussel recipe, at 9 in the morning, on the balcony, in the middle of winter.

As my own photographer, I insisted that no trickery would go into making the food “look good.” I would photograph what comes out of the pressure cooker, and then my family would eat it. No cheats – like painting raw food with inedible dies to look cooked.

The technical details of the photography were the hardest part. I had to go from styling horizontal photos for the website to arranging the food so it would look good vertically on the page of a book. I bought all new equipment (camera, lights, reflectors and calibrator) and took the photos in a new format which required learning how to use a particularly tricky and sophisticated software program. When I snapped my first test photo with the new equipment and figured out how to open it in the software on my freshly calibrated-for-print computer monitor… I cried.

Hurry-up and wait.

Once the manuscript and photos were accepted by the publisher, the wait began. It was time for the publisher to do their magic. My involvement was finished. I had to wait for months to get a peek at what the book would actually  look like.


I scribbled the concept and the publisher turned my drawings into real icons to use next to each recipe.

When I got the first PDF preview I was both upset and delighted. Someone had changed every single instance of “pressure” to include a hyphen: “pressure-time”, “pressure-cooker”,  “pressure-too” and “pressure-cook.”  The book title was not spared from this editing faux pas, either.  It was changed to the more correct, yet totally wrong,  “Hip Pressure-Cooking.”

I joked to the publisher that someone needed to have their hyphenator confiscated – nobody laughed.

On the flip-side I finally got to see how recipes would be laid-out in the book.  More specifically, how the accessory icons I scribbled on a piece of paper for each recipe turned out.  They actually looked great!

The cover-up caper.

First book cover proposed by the publisher.

First book cover proposed by the publisher.

The next hurdle was the book cover. The first cover the publisher proposed did not represent the cookbooks’ content (recipes for both electric and modern stove top pressure cookers) or even give a modern vibe.  The purple and yellow combination screamed at my eyes and reminded me of the garish Yahoo! headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA – back in the day when they had purple cubicles, walls and carpet with a lemon-yellow logo and furniture.

I mocked-up some ideas and directed the publisher to covers of successful cookbooks for inspiration. Iteration after iteration, some good some great,  we finally decided on a cover that would make the publisher and this author happy. But all was not said and done. Afterwards, a major housewares re-seller and big book retailer gave their feedback: neither of them liked it.

So, the cover was completely changed again.

Quoting the quotes.

The work of contacting big names in the food industry to preview an electronic copy of the book began. I started with the foodies I knew and worked my way out. I contacted really BIG names, too. Usually I didn’t get a response.  But on more than one occasion I got an email directly from that big-name person asking to have “my people” contact “their people” – even though we were essentially already communicating directly. So, I told “my people” (me, myself and I) that we’re not going to have anything to do with “those people.”

But, one of those big names was excited to hear from me and another told me that they were already a big fan of the website and really wanted to give me a quote. I liked “these people”!

Front and Back cover of the Hip Pressure Cooking book - with quotes!

Final Hip Pressure Cooking book cover – front and back with quotes from nice people

The end?

You’d think launching the book in a few weeks would conclude this behind the scenes work– but now it really begins: the promotion. Of course the primary readers for this book will be cooks who already have, or just bought, a pressure cooker – but I’m not going stop there.

I believe there should be a pressure cooker in every kitchen. It deserves to be part of the basic arsenal for every cook. Just as a sauce pan to simmer and a frying pan to saute, cooks should also have a pressure cooker to steam, boil and braise.

This book will teach them how.

The author (middle) with some of the people from St. Martin's who built the book and are promoting, marketing and selling it.

The author (middle) with some of the people from St. Martin’s who built the book and are promoting, marketing and selling it.

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