"We're humbled. We're also totally shocked." That was the stunned reaction of writer P.J. Hamel, accepting the Cookbook of the Year award from the James Beard Foundation last week for the "King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion."
The A-to-Z primer for everyday bakers, compiled from recipes from the 200-year-old flour company's employees and test kitchen staff, was given the top award in ceremonies at the foundation's annual gala in New York.
The King Arthur book wasn't the only surprise among the cookbook honors. In the Healthy Focus and Vegetarian category, "Taste Pure and Simple," an innovative but labor-intensive collection of recipes by Michel Nischan and Mary Goodbody, won over the more mainstream and popular vegetarian books, "Everyday Greens" by Annie Somerville and "Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates" by the Moosewood Collective.
Madhur Jaffrey's "From Curries to Kebabs," got the judges' nod for best international cookbook over "The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen" by Paula Wolfert, which a few weeks ago had been voted best international book by the International Association of Cooking Professionals.
The King Arthur book had been nominated for best baking cookbook before taking the top award. The baking award instead went to "The Secrets of Baking: Simple Techniques for Sophisticated Desserts" by Sherry Yard, which also had been an IACP nominee.
First-time author and former Washingtonian Laura Schenone won the award for best reference book for her history of women and food in America, "A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove."
The 1982 classic, "The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking: Techniques and Recipes" by the late Barbara Tropp, was inducted into the foundation's Cookbook Hall of Fame.