Phyllis Good came up with the idea for her new cookbook about two years ago, long before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown began.
But her “5-Ingredient Natural Recipes,” featuring recipes with no more than five natural, fresh ingredients, wound up coming out at a fortuitous time.
With more people cooking and eating at home, Good’s book seems ripe for the moment, to offer new ideas for simple family meals. Each of the more than 130 recipes offers at least two ways to prepare it: using an oven, stovetop, slow cooker or electric pressure cooker (Instant Pot).
Good has sold more than 14 million cookbooks — many of them part of her bestselling “Fix It and Forget It” series.
Her new recipe collection includes everything from soups and salads to meat, poultry and seafood entrees to desserts and snacks.
Reached by phone, Phyllis Good recently talked about the book — and the challenges of finishing and promoting a cookbook during a pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
When and how did you get the idea for the book?
I’ve done five-ingredient cookbooks before, but this is different than those because it is just the basic, natural, honest ingredients.
I think it was growing on me that people are just looking for simplicity, but more and more they are also looking for natural ingredients and they are increasingly looking at the contents of something before they put it into their grocery cart. They read the labels.
And I thought, you know, some of the most basic foods are the ones that I grew up eating, because my parents had big gardens and they cooked largely from the garden.
I began thinking how basic that food was, and how flavorful it was, and I thought, “Those were not complex preparations. Is there something I can draw on here?”
Can you explain the different sets of directions included with each recipe?
I thought, you know, a lot of households have these two electronic appliances on their kitchen counter: One is a slow cooker and one is an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker. They’re both designed for convenience, but they work in kind of opposite ways.
So I thought, I’m going to see if I can do two preparations for each recipe. And that way, people have maximum choice. In some cases, you prefer an oven preparation, or you’ve always made it on the stovetop.
I think, at its heart, (the cookbook is) to help people prepare really good very flavorful healthy food at home, without a lot of fuss.
Were there challenges in finishing the book once the pandemic started?
We hit the whole photography issue. That we had scheduled for May and June. We had the photographer, we had the person doing the grocery shopping and we had this the food stylist. We were all going to be in this really tight studio. And then the pandemic hit, and we just were not willing to do that.
And so the photographer (Michael Miville of Miville Visuals) said, “I really love to cook,” and he said if you are willing to be sort of my sidekick here and send me ideas, I think I can do it.
And so he ordered all the groceries and had them delivered. He’d take a test shot and email me, and text me to say, “What do you think?”
I gave him my suggestions and hints along the way, and I think it turned out really well.
In the course of about a month, we got all the photography done. He did have a great knack for food, and yet it was very collaborative.
Doesn’t it seem like an ideal time for this cookbook to come out, given that more people are cooking at home these days?
I consider it very serendipitous. People are just ready for a break from what they’ve had in their rotation. And I have what I consider some global recipes, too, and I really like the fact that it has the make-it-yourself sauces and the make-it-yourself seasoning mixes in the back. This allows you to make your own and control the amount that you prepare.
How are you able to promote your new cookbook in the middle of a pandemic?
I have done (book) signings in the past, and would have done some signings now, and, of course that isn’t happening. I was so grateful to be able to go on QVC in August.
David Venable was the host, on his regular Sunday show, and I had sent him about 10 recipes and so he had them in front of him and I did four or five from my own kitchen. We did a Skype presentation, and so it was a split screen and we are in separate locations, but we were talking to each other just as though we had been in one.
(Venable) is very funny, and that’s the one thing I really miss not being in the same room with him. Fortunately, I’ve been on with him (many) times, so we do know each other pretty well. He is an extraordinary talent.
I sold all these books (in the past) and didn’t need social media to do it. So I’m kind of late to social media, and I post occasionally, but I sort of forget. I’m doing a dish, and later I think, “Oh, I should have captured that, and I didn’t.” So I think it’s me trying to figure out how to allocate my time with this electronic communication. I think as I do more of it, I’ll be more at ease with it. It will feel more natural.