How A Cookbook Was Made

UnDiet Cookbook front page

Every product, whether it be your shoes, your bicycle, your favourite knife, your app, and the home you live in, has a story. Books are a little bit different as they contain layers and layers of stories. And cookbooks – there is no end to what inspires a cookbook. Cookbooks contain heart and soul, they contain tradition, they contain creative expression and an exploration of all of our senses. On October 6th, my newest book, The UnDiet Cookbook hits stores and it’s rather a remarkable thing for me. In the work that I do I create a lot, but there is nothing that takes as long, involves as many people and is as challenging as a book. I definitely learned a lot the first time around that I was able to apply to this one to make it a smoother, less stressful experience. But now, almost two years since I submitted my proposal and put the first words down on a blank screen, this work of love, sleepless nights, doubts, sparks of inspiration and a power tribe of talent is coming out into the world. Before writing my first book, UnDiet (and, I will not lie, even during the process), I had no clue what was involved. After experiencing it all, twice, I am unable to look at a book the same way. This is the story of my book. And it begins here. This is where it starts The first words went down while I was ‘pretiring’ in Los Angeles in the early winter of 2013. And this is literally where I started. What you see above is the chapter title, along with the blurb directly from my proposal. This is how I structure my writing. Take the bits from my proposal and add them to each chapter so that I am clear on the points I want to address in each respective chapter. And this was where I worked. Mobile Office I am always loaded up on brain tonic beverages as I get to work. As we were travelling for the first four months of my book writing adventures, this wasn’t my only writing spot. This was my writing ‘office’ in Joshua Tree. Mobile Office 2 And again, (sort of) working on the book in Bali. Writing I wrote most of the recipes while I was away and so once I got back to the kitchen, it was time to organize all that I had done. Basically what I did was write every recipe down on a post-it note and organize by category or chapter (Decadent Drinks, Soups are Super, etc.) and work out where the gaps are. Do I have too many soups? Not enough salads? And how do these recipes combine with each other? Selection processI also had the task of testing the recipes that I had written far away from my own kitchen. This is my test of grain-free Easy Street Mung Bean Pizza (page 159). And this is my photo of my test. This is not the work of my genius stylist Ashley Denton or food photographer Maya Visnyei. [learn-more font_size=”14″ font_size_small=”10″ href=”” image_url=””]Pre-order bonuses are waiting for you! Order your copy before October 15th to take advantage. [/learn-more]   Easy Street Pizza And these are the Oh Wow Cacao Truffles (page 222) which you can sample and see me make in one of our free UnDiet Cookbook Cooking classes right over here.Oh Wow Truffles One month after returning from Indonesia, we began shooting the book. This was another challenge. I had 130 recipes and a budget for about 60 food shots, so I considered how to best combine dishes together to create full and beautiful meals. This way we could combine two or three recipes into a single shot. Then came photo planning. I started this pinterest board to collect images of the look and feel I wanted and this is the mood board that was part of my original proposal.UnDietLife Mood Board We had a meeting with the full food crew: prop stylist, food stylist, photographer, book designer and my editor where we went through every recipe and how we wanted to photograph each one – considering angles, condiments, dishes, sizes, lighting and where possible, finding examples online. It was an insane level of detail. Shot list for undiet cookbook Sara Kuntz was the prop stylist for the food shots and this was her domain. I was apt to have a panic attack walking into these prop warehouses but she rocked it all! Props 2 It was then time to start shooting the food! This is the start of the set-up for the Immune Power Broth (page 121). UnDiet cookbook Photoshoot And this was Umma’s Honey Cake (page 212), which is one of my most favourite photos from the book. umma's honey cake I am going to get back to these ones in the coming weeks where I’ll share details of the food photos and some recipes. Amidst the days of food shooting – where we succeeded in shooting over 100 recipes in six days – I also had to actually finish the manuscript. And was I ever happy when it was time to send my baby to my editor! Final Word count After the first round of copy edits, one of my favourite things is the style guide. This is a listing of the proper spelling of some of the most used words, or non-words as the case may be. Style sheet Mine includes words like perfecto-mundo, shazaam, AwesomeTown, and redonks (meaning: ridiculous). Prior to starting design on the book there was another series of photos needed. And so off we went to gather props for the lifestyle shoot. First was prop shopping with stylist Tiffany Pratt. Props 3 And then we watched my closet throw up as we figured out the outfits for the lifestyle photos. I wanted it to look real and so most of the clothes were mine that I’ve owned for years, and that you’re likely to see me in for years to come. Lifestyle Catherine Farquharson (the documentographer of my life) and Nikki McKean were on the lens, and Sara came back again, this time as the food stylist. And we shot for another three days! Photoshoot 2 Photoshoot 1 Family shot undiet cookbook It was then time to get into my second favourite part (second to actually creating the recipes), which is choosing the cover and getting into the details of the book design. These were the first drafts of cover options. Cover options I’m so happy with the one that was ultimately selected. And the most exciting of all is when I got that first stack of pages with essentially the whole book’s layout. First look at page design [learn-more font_size=”14″ font_size_small=”10″ href=”” image_url=””]Pre-order bonuses are waiting for you! Order your copy before October 15th to take advantage. [/learn-more] There were several rounds of page reviews and for each one, I got out my handy sharpie and combed through it all! The first step was to review the photo selection. I’d have the pages on my lap and one or two monitors set up so I could review copy, look at images and also review other image options. Final editsFinal EditsUnDiet Cookbook Page Layouts By the fifth set of pages, I was ruthless. Final edit cuts And so…after almost two years, in July I was gifted my very first copy of the book by my publisher Robert of Appetite Books (division of Penguin Random House) and my amazing editor Bhavna.Meghan Telpner The UnDiet CookbookI couldn’t believe how hefty this mama was! The UnDiet Cookbook And the best, best, best was when my husband picked it up the first weekend we had it. He read it cover to cover… The UnDiet Cookbook Josh Gitalis And then did the best thing ever. He cooked from it, making The Best Ever Balsamic Baked Tempeh (page 182). This is his photo! Best Ever Balsamic Tempeh That is the story of The UnDiet Cookbook and how it went from being an idea of yours (“We want more UnDiet recipes!”), to a full on 300+ page cookbook that will be hitting the stores in October 6th. The rest of the story? Well, my hope is that with your enthusiasm for the UnDiet life that this is only the beginning. I hope this book lends inspiration to you and your family, your family gatherings, girls nights, weekend brunches, and holidays. I hope your copy gets used, tattered and stained. I hope you find your favourites and are inspired to share your favourites with those in your life that may need a little health inspiration. I also hope you go beyond the recipes to read all of the tips and tricks, that you dive into the opening chapters and all of the evidence-based nutrition information I’ve included. I hope you round it out with the final chapters about how to UnDiet while travelling, and review and embrace the final chapter, where you can take on some UnDiet living practices. My biggest hope of all, of course, is that my book becomes one of your go-to-tools in your inspired, vibrant life toolbox as part of your ongoing journey to living the most awesome life of your dreams! [learn-more font_size=”14″ font_size_small=”10″ href=”” image_url=””]Pre-order bonuses are waiting for you! Order your copy before October 15th to take advantage. [/learn-more]


  1. Of course I have pre-ordered my copy of the cookbook. After reading this today I’ve decided that in addition to reading the book straight through, I’m going to cook from it every single day until I’ve tried each and every recipe. Can’t wait!

  2. My favourite from that photo of the style guide: “Meghanatarian”. I can’t wait until the “Meghanatarian Food Festival”. The one outside the loft.

  3. Going to pre-order my copy soon! It looks like an amazing cookbook! I love how all the things you’ve put out are so cheerful and uplifting…like gorgeous rays of sunshine. Keep it up! You’re an amazing lady!

  4. You are absolutely the BEST!!!! Everytime I pick up your first book, I chuckle along, reading your adorable anecdotes and totally enjoying the tips and recipes. Thank you for the guidance and for continually bringing sunshine into my day!! :)

  5. Hi Meghan,
    I love your article, great info! I am keeping a copy of this article as it’s my dream to write a cookbook one day. I definite feel more confident now that I am completing my CNE certification. I am enjoying the course so much. I have question regarding your article, you mentioned you shoot 100 recipes in 6 days, wow! so I am wondering did you have to cook 100 recipes in 6 days? Also is it quite expensive to publish a book?
    Many thanks in advance

  6. Meghan: I received your book last week from Amazon. I immediately sat down and read it cover to cover!

    I’ve been vegan for 7 years, (was veg off and on for 40). I’ve always cooked from scratch, love to cook. My mother/grandmother, both excellent cooks, said the best way to learn to cook, is to read cookbooks.

    I L-O-V-E your cookbook, everything about it! The pics, story, recipes…all if it. I’m so excited after following you for years, you were able to finally able to put your story/love/heart into print! Of my many Plantiful (love this term!!!) cookbooks, yours is at top of my list now!

    Congratulations, many blessings! ?

  7. I have a ton of recipes to contribute to my dream of having a cookbook and this gives me so much inspiration. I’m hoping it is not as overwhelming as it seems, but I’m determined. :-)

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