Not your mother’s cookbook

Simultaneously funny, stunning and informative is not a review most folks can offer a book. But just as Kris Manning is no ordinary artist, musician and now author, “The Field Guide to Fabulous Food” is not your ordinary cookbook. It had me chuckling on the couch, calling my daughter to come look at the gorgeous artwork and whimsical handwriting. And then, like magic, it had me spending the evening in the kitchen making homemade soup.
When I first interviewed expert watercolorist Barbara Meierhusby some time ago, she shared with me the collaboration that was in the works to “paint her passion” for this cookbook Manning was creating. Knowing Manning as the co-creator of Black Tie Music Academy and Art school that lived and was loved on Daniel Island for years, I knew it would be an aesthetic treat, but the food! Now I am convinced she should open a restaurant specifically tailored to teach families not only how to cook and eat together, but how to be together. Written as a dedication to her boys as a mom with a now empty nest, there are words of wisdom for the kitchen that transcend into life: “Your patience will pay off. If you screw it up, so what. Learn from the mistake. You can do anything you set your mind to. Be kind to yourself.”
The cookbook reads well for those new to the kitchen, giving advice like “whenever you use canned goods wash the top of the can before opening it. It used to be in a dirty warehouse." Then there are tips that even a self-described advanced baker such as myself did not know, including the difference between dry and wet measurement cups and four reasons for wooden spoons over metal.
Perfectly placed throughout the witty, handwritten text are Meierhusby’s beautiful watercolor illustrations that compliment the feel of the field guide. There are 132 glorious pages that are so beautiful you overlook how many hand cramps Manning must have suffered or how many times they both must have had to start all over because real handwriting has no spell check and anyone who’s tried their hand at watercolors knows this medium is not forgiving. 
Like all great recipes that use fresh ingredients, Barbara’s watercolor work used only fresh, ripe fruits, vegetables, herbs as source materials noting “painting a live crab was no small feat. Especially when he began to revive” in the lovely art process chapter of the book which shares, “I begin painting with a meditation on the actual subject. The zucchini flower required watching a plant grow and capturing the short life of a blossom.”
The only thing traditional about “The Field Guide to Fabulous Food” is the table of contents which covers categories of your favorite cookbook: savor the sauces, browse through the breads, simmer through the soups, enjoy every imaginable entrée, scour the sides, and delight over the desserts. The book includes a family tale behind each recipe. This nontraditional element is the essence that makes it so special.
“Many of the recipes grew out of my Italian heritage and spending time in the kitchen with family. So many memories came rushing back to me over the last year and a half as I put the cookbook together,” Manning said. “And I channeled those cherished memories during the pandemic to bring to life all of these recipes that will teach you how to be a good cook. Heck, if you make them enough times, you’ll be a great cook.”
This creative cookbook is a unique work of art curated over COVID and will be bound in field guide fashion with leather cover, a perfect gift of love now available for pre-order at Follow Kris_Manning on Instagram and look for the book soon on the shelves at Island Expressions and Coastal Cupboard.
Heather MacQueen Jones is a Daniel Island artist. Follow her stories on Instagram @heARTpalette, on Facebook or online at

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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