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Producing a Family Cookbook


Shamanjoe
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I'm the recipe collector in my family, and as such have amassed an impressive collection of recipes from various sources, many of them other family members. I would like to organise all of these recipes into a printed cookbook, but I'm really not sure where to start. I know there are some decent self-publishing outfits out there where you can get your book printed, and I'll be doing some research into them and adding the results here.

What I really want to ask the community is the best way to go about putting the book together. Have any of you made your own cookbook before, for just family and friends or on a wider scale? It's going to be a hodgepodge of different cultures, styles and ingredients, so I'm wondering if the standard seperation by main ingredient would be good, or by type of cooking (dinners, desserts, etc.) would be best.

So please weigh in, how are your favourite cookbooks laid out, what order do you like to see, etc. I know for me, a comprehensive index is a must, but what are your "make or break" attributes? Finally, I'll be putting together a kickstarter proposal to fund the project, and I'll have to decide on an amount I want to raise. Again, what would you think would be ideal to produce a project like this, and if you were going to donate to such a project, what kind of stuff would you like to see offered as incentives (a lot of these projects promise free stuff, like a print, a copy of the cookbook, etc. for people who donate certain amounts)?

I want to collect the recipes that make our family what it is, and share them will all members current and future. It would be great if I could share it with a wider audience as well, but that's not a requirement.. Thanks everybody!

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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My favorite way to collect and share recipes is via Google Docs. I can just copy-and-paste from recipes I get in emails or that I find online, and most of the recipes I find in cookbooks and magazines have already been transcribed by someone, so I can just copy and paste those too. Google Docs makes sharing very easy, and you can allow everyone to edit them, or choose to make them read-only, or choose to allow only select people to edit them. Additionally, you can choose to share a whole folder so that you don't have to share docs individually. It also allows easy searching so you don't really have to create an index.

Google Docs can export to .doc format if you want to use MS word, but I can't help you when it comes to making a physical book. Getting consistent formatting and figuring out organization will be a tough project!

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I used to use MasterCook, and liked it. Then, I got a new computer and my old versions (yes, I liked it enough to buy upgrades) don't work. I am trying to decide whether or not to buy the latest version because of some pretty bad reviews on amazon of the product and service.

That said, if you have access to a Windows machine running something before Win7/Vista, Mastercook 8 might be just the thing for you. It allows you to format recipes in a lot of ways: 3/5 cards, half page, full page, etc. (it also provides nutritional info) You can then just use office supply store equipment to bind it. My favorite printing 2-up half-pages to fold like a book (look for something called a saddle stich stapler -this is the one I own, you can get bigger ones for more pages) and stapled. Buy, you could also go with spiral binding or wire binding. The nice thing here is that you control it all and can make extras as needed. The end user gets a nice physical object. You can make it upscale by using good paper.

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Ten years or so ago one of my cousins did the vanity press family cookbook thing, with support from a chef, a graphic designer, a professional photographer and so on (yeah, way more money, bohemian friends and spare time than sense). The result was a beautifully overproduced little artbook with recipes and photos that bore little to no relation to the actual family recipes. We all had to pitch in for a few copies, each at twice the price of a volume of Mastering the Art. Mine are still in a box somewhere.

So, uh, no advice from me, just that little anecdote I was reminded of.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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The things I'd look for are a lot of photos - at least one picture of every dish, plus more for some. Also a good, personal description of each dish - how it came about, memorable times it's been cooked, the key parts to the recipe, etc.

As someone has mentioned I'd definitely have a look at the photo printing companies - have done a fair few from photobox.com recently for holidays but they are phenomenally good value considering how professional they look.

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Ten years or so ago one of my cousins did the vanity press family cookbook thing, with support from a chef, a graphic designer, a professional photographer and so on (yeah, way more money, bohemian friends and spare time than sense). The result was a beautifully overproduced little artbook with recipes and photos that bore little to no relation to the actual family recipes. We all had to pitch in for a few copies, each at twice the price of a volume of Mastering the Art. Mine are still in a box somewhere.

So, uh, no advice from me, just that little anecdote I was reminded of.

Dakki, I used to do some graphic design and photography work, so I can cut that part of the budget way down ;)

This topic may give you some ideas.

Heidi, Thank you! I remembered reading that thread a long time ago, but no combination of keyword searches seemed to be able to find it for me..

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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I just received a photo book done via Blurb, superb quality! Mpix is also good from what I hear, and even adorama makes books that get good reviews.

now, these are all photo books, I'm not sure how well they'll work with all that text and text formatting.

As for a cook book, I like them organized by groups (beef, poultry) or something like season. I don't care for books organized by menu, though I like the menu suggestions. A good index is a must (and hard to do right, I hate indexes that make you jump around with cross references, just give me the page. Bold if there is a major section. Don't reference every incident of the word beef but also don't lump all beef recipes into one endless list of page numbers etc)

Photos are almost a must for me by now, there are quite some books I did not buy since they don't have any photos of the finished dish. I also don't like photo sections somewhere in the book, but I think that's going away now with modern printing.

Stories are always great, and if it's (mostly) for family, maybe even family pictures?

Clean consistent layout, story first, list of ingredients (I like that in the order needed when possible) and then easy to follow steps/paragraphs.

YOu've got quite some work cut out for yourself there, but a great idea!

Aso for what I'd pay, I'm not sure I'd buy "some family's" book (no offense) and certainly would not spend $30+ I do for "professional" books. No particular reason, but I'd probably consider $10-15 if I can have a look at the book first and see that I like it. Personally I'd not invest in the production though, but if you go with blurb or any service like that you don't have to print 500, you won't have any cost there, just your time/cost of getting it ready to be published.

I'd also make sure to have at least several family members proof it, to avoid "I can't believe you put THAT into your book" later :raz:

good photos alone are a major project! A lot of cooking involved there too...

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Ten years or so ago one of my cousins did the vanity press family cookbook thing, with support from a chef, a graphic designer, a professional photographer and so on (yeah, way more money, bohemian friends and spare time than sense). The result was a beautifully overproduced little artbook with recipes and photos that bore little to no relation to the actual family recipes. We all had to pitch in for a few copies, each at twice the price of a volume of Mastering the Art. Mine are still in a box somewhere.

So, uh, no advice from me, just that little anecdote I was reminded of.

Dakki, I used to do some graphic design and photography work, so I can cut that part of the budget way down ;)

I've seen your blog, so I certainly don't doubt your credentials. :biggrin:

To clarify, my major disappointment with that particular project was the "tuning" done to the recipes by the ringer chef. He completely prostituted the original criollo dishes into ultrarefined urbanite foodie bullcrap, which to my way of thinking showed tremendous disrespect to the cooks who developed the recipes in the first place. I don't think an eG member would do that, so I'm not actually sure why I brought up this incident in the first place. Guess I just wanted to share our little misadventure with a vanity cookbook project.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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If you're a designer, I'd say open up InDesign and start playing around with layouts and formats. I've done cookbooks before (I moonlight as a graphic designer, editor and what used to be called typesetting before the digital age took over; now I'd say that I do layout), and I'd consider that photos are an absolute necessity, be they colour or b/w, and in complex dishes it's nice to have step-by-step photos or illustrations for the tricky bits.

Family anecdotes and photos would be a really nifty touch.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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OliverB - I agree with you, a well thought-out index is a very important thing, and a bear to get right. I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time on that one.

Dakki - I would absolutely HATE to have somebody tinker around with family recipes like that. What's the point of publishing family recipes if they're not family recipes anymore, right?

Thanks to everybody for the suggestions, especially the family stories/anecdotes, those are a great idea and something I have a lot of to add ;) Ditto with the photos, I've always been a shutterbug, so I have quite a few photos from past family dinners, etc, and it's no problem to take some new ones too. The only hard part about doing that is having to wait to eat all those wonderful dishes until after I check the photos..

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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If you go with something like blurb there's often a feature where you can "page" through an online copy of a book, which might be useful for proofing/getting input for one, but especially for trying to sell it to non family members. I doubt I'd be very interested if the Jones family from down the road (or what ever their name may be) would publish a book of their family recipes, but if I got to see an online copy my initial impulse might as well change from who cares to want one!

As for the index, I'd think there might be some kind of software tool for this? I don't know layout programs, but I'd think there's something like 'right click - add to index' function that will do that, including page number?

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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As for the index, I'd think there might be some kind of software tool for this? I don't know layout programs, but I'd think there's something like 'right click - add to index' function that will do that, including page number?

When I used to use Adobe Pagemaker, it had a feature like that where you could have it auto-build an index for you, but we always ended up tweaking it a bunch to make it nice to look at, and a little more user friendly..

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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Thanks everybody too for the coments about whether or not you'd buy the cookbook. I know any book, cookbook or otherwise is going to be a hard sell if it's not from a well-known person or entity, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway. I'll just have to take your ideas and comments into account and make it interesting enough that once people hear about it, they'll at least want to leaf through it. Thanks again!

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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