Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

gfron1

The making of my own cookbook

Recommended Posts

Sorta random thought. The vast majority of people do not use a cookbook from page 1 to page last regardless of how the recipes are structured. You jump around based on what sounds interesting to you. So why do we do Tables of Content in structures like we do (Appetizer, Entree, Dessert; Spring, Summer, Winter; Easy, Medium, Hard).

 

We're toying with the idea of more of a Venn Diagram concept - grouping by interest. We're not quite sure what this looks like, and we're sure it'll give the publisher fits, but we're doing some graphic concepts on the idea.

 

This all came about because I was saving each recipe as an individual document file. Now that I'm up to around 75 recipes, that's cumbersome for editing. I want to group the recipes by chapter - putting all content for each chapter in its own file. Before I do that, I need to be very confident that I like the groupings...which I currently don't.

 

Am I offbase here? BTW, I do hope all of my blabbering is useful or interesting. I think its fascinating seeing what issues come up as we work through this book - things that I never imagined.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's an interesting idea. It seems something that would work better in electronic format, where one could pick certain criteria and see what recipes falls out of the filter, or where one selection leads to several related links. (Have you ever seen the Visual Thesaurus? Fascinating.) How that would work in print is beyond me. Being a linear-minded graphically-challenged type, my mind goes to flow diagrams: pick one element from a table and follow the lines to other elements...and that gets very messy in a hurry. I'd be interested to see how a Venn diagram might work.

What about using colors and shapes to code each recipe according to criteria (colors) and difficulty (shapes)? I'm thinking of ski-run markings in term of easy, moderate, and so on; your more challenging recipes could be given one or two diamonds like a black-diamond run. That would truly give the publishers fits, and might end up looking too messy on the page, but it's an idea.

I think Nigella Lawson tried the 'group by interest' approach in her book How to Eat*, with chapters titled "Cooking in Advance", "One and Two", and "Dinner". It sounds lovely, but when I'm trying to remember where I saw that great-looking recipe for Garlic Roast Potatoes, I won't think to look under "Feeding Babies and Small Children", where it is located. I generally find myself searching the Index in this book instead of using the Table of Contents. I think a good Index is crucial, particularly if you're going to veer from the usual structure.

This is very interesting reading. Thank you for taking time to post about the process. I thoroughly enjoyed the linked Madfeed article in your earlier post; it was fun to read about the different takes on recipe writing.

*Edit: This particular book has been reprinted several times; I refer to my copy, which is the 2000 paperback.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's interesting, but be aware of being ahead of your time.  It could confuse the shit out of people.

 

On the other hand, I'd like it.

 

Perhaps using the concept as an alternate  indexing tool(ie in addition to the regular index)  would meet everybody's needs.  A Venn diag with dishes listed and pg #s given.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

(Speaking as an editor here) It's not necessarily a bad thing to have each recipe as an individual computer file. It's just a matter of having the right tool to organize the individual files into a cohesive book.

 

I may be in a minority, but I actually do sit down and read cookbooks from cover to cover. When I put a meal together, though, more often than not I mix and match recipes from different books, or with an old standby or something like rice where I don't need a cookbook. For me, what is crucial is being able to find a recipe again, if I decide I like it enough to put it into my computer and therefore into my personal recipe library. And because of this, an index is an absolute necessity for me.

 

I think you can organize it however you want. But also think about your users. If you intend for people to actually cook from your book, make sure it's possible to find a recipe within its pages. As Smithy said, diversions from the norm can make readers tear their hair out trying to find something. But a good index can help immensely.

  • Like 2

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounds like a good idea to me. Lately, I've noticed substantial movement among cookbooks from a strict "apps, mains, desserts" structure to a "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter" structure. (And why do they always start with spring?) Then there's Ruhlman's Egg book, which is structured by cooking method. So I think there's lots of room to manoeuvre, as long as you're clear in your own mind of how you're going to do it. I would discourage you from adopting the approach used in Anna Olson's book Another Cup of Sugar, though, which was to organize the recipes by colour. (For the record, cookies fall under "golden brown," while chocolate falls under "rich brown.")

 

And remember, all things are possible if you have a killer index, which I think adequately addresses Melissa's concern about being able to re-locate a recipe later on.

  • Like 1

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also do cross-indexing.  I don't mind the larger index that results.  For example, have an entry for "Acorns" - "soup with xxx", "soup with yyy etc" ; AND entries under "Soups" - "acorn & xxx", "acorn & yyy", etc.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also advocate for an extensive, thorough and accurate index.

 

I have so many hand drawn asterisks and notations in the margins of less than perfect indices, so that I can quickly find favorite recipes that I want to use again.

 

This includes, but isn't limited to "The Joy of Cooking" and Marcella Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cook Book".

 

I have one cookbook that really does what I consider a very good job with their index. There are listings for their chosen names for the recipes, and each ingredient, down to subheadings under chicken: "chicken, cooked; chicken pieces; chicken breast, boneless and skinless." I still have notations in that one too, but it does the best job of any I have. If eggplant, shellfish or tomatoes are used in a recipe, you can find them in the index, even though they are not the star of the show.

 

Mark Bittman also does a good job with the index on "How to Cook Everything," but he's not exempt from my corrections to his index either.

 

You'd want to work on the index right from the beginning, but of course it can't be finalized until the page layout is. The page numbers are going to shift as work progresses. Fortunately, I believe the publishing software of today has matured to the point that those details (page numbering in the index) are handled automatically, unlike when I was in that business.

 

Extra pages in an index are never wasted IMO. It'll also help bulk out the book to please your publisher.  :-)

 

ETA: a semicolon in place of a comma. I know, I know, I'm cukoo. Whatcha gonna do?


Edited by Thanks for the Crepes (log)
  • Like 1

> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good morning thoughts. I mapped out my essays and recipes to find themes and commonalities. I ended up with plants: wild and farmed and meats: wild and farmed. This is obvious but really useful. I've reworked the sub-title which feels more natural than anything we've had to date:

 

Acorn & Cattail: A Modern Cookbook of Farm & Forest

 

I'll sit on that for a while.

 

EDIT: Already evolved as I fit the recipes into the new categories: A Modern Cookbook of Farm, Forest and Field (think animals, farmed plant and wild plant)


Edited by gfron1 (log)
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Meaning, replace it with the & symbol?

 

Well, if this were a screenplay (which it is, in a way –  a food screenplay :-) ) the use of the word "and" and the ampersand symbol would also have different meanings. ;-)

http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/18wqom/til_and_and_mean_different_things_in_movie/

http://www.slashfilm.com/qa-credit-screenplay-ampersands-ands/

 

Maybe JoNorvelleWalker meant "Farm, Forest, Field" ?

 

Edited to correct grammar.


Edited by huiray (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, if this were a screenplay (which it is, in a way –  a food screenplay :-) ) the use of the word "and" and the ampersand symbol would also have different meanings. ;-)

http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/18wqom/til_and_and_mean_different_things_in_movie/

http://www.slashfilm.com/qa-credit-screenplay-ampersands-ands/

 

Maybe JoNorvelleWalker meant "Farm, Forest, Field" ?

 

Edited to correct grammar.

 

Correct. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That makes sense - thanks. Today really has been a tremendous day. With that new organization, every recipe fell into place. Every essay fell into place. Nothing felt forced or arbitrary anymore. The first section feels really exciting - heavy photo essay with written support that covers how to forage, ethics and finding your voice as a cook. And now I'm at roughly 75 dishes - 25 per section mas o menos.

 

I've already reorganized our DropBox files to account for the changes and have my to do list of recipes which is much more clear. My photographer is psyched that he'll play a more prominent role, and that he can use many of his existing pics. My editor is psyched because we seem to have a direction for the story. And my designer is psyched because...well, soon he can start doing something.  Twas a good day indeed.

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Re indexing...please don't do this....

 

Roast Chicken- see "Chicken,Roast"

 

Just give the page number at "roast chicken" and also at "chicken, roast"

 

Please.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How about incorporating something like Forest-to-Table in the name of your book?

 

And I think 75 recipes are plenty.  There are too many cookbooks where it almost seems that some recipes are simply added to make it up to "100".  Separate recipe for simple sirup?  Recipe for blended oil?

 

Also second gfweb on indexing.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That "100 recipes" requirement should not be a requirement and should not be allowed to be dictated to all cookbook authors by editors or publishers who may or may not even know how to cook themselves.  "Sufficient" should be the operative term.  If YOU as a chef/cook/food aficionado deems the book, on the whole, to satisfy price-to-value considerations, taking into account what has gone into the book or what the subject matter is or whether the enterprise is of the probing, quasi-academic type or of the generalized, come-one-come-all type - that ought to be sufficient. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Its a little thing, but today I'm merging documents. I had made every recipe its own document, which is now proving to be a pain in the ass for editing. I want to do find/replace and such and have to open each document - 20-30 per section. Pain! My designer said he doesn't care how I save them but my knowledge of design software is that he will ultimately drop a document into his template. One document surely will be easier to do and he can place his own page breaks in. So that's what I'm doing with my life this morning. Cut. Paste. Save.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today I am working on all of the substitutions. At first I put them in the ingredient list but that was becoming too cluttered, so now I have a statement at the end of each recipe that says Suggested Substitutions. Much cleaner and allows me to explain the consequences of the substitution.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Editor and I are currently debating how to list eggs.

 

I currently say "20 g  Yolk of 1 egg" but that's awkward. She's on board with me as far as the use of grams. We're thinking about putting a mention in the How to Use This Book that for us eggs are 50 g, 20 g yolk and 30 g white (Grade A Large). She says, "20 g Egg Yolk" and leave it at that. That also addresses my cooking oil issue. Instead of saying rice bran oil, I can just put "cooking oil" and in the How To section say that for us we prefer rice bran but you can readily substitute canola.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today I am working on all of the substitutions. At first I put them in the ingredient list but that was becoming too cluttered, so now I have a statement at the end of each recipe that says Suggested Substitutions. Much cleaner and allows me to explain the consequences of the substitution.

 

Yes, I like that too.  The Heritage series I mentioned upthread does that by removing such things as substitutions, commentary on the cooking times, other stuff etc into footnotes *removed* from the recipe proper, with the footnotes labeled clearly with a little header such as "Tip(s)" or "Variation(s)" .  There is also no missing the footnotes, as each recipe (and footnotes) occupy the entire page or two (if needed) - so if there is a fair bit of "white space" because of the simplicity of the recipe proper, for example, it is simply left that way.   If one had a book where the recipes ran on consecutively from page to page one following the other without page breaks then having footnotes could get a little confusing/distracting then.  (I also dislike this "running style".  Please don't do this.)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Editor and I are currently debating how to list eggs.

 

I currently say "20 g  Yolk of 1 egg" but that's awkward. She's on board with me as far as the use of grams. We're thinking about putting a mention in the How to Use This Book that for us eggs are 50 g, 20 g yolk and 30 g white (Grade A Large). She says, "20 g Egg Yolk" and leave it at that. That also addresses my cooking oil issue. Instead of saying rice bran oil, I can just put "cooking oil" and in the How To section say that for us we prefer rice bran but you can readily substitute canola.

 

I vote for the fuller description (50 g egg, 20 g yolk, 30 g white) - that gives the reader a visual image of the components.

 

As for "...but you can readily substitute canola" I assume you are aware of the REVULSION that many folks have (including folks on eG) for canola oil, yes?  (I am not one of them).  :-)  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do know about the anti-canola screamers, and I don't use it, but I'm also a believer in accessibility for all which is why I list it as an alternative to rice bran which is 4-6 x the price.

 

As for eggs, I was just looking at a number of books on my shelf and there is not consistency at all.  Maddening. I think I might lean toward Momofuki Milk Bar:

 

##g    Rice bran oil  ## C

2        Egg Yolks      Nothing here

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are there no other oils that can possibly be substituted for rice bran oil (other than canola)? If that is the case, why not? Perhaps olive oil would change the taste but what about other oils generally regarded as not full of flavour?

 

As for the egg yolk issue, are all other ingredients always listed by weight? Would you regard 20 g as being the yolk weight of a small, medium, large, extra large egg? And would a recipe be totally ruined if one were to use a 19 gram egg yolk or a 21 gram egg yolk? In other words, how much precision is necessary for most of your recipes to work out well enough for people to like the results?

 

If not, why not just say in your preface ('how to use this book' section) what you regard as the perfect egg yolk weight, state that that is roughly equivalent to that found in a 'large egg' and that, unless stipulated in the recipe, a bit more or less should not impact the outcome of the dish. And then, in the recipe, unless there is reason for a high degree of accuracy and you are noting that, just say 1 egg yolk.

 

I would not be deterred from buying and using your book even if you don't do the above, but, I worry that many (in North America) might since they are used to just being told to use one egg yolk (for example) and not having to weigh out such a messy item (possibly losing some weight too when they scrape it out of an extra container).


Edited by Deryn (log)
  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

gfron - Tonight I was re-watching the Mind of a Chef series and there is an episode about rice (in the south) ... and references (many) were made to Carolina Gold Rice and the Carolina Rice Kitchen concept so I went to the Anson Mills site to see what they have to offer. They have a recipes section which, though it is not a full cookbook and it is online so the pages can be longer, I thought was laid out well and they seem to be dealing fairly well with some of the things you are currently wrestling with. Might give you some ideas for layout, etc. You may want to have a look at it - http://ansonmills.com/recipes

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...