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.

Kakaroto

What is most important in a cookbook?

Recommended Posts

Hi! I'm a graphic design student currently working on a cookbook for one of my classes in University.

It's a cookbook in which it's shown what sort of meals are most appropriate for each age - from the womb onwards

I'd just like to gather some opinions as to what you guys find most important in cookbooks. How important are these things in a scale from 1 to 10?

Content and theme

Images

Book size and handling

Visuals (colours, typography, that kind of thing)

How the text is displayed on the page

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi! I'm a graphic design student currently working on a cookbook for one of my classes in University.

It's a cookbook in which it's shown what sort of meals are most appropriate for each age - from the womb onwards

I'd just like to gather some opinions as to what you guys find most important in cookbooks. How important are these things in a scale from 1 to 10?

Content and theme

Images

Book size and handling

Visuals (colours, typography, that kind of thing)

How the text is displayed on the page

 

The most important by far is "do I want to eat that?" So content and theme by a million miles.

 

Clear instructions. 

 

Photos may help.

 

The graphics are perhaps initially attractive, but the keepers are the cookbooks with good recipes and clear instructions. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Clear recipes with annotations about things that aren't necessarily obvious for a novice cook.

 

Substitutions for hard to get ingredients.

 

Photos are wonderful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most important - Content and theme


3rd most  impot - Images


Least important - Book size and handling


4th most import - Visuals (colours, typography, that kind of thing)


2nd most import - How the text is displayed on the page


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You also need to decide who the audience is. A beginner will need lots of explanation of routine techniques  eg fold vs whip vs beat....how to cook eggs without burning...why a dish is placed in a pan of water. The whys are very important.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pictures, FULL COLOR PICTURES.

Not line illustrations, COLOR PHOTOS

And second a history of the recipes

 

Thats it

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You also need to decide who the audience is.

 

This.

 

Is content more important than images? It all depends on what the book is trying to say and who's going to be buying it. If it's meant to be a coffee-table book that people flip through but never actually cook from, then images may be more important. If it's aimed at a single parent who just wants to get a meal on the table for a family of four in under half an hour, then images are probably less important than accurate, well-tested, thoroughly explained recipes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose this falls under book size and handling: good binding! Publishers need to remember to spend money on the binding so that the book stays open as necessary and can take the abuse that a useful cookbook must survive.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would give any category related to readability or useability a 10 (Content and theme, Visuals for instruction or clarity,
How the text is displayed on the page). Images can be inspiring or informative, I give that an 8. Book size and handling, 5, because I can use a wide range of book sizes. Coffee table size cookbooks, with heavy paper, are the most difficult size for me to handle. They're clumsy to cook from, and they take up counterspace. For this reason I rarely buy them.

 

And since I have your attention...

 

I insist on readable type for cookbooks I buy. I also want clear page design so I can turn around in the kitchen, check the recipe quickly, and continue cooking.

 

I hate ingredient lists in italics or other difficult-to-read typefaces. Pul-leez! Don't make it hard for me to compile a grocery list or check my progress on prep. I also dislike colored paper for the pages when there's insufficient contrast with the type color, e.g., brown type on beige paper. Pul-leez! I prefer to cook without eye strain!

 

There are some funky typefaces out there, supposedly artsy, that are brutal to read. One of them I recall--an old-fashioned typewriter typeface, irregular and faded out, that appeared in the recipes of a cookbook I would otherwise have bought. I've seen other typefaces in recent cookbooks that look striking or charming on the page as a whole, but are impracticable for someone trying to follow the recipe and cook.

 

Photos are nice if they accurately show what the dish should look like at the end, not some stylist's fantasy based on the recipe.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hate ingredient lists in italics or other difficult-to-read typefaces [...] I also dislike colored paper for the pages when there's insufficient contrast with the type color, e.g., brown type on beige paper. Pul-leez! I prefer to cook without eye strain!

 

 

I agree 100%.  What are magazine and book designers thinking when, for example, they use dark type on a dark page?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

None of the above.  :laugh:

 

If you can get a famous person to do an introduction, endorcement --------- success!

 

 

dcarch

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The ingredient list needs to be in the order used to make the dish. You would be surprised at how many times I find this not true.

 

If the recipe calls for salt, pepper, water,etc list them in the ingredients. Avoid surprises.

 

In the introduction slip in this basic piece of wisdom: "Remember to read a recipe through before starting it."

 

Hope this helps.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

If the recipe calls for salt, pepper, water,etc list them in the ingredients. Avoid surprises.

 

In the introduction slip in this basic piece of wisdom: "Remember to read a recipe through before starting it."

 

 

 

 

But only if you write a book for absolute beginners

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But only if you write a book for absolute beginners

I've been cooking for 48 years so I am no beginner. I want ALL ingredients called out.  People who are familiar with my posting know that when I encounter recipes that don't do this I word-process a copy and "fix" the ingredient list.

 

Please note where I suggested this one helpful sentence: In the introduction slip in this basic piece of wisdom: "Remember to read a recipe through before starting it."


Edited by Porthos (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been cooking for 48 years so I am no beginner. I want ALL ingredients called out.  People who are familiar with my posting know that when I encounter recipes that don't do this I word-process a copy and "fix" the ingredient list.

 

Please note where I suggested this one helpful sentence: In the introduction slip in this basic piece of wisdom: "Remember to read a recipe through before starting it."

 

I guess I am more interested in general directions and a more "German" approach to recipes where there is often no exact times for example included but just something like "brown meat" "cook until soft/desired tenderness" and obvious ingredients (water, salt , pepper, etc) are not included

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suppose this falls under book size and handling: good binding! Publishers need to remember to spend money on the binding so that the book stays open as necessary and can take the abuse that a useful cookbook must survive.

After well-tested and thoroughly edited/proofed recipes, I think trim and binding are very important. For some reason I do not like oversize cookbooks--I suppose I do not like my cookbooks really being coffee table books. Clean, functional page design and eatable fonts. Photos are nice, but totally secondary.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Photos are nice, but totally secondary.

 

 

I agree, some of my favorite cookbooks have zero photos.

If the writing is really good one can easily envision the final product.

Helen Witty's "Fancy Pantry" is the type of book I'm talking about...very inspiring.


Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"It's a cookbook in which it's shown what sort of meals are most appropriate for each age - from the womb onwards"

 

I agree with most of the above posts in general for cookbooks but what I quoted here from your post tells me your audience are not cooks. They are yuppie parentals. They want absolute formulas and clear direction to create a perfect child - sorry bit sarcastic but I find the concept irritating.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"It's a cookbook in which it's shown what sort of meals are most appropriate for each age - from the womb onwards"

 

I agree with most of the above posts in general for cookbooks but what I quoted here from your post tells me your audience are not cooks. They are yuppie parentals. They want absolute formulas and clear direction to create a perfect child - sorry bit sarcastic but I find the concept irritating.

 

...and it's possible these probable "readers" would want lists of the "Ten Best (Insert Category of Meal/Ingredient)" incorporated as well. :smile:

 

Oh, and the corresponding "Ten Worst _____" to be avoided at all cost. :biggrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree, some of my favorite cookbooks have zero photos.

If the writing is really good one can easily envision the final product.

Helen Witty's "Fancy Pantry" is the type of book I'm talking about...very inspiring.

 

The Epigram "Heritage Cookbook" series, which I consult not infrequently, have exactly ONE bare-bones main illustration/picture in them - a simple basic portrait of the originator of the recipes (mother/father of the author in each case).**  No photographs of any dish or any ingredient.  The recipes are what I look at.

 

There are, however, footnotes  - removed from the recipe proper - notated as "Tips" or "Variations" that contain brief commentary/notations/alternatives/observations & etc, that sort of thing.  I like this - it allows the recipe proper to "flow" more naturally.

 

** They do have additional small "line illustration" type drawings/pictures scattered here and there.


Edited by huiray (log)
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Another point of view that is applicable in this discussion:

 

What constitutes a good recipe? A good recipe has a complete ingredient list, is ordered correctly, and contains clear instructions—all written according to our style guide. “We’re providing a service,” says Davis. “A recipe is a roadmap that you want someone to be able to follow to get to a desired endpoint.”

 

http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/inside-our-kitchen/article/what-does-a-recipe-editor-do

 

I concur with Porthos:  there are people, of various ranks of expertise, who may find it confusing if they encounter an ingredient listed in the methodology that wasn't mentioned earlier in the ingredient list.  Count me amongst them.  Organization is your best friend; that's why the concept of mise en place is so important.  A well-written recipe will list the order that ingredients are used, repeat it in the methodology and when it comes to execution, it will be reflected in your mise en place.  Form follows function....one little thing out of place has the potential to throw things into disarray, even if it's as trivial as a surprise ingredient.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Content is king , and that includes clarity of the writing of both recipes and text.

For a cookbook intended to be used as a cookbook, binding. As noted earlier, is critical. Likewise, typography, I.e., don't use a sans serif face in 8 pt over a wide column. Use a clean, easily readable face.

Index by both recipe name and primary ingredients, plus techniques.

Illustrations can be useful on showing technique, but some of my most used cookbooks have none or very few.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Thank you for this link. It was very interesting reading.

 

The one thing I do slightly differently concerns water. I did not state my viewpoint earlier as clearly as I should have. If the water has a specific quantity required then I still like it in the ingredient list. If it calls for say 2 cups of boiling water to be poured over something then I definitely want that in the ingredient list so that I can have said water at the boil when I need it. Just how I see it, no compliance by others required.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×