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Old 02-13-2018, 01:15 AM   #1
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What kind of cookbooks do you enjoy reading?

I’m writing a cookbook. Several, actually. I’m not promoting it here, but I’d like some input from people who actually read cookbooks, not from bloggers and actual cookbook authors. I’ve read “How to Write a Recipe” in various forms, most of the advice is good, some of it is extraneous, and a lot of it is contradictory.

So what do you like to read, and use? Do you like a conversational style for the recipe, or do you prefer a straight list of ingredients and steps, with the commentary completely separate from the recipe? And what about formats and fonts, if you ever even notice them. If you do notice, which fonts are the easiest to read for you? Do you prefer a fully justified text (so every line is the same length)? Do you like paragraphs indented, with no empty line between them, or do you prefer no idents and an empty break between paragraphs? And the recipes themselves. A numbered bullet list, or un-numbered? And do you prefer the “method” to be a bullet list or in paragraph form? Do you like to see the ingredients in bold when mentioned in the instructions, or is that a distraction?

I know many of you think I’m completely bonkers to worry about these details. “Just write the damned book already!” I hear you cry. But God is in the details, and these seemingly trivial things can impact book sales! So many things to consider, and so many things to distract me! Can you kind folks help me out?

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Old 02-13-2018, 05:27 AM   #2
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I was senior art director for three magazines, and a photographer for several others. I hope you know what you are getting into.

Are you going to self-publish? Print or eBook? Self market or let someone else market the book? These are all things that matter, especially if you would like to make some money from the cookbook. There are all kinds of ways to lose money in publishing these days, and too many people learn that the hard way.

As for what needs to be in a cookbook, you need to have throughly tested recipes. Somebody other than you needs to take your recipe, and be able to make it, and have it come out just the way you intended it to come out.

As for things like formats and fonts, if you don't already know the answer, you need to work with someone who does. That kind of stuff is very elementary to me. It has been tried and tested. If you ask people on a cooking forum "what they prefer," you are not going to get good advice. Ford asked people what they wanted in a car, and came up with the Edsel.

Sorry to be so negative, I would love to see you successfully produce a cookbook, but you need to go into this with your eyes wide open.

If you want to throw a cookbook together with Microsoft Word, and give it away to family and friends, how you do it really doesn't matter. But if you look at this cookbook as a business opportunity, that is a whole different thing.

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Old 02-13-2018, 09:37 AM   #3
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One of my favorite cookbooks is Dom Delouise's Eat This: It'll Make You Feel Better.

Each recipe - or group of recipes - has a very short and funny story about how he got the recipe, or about something about why it's in the book. The key words being short and funny.

It's a cookbook, afterall. Albeit with personality.

Just a thought.
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:11 AM   #4
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A funny story or an aside on recipes would be great. I prefer them to be short and sweet and separate from the recipe. When I'm ready to cook, I don't want to have to wade through non-cooking stuff to find what I need to put dinner on the table.

I have a standard format for all the recipes I keep in my cookbook. I use Arial, a sans serif font at 12 point size as I need glasses. I list the ingredients in two columns at the top of the recipe in the order they will be used in the recipe. (saves space so I can get the recipe on on page). I use underlines to separate groups of ingredients into their cooking steps.

If an ingredient is used in several steps in a recipe, I list it several times. I don't like the term, "8 tablespoons of butter, divided". Then I have to depend on the instructions to know how much I need in each step.

I separate the instructions for each step in its own paragraph. No indents and left justified. I speak English in my recipes, not recipe speak.

I include pot and pan size and types in general terms. You don't want a reader to think they have to go out and buy a specific pan to make your recipe.

I recommend suggestions for substitutions where appropriate. This makes your recipe more flexible and therefore more friendly.
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Old 02-13-2018, 03:41 PM   #5
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I like the ones on the internet, especially the ones with the videos.
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Old 02-13-2018, 03:53 PM   #6
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Ones with lots of pictures.
But I like watching how-to cooking videos on You Tube rather than in print.
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Old 02-13-2018, 06:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
A funny story or an aside on recipes would be great. I prefer them to be short and sweet and separate from the recipe. When I'm ready to cook, I don't want to have to wade through non-cooking stuff to find what I need to put dinner on the table.

I have a standard format for all the recipes I keep in my cookbook. I use Arial, a sans serif font at 12 point size as I need glasses. I list the ingredients in two columns at the top of the recipe in the order they will be used in the recipe. (saves space so I can get the recipe on on page). I use underlines to separate groups of ingredients into their cooking steps.

If an ingredient is used in several steps in a recipe, I list it several times. I don't like the term, "8 tablespoons of butter, divided". Then I have to depend on the instructions to know how much I need in each step.

I separate the instructions for each step in its own paragraph. No indents and left justified. I speak English in my recipes, not recipe speak.

I include pot and pan size and types in general terms. You don't want a reader to think they have to go out and buy a specific pan to make your recipe.

I recommend suggestions for substitutions where appropriate. This makes your recipe more flexible and therefore more friendly.
Your tips will be very helpful, especially your formatting tips. Many thanks for sharing them with me.
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Old 02-13-2018, 06:46 PM   #8
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Happy to help.
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Old 02-13-2018, 06:53 PM   #9
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When it comes to cookbooks I enjoy the ones that tell me about the author, an area of the country, a great restaurant, a style of cooking, history, etc...

I can find all of the recipes I need on the internet.

IMO you should decide what you have to say that is missing from the vast number of cookbooks in the world. Tell your own story in your own style.

Good luck!
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Old 02-14-2018, 06:52 AM   #10
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I don't tend to actually read cookbooks. I will if unfamiliar with the cuisine, but generally only look at recipes. I'm not really into the author's background or self hype.
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Old 02-14-2018, 07:12 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustJoel View Post

So what do you like to read, and use? Do you like a conversational style for the recipe, or do you prefer a straight list of ingredients and steps, with the commentary completely separate from the recipe? And what about formats and fonts, if you ever even notice them. If you do notice, which fonts are the easiest to read for you? Do you prefer a fully justified text (so every line is the same length)? Do you like paragraphs indented, with no empty line between them, or do you prefer no idents and an empty break between paragraphs? And the recipes themselves. A numbered bullet list, or un-numbered? And do you prefer the “method” to be a bullet list or in paragraph form? Do you like to see the ingredients in bold when mentioned in the instructions, or is that a distraction?


I think you are right to obsess about this. Bad or difficult to read formatting is enough to keep me from reading a recipe or considering a purchase of a book.

here are my preferences:
  • Ingredients in a list broken into groups and order as used in the recipe.
  • Simple, straightforward directions with no chatter
  • No indents in the instructions
  • No goofy fonts
  • NO PAGE TURNS in a recipe. If it has to be 2 pages, make sure they are facing each other and don't require you to leaf back and forth.
  • I want a picture of the final version.
  • Perhaps a simple paragraph either before or after the recipe that covers the fluffy stuff like the history of the recipe or perhaps the explanation of an unusual technique or ingredient.


I put together a recipe book for my family of favorites - here's a screen shot of left and right pages so you can see what this looks like. The ingredients are always at the edge of the page (depending on left/right. These pages were designed to be 8 inches square and so there is a wide margin on the inside edge of each page so the print doesn't go too far into the fold.


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Old 02-14-2018, 07:33 PM   #12
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I'm a visual guy so, I tend to gravitate toward the food bloggers I like who provide a short video of the recipe..

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Old 02-15-2018, 07:34 PM   #13
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I like cooking blogs, esp ones that have pictures. Sometimes step by step instructions are helpful, blog pics that just show the same thing from different angles, not so much. A cookbook should be just that-- a cooking book. Including some recipes with pics can enhance and inspire the reader as well as boost marketing your cookbook. Joel, are you considering an all purpose cookbook or a specialty subject or what parameters are you thinking.

I like to see # of servings somewhere near the top of the recipe, not at the bottom after the instructions. Should I double, halve or make the recipe as written.

I like to sometimes see serving suggestions, eg especially if there are lots of veggies already in the dish and don’t want it to be just a one dish meal. Or if it’s a dish that’s new to me. Similarly, I like menu cookbooks. Most of the ones I am familiar with are Party or Holiday cookbooks. Regrettably, I can not produce a holiday on demand or a party everyday. Maybe I am imagination impaired.

Ingredient substitutes. If using an unusual ingredient, I like to see what might work instead, if any.

I use recipes from cookbooks for planning purposes. Can the dish be held until serving, made in advance or serve immediately. Proportions of ingredients, cooking time,and approx. prep times including any marinating, sauce prep etc.; list of ingredients ( one thinks that is the recipe, but it’s actually more) for shopping vs pantry inventory. I take these into consideration before I even prepare the recipe. My thinking is a little bit free-er with cooking, ( recipe calls for 4 carrots, I have 6,- they’re all going in.) In that sense, I look at many recipes as a guideline and so I don’t forget something crucial. Having everything mise en place is a better idea, although you can’t drill that into every recipe. Looking at a recipe from another perspective / or what I’m going to make is useful for whets my appetite.


Now, with Baking I pay much closer attention and follow the instructions with greater detail.

Good luck with your project.
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Old 02-18-2018, 11:26 PM   #14
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OP - what a fun and daunting project! Good on you!

I write books (not cookbooks) so I know what you are going through and I am happy to respond.

It’s late here so I’ll post some preferences and notes tomorrow.

For now, here is a list of my favorite cookbooks read in the last year. Good layout, good photos, great recipes. I suggest you study them.

The first two titles are the best cookbooks (including layouts, photos, content, commentary) I’ve ever seen in my lifetime of cooking.

Each cookbook came from the library so several might be available from your library. I adore buying cookbooks but plan to move cross country next year. Borrowing from the library is keeping me from purchases for now.

French
Extraordinary Cakes by Krasne
French Pâtisserie by Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts
French Laundry Kitchen by Thomas Keller
Souvenirs by Hubert Keller
The Secret Recipes by Ansel

Other cuisines
*Duck, Duck, Goose by Shaw
In A Nutshell by Tannenbaum
Martha Stewart’s Appetizers
Barefoot Contessa: How easy is that?
D'lish Deviled Eggs by Casey

*Duck, Duck, Goose is a bit odd as the author doesn’t cook much beyond poultry and wild game. But the recipes are extremely tasty and the photos good. A great model for a new authoress / self-publisher.
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Old 02-20-2018, 12:06 PM   #15
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OP - I’m excited about you writing a cookbook! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share what I like and don’t like about cookbooks.

Preface
Skip this unless a super-famous chef wants to write a few paragraphs about you.

Introduction
Any philosophy or the background of authoress should be limited to the introduction. Unless the chef / writer is famous, I don’t care to read about her childhood, early failures, etc.

How to use this book
This is where special instructions are given. Tools or equipment needed; how to handle special ingredients; basic recipes or preparations to be used in some of the book’s recipes - like creme fraiche, preparing a bain marie, or how to grind spices using a mortar and pestle.

Recipe categorization
I like recipes organized by menu course.
Starters, appetizers; Soups / stews; Vegetables; Side dishes; Entrees; Cheese plates; Desserts.

Section introduction / commentary
“My husband likes, my little girl’s favorite” — totally boring.
Writers think these comments make the book personal. Nope.
Instead, talk about history of primary ingredients, region info, restaurant info, recipe learnt while working in Thailand, expose of myth about origin, or other fun story.

Recipe layout
I like recipes that list ingredients in one column and instructions in another.
As another poster mentioned: if the recipe covers 2 pages, the first should be on the left so I don’t have to turn the page while cooking.
I love it when the writer offers additional tips or alternate procedures such as:
*Why metal and glass molds should be avoided with chocolate.
*If persimmons are not in season, substitute X.
*Adjustments for high humidity.

Comments, stories, and name dropping belong in the introduction, not recipe section.

Index must be ingredient focused.
Absolutely essential! I am a moody / curious cook. I get interested in a few ingredients and want to explore ways to use those them.

Omit pictures of children unless the book is about recipes for children. We are interested in the food.

A pantry or basic recipes section with recipes in the front or back of the book can be nice, especially if you don’t include a “how to use this book” section.
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Old 01-22-2019, 11:58 AM   #16
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Late to the party as usual.

I don't think anyone has mentioned this. I and a few others here have mentioned that we like to make copies of the recipes we make and tape on a 8 x 10 paper (with notations) and keep in a binder. So recipes that are small enough to do that appeal to me more than ones that take up 2 or 3 pages with pictures, directions etc.
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Old 01-22-2019, 12:07 PM   #17
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Late to the party as usual.

I don't think anyone has mentioned this. I and a few others here have mentioned that we like to make copies of the recipes we make and tape on a 8 x 10 paper (with notations) and keep in a binder. So recipes that are small enough to do that appeal to me more than ones that take up 2 or 3 pages with pictures, directions etc.
I use software called Living Cookbook. It allows you to copy and paste just the elements from a recipe page in a Capture window and format it however you want. It does a lot of other things, too.

https://download.cnet.com/Living-Coo...-10067801.html
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Old 01-22-2019, 12:36 PM   #18
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I use software called Living Cookbook. It allows you to copy and paste just the elements from a recipe page in a Capture window and format it however you want. It does a lot of other things, too.

https://download.cnet.com/Living-Coo...-10067801.html
Thanks GG, that sounds a little to complicated for my computer illiterate mind I just use a pair of scissors and my ol' copy machine. lol
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Old 01-23-2019, 06:32 AM   #19
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I use software called Living Cookbook. It allows you to copy and paste just the elements from a recipe page in a Capture window and format it however you want. It does a lot of other things, too.

https://download.cnet.com/Living-Coo...-10067801.html
Hi GG,

Unfortunately, Radium Technologies, the author of Living Cookbook went out of business a couple years ago. They no longer sell or support it, and the last update was 2015. For a while it was available on Amazon, but they show it as no longer available. The internet is full of reviews and complaints about how Lee Grainger just walked away and left people hanging. People were clamoring for an app that wasn't tied to a single user desktop, and he just couldn't deliver, so he quit.

I used it since 2005, but 2 years ago when I couldn't get it moved to my new computer, I switched to Paprika. While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles that LC did, I can access recipes from my computer, tablet or phone. That's a big help when you're in the grocery store. And the capture feature of Paprika is much easier to use.

Living Cookbook was great for many years, and their support was outstanding, but now, if you have a problem, you have no choice but to find a new app. You should export your recipe file and save it as an .fdxc file in case you ever need to import it into something else.
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Old 01-23-2019, 07:15 AM   #20
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Hi GG,

Unfortunately, Radium Technologies, the author of Living Cookbook went out of business a couple years ago. They no longer sell or support it, and the last update was 2015. For a while it was available on Amazon, but they show it as no longer available. The internet is full of reviews and complaints about how Lee Grainger just walked away and left people hanging. People were clamoring for an app that wasn't tied to a single user desktop, and he just couldn't deliver, so he quit.

I used it since 2005, but 2 years ago when I couldn't get it moved to my new computer, I switched to Paprika. While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles that LC did, I can access recipes from my computer, tablet or phone. That's a big help when you're in the grocery store. And the capture feature of Paprika is much easier to use.

Living Cookbook was great for many years, and their support was outstanding, but now, if you have a problem, you have no choice but to find a new app. You should export your recipe file and save it as an .fdxc file in case you ever need to import it into something else.
Thanks. I thought it was weird that I couldn't find the website

Does Paprika import .fdxc files?
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