Recipe writing technique
Anyone know of a book or web site on techniques for recipe writing? I know that looking at the cookbooks of the Greats (Julia Child, etc.) is a good starting point, but am interested in any other tools. Thanks.
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But I’m not full yet so please don’t stop responding. I could read these posts for months and hope to comment in more depth soon.
In the meantime, in case you haven’t had the treat of reading her work, I wanted to mention the writer Laurie Colwin, fiction author, but also a food writer: “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking”
I was first introduced to him when I was a teenager, when he wrote "Letter from Warsaw," "Letter from Prague," "Letter from Moscow", etc. in The New Yorker (during the Cold War). ;o)
You are trying to enable another cook to recreate something that gives you pleasure. Recipes should be to-the-point within reason. I had an English teacher who was all about editing--never say in 20 words what you can say in 10, and so forth. I agree with this ideology, especially when it comes to recipes. If you can get the point across in less space, do it. But don't sacrifice clarity or important notes (for instance, when I read a recipe for making brown butter many years ago, it was very helpful to me as a new cook to know that the butter foams dramatically and spits and makes crackling sounds, then those sounds subside and the smell of toasty butter bits start to permeate the kitchen--you could write that as "cook butter over medium heat until brown" but then you would be missing something fundamental to understanding the process).
On that note, though, you have to know your audience as well. Are you writing a recipe for seasoned cooks and chefs, home cooks, or beginners? You cannot write a recipe for everyone. Lengthy, painfully detailed recipes will annoy or bore experienced cooks, and recipes that assume a lot of knowledge will alienate inexperienced cooks. You generally have to choose a tactic, although for a modern audience it pays to be a little more detailed--experienced cooks will be able to skim over the recipe and ignore or overlook any details that they are already familiar with, but most of us these days didn't learn to cook from our mothers or grandmothers, and so a little more detail is good.
These are just general suggestions that you have probably already thought of, but I hope it's at least a little helpful. Writing good recipes is not easy, but it's worth doing! Also, we have an Evernote recipe archive as well--it's the perfect tool for keeping track of recipes! Love it.
Through all that, though, it's always good if you can let your voice come through in the recipe. A lot of the older recipe writers had a lovely voice--Jane Grigson, MFK, and now I think the most of Nigel Slater, although he verges on the precious. You also have to think of recipe styles that you like. For instance, while I adore Julia Child, I despise her recipe format. It follows, then, that I will not write recipes the way she does. Take notes about what you like in certain cookbook authors or recipe writers.
You can start easily by creating a style sheet, which will improve consistency within and between recipes. As part of your sheet, include a list of banned words. To start the list, I will even give you a few words which, I think when applied to food, are either infantile, inappropriate or overused--perhaps all at the same time: yummy, veggie, genius, awesome.
You might also read some of M. F. K. Fisher's books--her style is enviable.
Here is one link!! I have a few others on a Pinterest board, message me if you have trouble finding them. Like them because they are directed towards our community.
But you probably figured that out already :)
I have difficulty posting recipes because I am too finicky about how my grandmothers' recipes are written down. I feel like if it's not done well, I'm doing them wrong. (One was a professional chef; the other could have been.) I'm trying to get it right but also lighten up.