Just read 5 Second Rule’s excellent post about whether recipes are boring, and it generated some thoughts about recipe length. (Isn’t it fantastic when an blog post idea arrives on a platter? Thank you, Cheryl.)
Now, some writers like to go long. They like to hold the reader’s hand and explain. Sometimes I’m surprised about how much handholding, though.
I edited a recipe recently that said: “If necessary, rearrange the oven racks to accommodate the large pot.” Otherwise people might not know how to fit the pot in the oven? Really?
At the other end is the trend of short-attention span recipe writing. Sunset just received an edict from parent Time Inc. that recipes must be shortened to 75 words. Can’t wait to see what that looks like. What does it mean for readers? That they already know how to cook? Or that they don’t cook anyway so it doesn’t matter?
I had my own epiphany Friday night about short recipes, while cooking Poulet Aux Olives from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. The instruction said, “Fry the onion in the oil til soft.” Looking for further guidance, I found none and panicked, momentarily. On what heat, in what size pan, for how long, I wondered? After all, when I edit recipes, I look for those clues.
Then I realized I have been sauteing onions for years. I know how to cook them until they’re soft. And I relaxed. It was the right amount of information for me.
What do you think about the length of recipes? What is the right balance of length versus explaining, and how long is too long? What should be the deciding factor about length?