Mar 182014
 

Recipe-RobberI’ve written many times about how individual  recipes can’t be copyrighted here in the US. But did you realize that you can defend a copyright if parts of your recipe contain “substantial literary expression?”

What exactly is that, and why should you bother?

“Substantial literary expression” establishes the information in a recipe as yours. That could be just as important as copyright, when it comes to theft.

Let me explain. US copyright law defines substantial literary expression as: Continue reading »

Mar 042014
 
Thai-Sandwich-With Cheese

Is a cookbook author’s Asian Sandwich with cheese “perfect for every occasion?” I think not.

Recently I edited a cookbook manuscript for a publisher, where the author used  “perfect for every occasion” in one too many headnotes.

I lost it. I struck out the phrase and then went back and struck it out every time it appeared.  “Perfect for every occasion” screams 1950s housewife to me. And it doesn’t make sense.

Here’s why:

1. Most of the time, readers don’t need ideas for  “occasions.” They need food for  meals.

Okay, they might need the occasional dish for a potluck, a baby shower, or a new neighbor. Those are specific events. A dish cannot be perfect for every occasion. I guarantee you that the author’s Asian sandwich with cheese (oh yes, I did Continue reading »

Feb 182014
 
Bonnie Benwick

Recipe Editor Bonnie Benwick at the Washington Post is open to pitches. (Photo courtesy of Deb Lindsey.)

Bonnie Benwick, deputy food editor and recipe editor at the Washington Post, is obsessed with good recipes. She tests and edits a slew of them every week for the paper’s Food Section, and wrote the Post’s first cookbook.

She also manages a crew of 30 testers, sometimes makes dishes at home for the photo shoots, and is not above running around town to find a prop or ingredient for a dish.

We met on e-mail, when she told me she was reading my book, Will Write for Food, while on vacation! More recently she interviewed me on cooking smarter, and after discussing my rant on not specifying the amount of salt in recipes,  she wrote this feature article: ‘Salt to taste,’ taken with a grain of regret. Here are her thoughts on what makes a good recipe for the Washington Post, should you wish to pitch her:

Q. Where does the Washington Post get its recipes ?

A. It’s a mix. I choose some from new cookbooks, some come from Continue reading »

Jan 142014
 
Melt_Turkey and Robusto

Every recipe in Melt was tested four times by our band of recipe testers, including this one for Turkey and Robusto Mac and Cheeselets.

A guest post by Garrett McCord, co-author of Melt

One of the greatest fears of cookbook writers is that their readers — the people who have dedicated time, money, and ingredients –- will be unable to successfully execute the recipes. When Stephanie Stiavetti and I started working on Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese, we resolved that recipes would be properly tested and that every single one would work flawlessly.

So how to go about this? Years ago I tested recipes for Jaden Hair’s first cookbook. Stephanie and I discussed the process and decided that the best way to test the book was with our blog readers. We put out a call on our Continue reading »

Dec 102013
 

Cute-BabyOh em gee! I am so tired of baby-talk words in recipe writing, especially:

  • Yummy
  • Sammy, and
  • Tummy.

While editing a cookbook manuscript for a publisher, I decided the author must have been a Rachael Ray groupie. How else to explain her use of these three terms, not to mention “easy-peasy” and exclamation points in almost every recipe headnote? At least she didn’t add “Yum-O.” Continue reading »

Nov 122013
 
Shakshooka-Israel

What is the most exciting way to tell people to make this dish? Julia knows.

You’re sick of writing “add” and “place” in recipes, aren’t you? (If not, you should be.)

Here’s help. Use powerful action verbs, the way that Julia Child did. I spent a pleasurable hour reading through Mastering the Art of French Cooking to Continue reading »

Oct 292013
 
Style: "Neutral"

Cookbook Author Anne LIndsay, now retired and my hero.

After a long day of work, I want to make a quick, easy meal that tastes great. And one that’s light and healthy.

That’s a tall order, isn’t it? Those of us who have written and tested recipes know.

Just three cookbooks I’ve used in the last decade fit the bill. Until recently, I took these books for granted. I didn’t think about the author as a professional in our field. I was too busy cooking, grateful to be a home cook using good recipes that worked.

Earlier this year I went to Canada for a food blogging conference. I decided to find this cookbook author whose no-fail recipes I used for years. Her name is no secret to Canadians: Anne Lindsay. The weathered and stained cookbooks on my kitchen bookshelf — gifts from my sister in Vancouver — are

  • Lighthearted Everyday Cooking (1991)
  • Anne Lindsay’s Light Kitchen (1994)
  • The Lighthearted Cookbook: Recipes for Healthy Heart Cooking (1998)

She wrote these cookbooks with health organization partners: The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, The United Way of Canada, and the Canadian Heart Foundation. (You’ll learn in a minute why this was a brilliant Continue reading »