Blogger Finds Famous Cookbook Recipe Doesn’t Work, but He’s Happy

When a high-end cookbook recipe doesn’t work, how can this story have a happy ending? Somehow, it does.

First, a little backstory. Remember when Julie Powell started her career-changing food blog, The Julie/Julia Project, in 2002? It was about a government drone who makes every recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking over a one-year period. Her blog led to the first blog-to-book deal and a subsequent movie.

After that, a whole bunch of people started blogs about [Read more…]

Frustrated by Smaller Can Sizes for Recipes? I Am.

15-ounce-can.small
Do canned goods makers have any idea how it affects recipe developers  and cooks when they reduce their can sizes?

…and I was just baking, not developing recipes.

Over the holidays I made a pumpkin bread from a favorite recipe in an older cookbook. The recipe called for one 16-ounce can. Yet cans of pumpkin are no longer 16 ounces, but 15.

The manufacturer removed 2 tablespoons instead of raising the price! I repeat: 2 tablespoons. That’s all it takes to mess up  [Read more…]

When Writing Recipes, Do All Ingredients Have a Standard Size?

Dianne-Jacob-Pizza
Fitting dough to a pizza screen for one of around 80 pizzas I made for  a pizza cookbook — including one with a questionable ingredient. (Photo by Kris Montgomery)

Based on all the great feedback and discussion on last week’s post about recipe copy-editing, I’m asking about writing recipes with non-standard ingredient sizes.

Case in point: How big is a lamb sausage?

One of the USA of Pizza’s recipes called for “1 lamb sausage link” (not merguez). I purchased the link at a butcher. It weighed 5 1/2 ounces.

The copy editor asked if it should be 6 ounces.

Okay, I thought. Maybe 6 ounces is a standard size. But I didn’t know for sure, so I researched it. I Googled “lamb sausage” and clicked on images. I found [Read more…]

Questions from a Recipe Copy Editor

Smoked-salmon-pizza
This smoked salmon pizza in The United States of Pizza  includes sliced red onion. This was a source of contention!

If a copy editor has ever touched your cookbook manuscript, you will relate.

And if you haven’t had the experience yet, you will be intrigued — and possibly worried.

Before I start this discussion, however, I want to be clear. I’m grateful for all the goofs our very capable copy editor caught in chef Craig Priebe’s and my new pizza book (The USA of Pizza, October, 2015) manuscript.

But man, some of the queries made us scratch our heads. Here are three  [Read more…]

If You Can’t Write Truly Great Recipes, be Honest, says Veteran Editor

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Rux Martin in her kitchen with some of the books she’s edited. (Photo by Barry Estabrook.)

I met cookbook editor Rux Martin years ago, before she got an imprint in her own name. Now she is Editorial Director of Rux Martin Books at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

She specializes in cookbooks, narrative nonfiction on food, and diet books. She has worked with Dorie Greenspan, Mollie Katzen, Jacques Pépin, and Ruth Reichl, to name just a few, and has edited New York Times bestsellers including The Gourmet Cookbook; Hello, Cupcake!; [Read more…]

How to Write Recipes That Are Harder to Steal

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: [Read more…]

I’m so Over “Perfection” in Recipe Writing

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 [Read more…]