The WaPo’s Bonnie Benwick: “Send Me a Clever Recipe”

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 [Read more…]

How 80 People Tested our Cookbook Recipes for Free

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 [Read more…]

Let’s Take the Baby Talk out of Recipes

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.” [Read more…]

100 Verbs for Recipes, from Julia Child

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 [Read more…]

Canadian Author Sold Millions of Cookbooks

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 [Read more…]

Do You Make These 5 Mistakes with Salt in Recipes?

Using-Salt-in-RecipesWhenever I edit recipes, I feel my blood pressure rising (and I haven’t even consumed the salt yet!) Three things about using salt set me off:

Why do so many recipes fail to specify the amount of salt? Why do recipes say to season with salt when you can’t know if you’re adding the right amount? Why do recipes say to add salt at the wrong time?

As you know, I have opinions on recipe writing, and specifying salt is no exception. Here’s my take on where many recipes go wrong, and how to fix them:

1. Adding “to taste” to salt in the ingredients list. The ingredients list comes before [Read more…]

Use Active Verbs to Enliven Recipes

Cooking is about action, and that should come across vigorously in your recipe writing.

Last week I aroused passions about passive voice in recipes, not only here in the comments but on Facebook and Twitter.

My point was that cooking is an activity, so we need direct language that shows action. Active verbs are the ticket, an effective and efficient way to show movement.

In these examples below, you won’t find a whiff of passive voice. There is also no use of “you,” which some readers found objectionable. Others pointed out that active verbs are imperative, where the writer commands readers to action by implication. (Haven’t you always wanted to command?)

I plucked these examples from my bookshelf. Note how many verbs writers crams into a paragraph. It’s like watching a movie, sports event or ballet:

1. Julia Child

Scoop (peppers) into mixing bowl. Spread both sides of the bread with [Read more…]