Apr 302013
 

Kristine Kidd, former food editor at Bon Appetit magazine, ran the test kitchen for 20 years.

Guest Post by Kristine Kidd

When Kristine Kidd was food editor of Bon Appetit magazine, her staff tested recipes from writers and recipe developers, and she decided which ones would run.

A 20-year veteran of the magazine, Kidd is now self-employed and the author of several cookbooks, most recently Weeknight Gluten Free. Here are 14 insider tips. — DJ

At Bon Appetit, we tested hundreds of recipes every month. The ones we published were the ones that worked best in the test kitchen.

We rarely gave a new writer another chance if the recipes did not test well or if we had too much trouble with them. Editorial schedules are jammed and Continue reading »

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Mar 262013
 

Let’s say you want to write a cookbook, and you live in the USA. Should you write recipes that include metric measurements (liters and grams) in additional to imperial (cups and pounds)? That’s a good question, and one that’s being asked more often these days.

First, let’s admit that the US is way behind in the metrics arena. It should not come as a surprise that, to quote Dave Barry: “The metric system is not going to catch on in the States, unless you count the increasing popularity of the nine-millimeter bullet.” We are one of only three countries that have not yet embraced the metric system, along with Burma and Liberia.

Second, many bakers are adamant about measuring dry ingredients by weight for accuracy, and more baking books sold in the US list them.

And third, a daily US newspaper has taken to including metric measurements in some recipes, as some kind of experient.

To get some clarity on the issue, I turned to Melissa Moore, an editor at Ten Speed Press specializing in cookbooks, about the state of metric measurements today:

Q. Is metric measurement in cookbooks getting more popular in the US?

A. There has been somewhat of a shift. More people have a digital scale in their homes Continue reading »

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Jul 242012
 

Three figs, divided. Will your readers get it?

Food blogger friend Stephanie Stiavetti, who’s working on a cookbook, likes to use “divided” when listing ingredients in receipes. Then she got this email from her editor, shooting down its use:

Recipes into Type advises against using ‘divided’ in ingredient lists. These kinds of instructions belong in the recipe steps below ’97 where it will be clear HOW the ingredient is to be divided.”

“I’ve always used “divided,” she emailed me. “What do you think?”

Sorry. I don’t like divided either. Here’s why it doesn’t work:

1. People don’t know what it means. “Divided” is some kind of code that is left unexplained. When readers see “3 tablespoons honey, divided,” they might think it means cut in half, which is not necessarily so.

2. They have to read the method to find out. When they continue on to the method, it gets complicated. It says to use 2/3 now, and the remaining amount later, or gives Continue reading »

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May 222012
 

Amy Reiley started a wildfire on an IACP blog post recently, when she said hobby food bloggers who don’t test recipes thoroughly and don’t charge enough are sidelining professionals like herself.

Here’s a sample:

“…We, the professional journalists, researchers, home economists, recipe developers, food stylists, and photographers are getting aced out of much needed work in our chosen field by stay-at-home moms and accountants with a cooking hobby.”

Enraged food writers — mostly bloggers — piled on in the comments, which led to closed comments and a new post trying to explain the old one, which led to more irritated comments. In other words, two excellent reads.

But this argument is nothing new. The old guard always competes with newer, hungrier people with less experience who charge less. Reilly thinks it’s not just the old guard that gets hurt, but Continue reading »

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Apr 102012
 

Twenty years of perfecting recipes. That’s how long America’s Test Kitchen has cooked, baked and obsessed over the results. Based in Brookline, MA, it’s the test kitchen for a PBS television show of the same name, where the staffs of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines work out their recipes.

How does the staff create a recipe that works every time? I asked John “Doc” Willoughby, the company’s executive editor for magazines. The Harvard grad began his career at Cook’s Illustrated when Chris Kimball founded the magazine in 1993. In 2001, he left to become executive editor at Gourmet magazine, then returned to America’s Test Kitchen in 2010. Willoughby, who writes cookbooks with co-author Chris Schlesinger, a chef, has written nine, including the award-winning The Thrill of the Grill.

Lori Galvin, executive editor of America’s Test Kitchen and a reader of this blog, sent me the company’s latest cookbook, Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook: 2,000 Recipes of 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Food Magazine, and suggested I talk with Willoughby about the company’s process of developing and testing recipes:

Q. What do you do as executive editor of America’s Test Kitchen?

A. I’m in charge of the two magazines plus 24 special issues for newsstands. I follow along the process for each magazine, starting with ideas like, “Do readers want another roast beef recipe? If so, which kind?” Then we survey readers before doing an article.

Q. How much do you rely on readers for your content?

A. Once we decide what we want to do, we Continue reading »

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Feb 282012
 

Food Network fired star Anne Thornton for adapting recipes a little too closely. (Photo: Food Network)

Yes, one of my favorite subjects was in the news again recently: the perils of adapting recipes. Here are two recent developments that affected a cooking show host and a food blogger:

1. Show cancelled because of adapting recipes. The Food Network cancelled the show of TV Chef Anne Thornton because she adapted recipes based on making small tweaks to the recipes of others, apparently.

Media outlets went crazy when the news hit that her show, Dessert First, was not renewed because many of her recipes were “plagiarized” from Martha Stewart and Ina Garten, specifically a German chocolate frosting and lemon bars.

“You take what you learn from them and then you riff on that,”she said in her defense in a story in the UK Daily Mail. “As for lemon squares, there’s only so many ways you can make them, so of course there will be similarities.”

Her comment sounds similar to those I’ve received on this blog. And I don’t necessarily disagree with Continue reading »

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Feb 142012
 

I do a lot of recipe editing in Microsoft Word, both for individuals and publishers. The number one mistake I find is when ingredients are listed out of order, compared to how they’re used in the method.

Before I learned this tip, I drove myself nuts scrolling up and down in Word to check: Did she put the olive oil first? Scroll up, then scroll down. Does the garlic come before or after the Herbs de Provence? Scroll down, then scroll up.

The "Split" feature in MS-Word lets you see two parts of the same file.

Now I use Word’s Split feature so I can see both the ingredients list and the method on my screen. That way I can check the order of ingredients without scrolling like a maniac.

Here’s all you have to do:

1. Open an MS-Word file that has a recipe in it.

2. Under Window in the Toolbar, select Split. You’ll see two parts of one file Continue reading »

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