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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Jul 102012
 

Melissa Joulwan started out selling only on Amazon, but sales are so good she’s publishing the books herself and sending them to a distributor.

You may have heard of the latest craze, the Paleo diet. Cookbooks on this subject are selling like crazy since they started appearing in 2010.

Austin, Texas-based Melissa Joulwan started a paleo diet three years ago. Both she and her photographer, husband David Humphreys, worked in ad agencies for 20 years and have a background in marketing, social media, and web development. She quit her job this year, after the success of her cookbook Well Fed: Paleo Recipes For People Who Love to Eat.

Q. How long were you on the diet before deciding to write a cookbook?

A. I started eating paleo three years ago, and I started posting recipes on my website two years ago. It was more of “what I ate last night.” Once I started writing that you could substitute 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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May 082012
 

Jane Goldman doesn’t mince words. When I asked Chow.com’s head eater whether food writers can make a living, she suggested finding another profession. Ouch!

At least she has a suggestion: Learn video.

Now the vice president and editor-in-chief of CBS Interactive’s Entertainment and Lifestyle division, Goldman was a writer and editor in the past, including for the Industry Standard, New York, Rolling Stone, and Wired. She has also been a screenwriter and producer.

Goldman founded Chow as a print magazine in 2004. CNET acquired it in 2006, along with Chowhound.com, and turned it into an online site. CBS Interactive Media acquired both in 2008. There are 3,000 to 5,000 recipes on the site.

I spoke with her about the opportunities for food writers at Chow.com and beyond:

Q. What are your responsibilities at Chow?

A. I’m the combination publisher and editor, responsible for the budget. Ad sales people do not report to me but I am obviously implicated in the bottom line. I run the operation, engineers, product people, designers, writers, editors, and recipe developers.

Q. What is Chow doing that’s different from other food websites?

A. Our attitude, the demographic and the reason we exist stay the same: to provide an informal, intelligent, irreverent voice in the world of food. It’s about beautiful food but it’s about having fun.

We’re moving very heavy into video series. We have one I love called Continue reading »

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Apr 242012
 

Recipe posts are a ton of work. You’ve got to develop and test a recipe, photograph it, write it, upload and edit photos, then write the post. It takes up to 6 hours to complete a post, food bloggers tell me.

Why not take a break from all the cooking and testing? The occasional non-recipe post won’t hurt, and doing so will let you expand the subjects you cover in a new way.

Typically, narrative posts mean advice and recommendations. Here’s how some food bloggers do it:

1. Start a series. Choosing Raw, for example, has an inspirational Green Recovery Series about people who moved to a raw diet. Aida Mollenkamp has several regular columns, including this one called the Monthly Mood Board.

2. Write about an experience. Gluten-Free Girl & the Chef wrote about what kind of gluten-free food she could safely eat in airports and on flights. No recipe needed, and she 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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