May 112011

It’s a quandry. You want to entice readers to make your recipes, but you don’t want to just hit them over the head with sales pitches.

Fortunately, there are more subtle ways to attract people to a recipe. Here are five methods cookbook authors use to draw in readers:

1. Make them salivate. Describe the food and how it’s cooked so readers can not only imaging tasting it, but they see it, smell it, hear it, even imagine touching it. Here’s a headnote for South Indian-Style Eggplant Pickle, from Cradle of Flavor by Saveur Editor-in-Chief James Oseland that gets the senses going:

“This south Indian-style pickle is popular in Malaysian kitchens, although the sugar in it is a decidedly Malaysian addition. Similar to caponata, the Sicilian eggplant relish, it’s made of chunks of Japanese eggplants in a lavishly spiced sweet-sour pickling base. Coriander, fennel, cumin, chiles, ginger, and cinnamon all vie for dominance, creating a lush layering of flavors. The eggplants are fried and then put in the pickling base, rather than cooked in it. Japanese eggplants, which are commonly used in Malaysian cuisine, cook quickly, so frying them first give you more control, ensuring that they won’t come out mushy.”

Notice his evocative description, so specific that you can almost taste the eggplant. He assumes you may not know caponata, so he describes it too. Then he tells you how to cook the dish, so you can Continue reading »

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Jan 312010

Knopf Senior Editor Judith Jones in her well-appointed kitchen. She's still cooking.

Last week I was on a phone call with book editor Judith Jones about recipes. Her comments reminded me of an essay of hers I use as a handout, some of which is quoted below.

Here are the top three things she can’t stand to see in recipes:

1. In a bowl, combine… No one talks like that, so why write like that? She doesn’t like Continue reading »

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Jan 262010

measurementJust read 5 Second Rule’s excellent post about whether recipes are boring, and it generated some thoughts about recipe length. (Isn’t it fantastic when an blog post idea arrives on a platter? Thank you, Cheryl.)

Now, some writers like to go long. They like to hold the reader’s hand and explain. Sometimes I’m surprised about how much handholding, though.

I edited a recipe recently that said: “If necessary, Continue reading »

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Jul 222009

imagesThanks to all who weighed in on my last post, both here and on Facebook, about what makes a food blog worthwhile. I’ve read through your comments, and will now attempt now to boil them down into four main elements. Based on my own opinion and the comments, a great blog has:

1. A strong personality. We want food bloggers who are fun, intelligent, opinionated, creative, make us think, and make us learn. No matter what they’re writing about, we want them to be passionate and well informed.

2. Great recipes. We readers want to be inspired by creative, innovative recipes that are also technically excellent. We want something new and different, not what we have in cookbooks at home.

3. Good storytelling skills. A great food blogger knows how to write a tempting title, a lead that draws us in, and uses techniques like self-effacing humor to great effect. With high-quality writing, reporting and research comes the feeling that we’re right there with them, cooking, eating, tasting and discovering.

4. Excellent photos. There’s no way around it. We want to be seduced by the images.

So there you have it. If you’re a blogger, does your writing and photos meet this criteria? If you’re a blog reader, maybe you think I’ve left something out. Let me know.

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