Friday, November 16, 2012

Writing a family cookbook? Here's help

This is a great time of year to start compiling a family cookbook. You can talk about the project over Thanksgiving and work with your family to refine your ideas over the remaining winter holidays. Establish a deadline for everyone to submit recipes, give yourself ample time for editing and production, and you can have books in hand by Thanksgiving 2013.

You'll need to decide who will contribute, how many recipes you want to publish, whether you want a headnote (a descriptive sentence or paragraph) before each recipe and whether to include art -- either family photos or pictures of the food. (If you decide on food photos, check back soon. I'll talk about food styling in another post.)

Pass out a recipe style sheet to the contributors and ask them to follow it exactly. That will make your task as the compiler/editor much easier.

I suggest using this format, which will result in a recipe that's easy to edit and easy to follow in the kitchen:


2. Name of the contributor or the person who created the recipe

3. Yield (number of servings)

4. List of ingredients, each on a separate line, in the order they are used. Ask people to be as specific as possible, especially when calling for ingredients that have several common variations (all-purpose flour, bread flour, whole-wheat flour, for example).

5. Directions, including oven temperature; pan sizes; cooking times; and how to tell when the food is done. Again, the recipes should be as specific as possible.

To avoid mistakes, keep the original recipes and compare them with the finished recipes when you give the pages a final look. And don't hesitate to ask for help -- everyone needs an editor, or at least a proofreader.

Many companies work frequently or exclusively with self-published cookbooks, and websites offer software for e-books. For a good sampling, Google "self-published cookbook" and "publish family cookbook." In addition, ask around -- chances are that your place of worship, club or child's school has put out a cookbook recently. Ask the editor if she was pleased with the company that printed it or wishes she had gone a different way.

Compiling a family cookbook will take a ton of work and unswerving attention to detail. When you're done however, you'll have produced a family treasure.

1 comment:

  1. We did this for my bridal shower. My mom asked everyone to contribute family recipes for a cookbook, then had all guests bring a recipe. She also included photos from my grandparents and great-grandparents eating the very recipes in the book. It's such a great keepsake!