Interviste, Letture, Libri in cucina, scrivere col cibo
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Food writing: from a recipe to a cookbook with Dianne Jacob

I’ve started a journey. A slow one.
A few month ago on my Instagram profile I introduced a kitchen whisk and an apple. I want you to respond and I want you to talk about of food writing. I introduced an Italian hashtag as #scriverecolcibo (ie. writing with food), as well.

I do not want to start an endless debate on how translate into my language “food writing”.  In Italian I need a preposition to translate that simple english term. I’ve chosen “with” given that food is just of the characters of life, even if  a relevant one. I don’t want food to suffer from loneliness 🙂

At the same time, a food writing lover isn’t an Île flottante. I can not just use my whisk and apple (and hashtag) and close my pantry to you. I can talk about food and writing . I need you and some mentors. Someone more expert than me or with a different perspective. I’m looking for inspiration. Therefore, I decided to involve people as Dianne Jacob  and make them few question, just 3. Promise.

[Per la versione in Italiano cliccare qui]

With Dianne, we start from one of the basics of foodwriting: recipes.
We all know that word. Who does not have some special family recipe to share (or to hide)? Anyway, a common reader, who knows how to write a recipe or why he or she needs cookbooks.

Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write For Food, looks like the right person for the right hashtag and with the right recipe to answer. She is an author, an editor, and a coach. What else we need now?

Dianne, please, help me (us) understand what is a recipe? Of what is it made? We all think to know what a recipe is. But not all are aware of what should be in a real recipe.

A family recipe might be a handwritten list of ingredients. Measurements are optional. I have lots of those from my mother and aunt, written on notepads from realtors and shipping lines. There are no headnote and no directions for how to make the dish. My mother and aunt assumed that because I had seen them make the dish, all I need to know is which ingredients went in it.

A professional recipe assumes you have never met the readers and don’t know their proficiency in the kitchen. For that reason, it needs an understandable title. It needs a headnote to provide more information about the dish, and entice the reader to make it. There should be a yield, to say how many it serves. Following that comes an ingredients list with measurements, listed in order of use. Last comes the method, which tells readers how to make the dish, and uses the ingredients list in the order listed.

In what way does a recipe collection differ from a cookbook? Here I refer mainly to mother’s or family’s recipes.We all have them but at the same time we buy cookbooks.

A cookbook has a theme and focus, such as all vegetarian or Syrian dishes. Your recipe collection is probably quite broad. Mine comprises recipes from family, friends, newspapers, magazines, and websites. The recipes from family are more like heirlooms than something I use all the time. We buy cookbooks because we want to read about a place or learn about a new cuisine we love to eat in restaurants, or perhaps we have seen the author on television, or we want to eat more of a certain type of cuisine we like.

I know, I may sound crazy. I write on my cookbook. I take notes on them. As and author and editor and reader, what a cookbook can teach to its readers? And what readers add to it?

It can educate them about a place and culture. It can transport them to a different time. It can teach them new habits and techniques in the kitchen, or how to cook a cuisine they’ve never made. Readers can make the dish once and then adapt it to suit them better: fewer chili flakes, more salt, fewer ingredients, and a longer cooking time, for example.

And now, dear reader, it’s your turn. Do you love recipes? How do you read a cookbook? Why? Yes, why you pay attention to foodwriting?

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