Thursday, 13 January 2011

A Question About Cookbook Organization

How would you like to see recipes arranged in a cookbook (about, oh say, Seasonal Ontario Food)? Specifically, I am thinking about whether to sort by type of dish, or by main ingredient.

For example, would you like to look for "Spinach Soup" and "Spinach Salad" under "Spinach"? Or would you prefer to look for them under "Soup" and "Salad" respectively? Just wondering...

26 comments:

DarleneN said...

Personally, I always look under the ingredient first - i.e., spinach for spinach salad - but that is just me - but if you post it both ways - I guess you catch everyone!

The Broad said...

I generally want the cookbook organized by broad categories for browsing. So if you have a lot of spinach recipes (and also a lot of pear recipes, apple recipes, pork recipes, etc), then by ingredient is fine, but most cookbooks only have a small number of recipes per specific main ingredient, so it makes more sense to group salads, soups, etc, together, or by appetizer / main / dessert / side.

The index, however, should let me find either either salad recipes or spinach recipes easily.

Little Black Car said...

I could go either way. Normally, I'd look under "soup," but the next thing I'd think of was "spinach", anyway.

Well, that wasn't very helpful of me, was it? No strong preference, really.

Emma said...

If it is to be based on seasonal food, my preference would be to have the recipes organized by approximate season through the book. Then have the index include entries for both ingredient and type of dish (so spinach soup would show up in the back under both 'Spinach - soup' and 'Soup - spinach').

If a cookbook doesn't have a good index, it just ends up going unused at my house after the initial browse.

Being Me: Danielle said...

When I'm looking to make something... I usually go to the index for what I have on hand. If it's spinach, I want to go to spinach and see all my options... not have to bounce around the index to find what I'm looking for ;)

(Agree with Emma... if I can't find what I'm looking for in the index the book goes unused.)

Ferdzy said...

Whoa, that was fast.

Yes, agree with everyone - good indexing is vital.

My original impulse had been to arrange the recipes by season, but that has some problems - some veggies are available in the spring and the fall, for instance, and some dishes can be made all year while others have only about a week window of opportunity. Plus there are a number of dishes where the basic cooking stays the same, but you can sub in and out different veggies depending on the season.

The more I think about it the more I think I should keep soups, salads etc, together. I had them set up that way, but had a moment of doubt this afternoon. But the trouble is deciding which is the main ingredient if the recipe has more than one - and so many of them do.

My thought about helping to keep it seasonal is that there should be a table of suggested menus for through the seasons.

Being Me: Danielle said...

Have you seen the cookbook "Clean Food" by Terry Walters?? I just got if from my library a couple of weeks ago and it's a seasonal cookbook. I really love the index and at the start of each season there is an index as well...which I really love. If you can check it out at your library or local bookstore.... I'd highly recommend it... could help :)
http://terrywalters.net/clean-food/

KJB said...

Seasonal Ontario Food suggests that it ought to be organized by season, but must confess that those books I do have which are organized by season never make sense to me. Call me a traditionalist, but I think salads should be together and pastas should be together, not grouped by season or ingredient. A cookbook needs an excellent index - to ingredient, recipe title and food.

ddidonat said...

Definitely by ingredient! I always hate when I can't look up an ingredient in the index and find a recipe that uses it. That is just how I most often use a cookbook. I have something on hand and want to know a way to use it

Ferdzy said...

Danielle, I haven't seen it. I'll have a look for it.

And more calls for thorough, good indexing...!

ddidonat, if I'm understanding you, you don't mind the "Spinach Soup" recipe being in the chapter called "Soup" as long as you can find it under "Spinach" in the index, is that correct?

darcy said...

I have a copy of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and I love the by-ingredient section. I think it's great for seasonal stuff – I see something's on sale in the flyers, then open up my cookbook and see what to do with it.

Tillsonburgarian said...

Indexing is so vital for me in order to use a cookbook. I just checked some of my favorite cookbooks and the ones I always return to are cross indexed. Just for fun I looked for spinach, picked one recipe and then looked how many times the same page appears in index. To my surprise it was cross indexed 3 times, each one with another main ingredient. I don’t envy you your job ahead, it will be so tedious and so important. Lets face it, in a book store most people pick up a book on impulse, leaf through few pages and then go to browse index pages. Also, some books have such a ridiculously small font for index that I just drop it and never look at that book again.

Laura McF said...

My favourite book in terms of usability is the Moosewood Cookbook - I'd love to have something like it that includes meat dishes! It's got a very thorough index, which is obviously essential. Most of the book is organized by type of dish, but then there's a section of sort of flexible basics, like a page on quiche with sort of general instructions and then a few pages of variations, and a section of breads with the principles of baking and then the variations, and a section on grains with a table of properties and cooking times... I find it really easy to both browse and go directly to a certain recipe. I'd recommend taking a look at how it's organized.
I'm looking forward to your book! yay!

soulfood said...

Personally, I'd like to see it arranged by season, since it it is called "Seasonal Ontario Food", after all!

Within each season, though, I'd like to see it arranged by apps, mains, desserts.

A bit too far ahead maybe, but who's doing the food photography? Are you near Toronto?

-Robin
http://www.iflookscouldfill.com

Ferdzy said...

One of the troubles with arranging things by seasons, and I think the reason I let go of that idea a while ago, is that it's very difficult to define a season. Spring, summer, fall, winter? No.

Spring is two seasons, really; early spring when everyone starts wanting lighter food but nothing is growing yet, and later on when things have started to get growing. The earliest types of fresh produce are still around into the beginning of July. At that time, sour cherries are making their 2-week long appearance. Are they spring, or are they summer? Those are just "for instances"; I could go on on and on about that. Seasons are really not that cut and dried.

What I do see is, in addition to an index in the back, is having a list under each heading to look for other items with that particular indgredient. So, I would list dishes that were basically spinach under spinach, and then have a little box saying "See also:" which would direct you to the soup, the salad, the casserole which contained some spinach but which was substantially other things too. Yes?

Ferdzy said...

Oh and photography? Definitely not at that stage and may never be. I'm a first-time, amateur author with no name recognition beyond this blog. I'm not anticipating a big production budget.

Tillsonburgarian said...

There are many books in my collection that have 2 different indexes. First real page has from-page-to-page index divided by type: starter, soups, main etc. and at the end of book is alphabetical cross index. This is the type of indexing I love and books with this system get my attention.

Kevin Kossowan said...

No question for me. Two of my favorite books are organized by seasons. Ingredient breakdown is important, but for the index imo.

I take tremendous pleasure reading about the coming seasons and the lovely dishes to expect, and also to read about the season I'm in, and what I shouldn't be forgetting while I'm there.

Ferdzy said...

Argh. Okay; getting message. Must find some way to keep some sort of seasonal flow through the book. Hmph.

this beautiful mess said...

I think keeping recipes in some sort of seasonal order is key- especially if that's the main thrust of the book. What about arranging each season in the same way. Meaning, always list the category of recipes in the same order for every season. So, start with Salads, Appetizers, Soups, Entrees, Desserts, etc. Then the index can be used to systematically list ALL types of soup, entrees, etc by category AND by ingredient. (I personally always use the index to look for ingredients).
Just throwing this idea out, but what if you used colour to help identify different sections. So, back to organizing every season in the same way, what if all soups are always on a page that has a blue corner (and say entrees always have a yellow corner)(so you can see a hint of colour when the book is closed/lying down). That way, you can visually flip to the right part in the season faster (if you know the colour code). Does that make sense?
Re: the comment about how there are two Springs, for the Spring section, order the recipes by date within their given category. So all soups that have ingredients out in early Spring will be before soups that have ingredients out in late Spring, yet they're all still under the same broader category to help unify them. A general date of when the recipe can be used would also be helpful.
I also liked the idea of suggested menus within each season.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing this! I would definitely be interested in purchasing a cookbook of this kind. :)

Lisa R-R said...

Usually I have spinach and want to do something with it, but once in a while I do want to look for a specific soup ...
As others have said, if the recipes are in the book by season, but can be looked up in the index by main ingredients, then it works both ways.
I have had good luck with any of your recipes I have tried, so I too look forward to the cookbook!

June said...

MAIN INGREDIENT

Rachel said...

I like it when cookbooks are organized by course -- Soup, Salad, Meats, et cetera -- and there's an index that allows me to look things up by ingredient -- spinach, ham, chicken, hamburger, lentils, leeks, and so on.

antoniafelis said...

I prefer organization by type of dish, with a well-organized index to cover main ingredients.

SarahE459 said...

I have thoroughly enjoyed your recipes and discovering what you have to say and discover in each season. Last night we had your garlic scape burgers, we did add in some venison, but they were stunning!! Plus I made your corn muffins. I lh. ove your blog and can already anticipate buying at least 5 copies of your cookbook when it comes out. Serious lack of good ONTARIO seasonal cookbooks in my opinion. I do, however, love From seed to Table a combinated gardening and cooking guide and it is arranged by mont

Ferdzy said...

Thanks, good to know!