We’re a week into the submission period for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance cookbook, which is a perfect time to address a few questions that came up in the recipe writing class last week and in the Facebook group. Feel free to leave other questions in the comments or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget: The deadline to submit recipes is April 30 [SUBMISSIONS ARE NOW CLOSED].
Margaret Christine Perkins from Notes From Maggie’s Farm: Do the recipes have to be Texan or particularly Austin-y?
No. Austin has longstanding culinary traditions that are as important to the city as our founding families, but that doesn’t mean that the people who live in the area now have to cast off their own food experiences to conform to what Austin food “should” be. People move to Austin from all over the world, and that’s one of the reasons our culinary scene is so unique. We want to honor that diversity by showcasing food that you identify with and that represents who you are. Recipes that have memories associated with them have the most meaning for us personally, and that emotional connection to food is what will make this book really sing.
Tiffany Harelik of Trailer Food Diaries: I’m the type of person that cooks with a pinch of this and a dash of that, and I never make the same recipe twice, especially for things like my fried chicken. How exact do we need to be and which version of my dish should I use?
At the class last week, Michael Chu of Cooking For Engineers recommended using a scale’s tare (or zero-out) feature to calculate how much of each ingredient you are using, even if you don’t use traditional measuring tools. For example, place a bowl on an electric scale and tare it so it’s back at zero. As you add flour and other seasonings for the fried chicken coating, reset the scale after each addition to record the amount, which you can translate to teaspoons, tablespoons or cups later. Establish a base recipe that is the very minimum that someone would need to know to understand your approach to the dish. In the recipe’s headnote, you can include information about the other ways that you like to spiff it up (for Tiffany, it’s soaking the chicken in sweet tea or even hot sauce).
Heather Santos of Midnite Chef asked: Should the bio be in first or third person? I’m thinking the bio should be third but the header should be first, like you are talking to the person about to prepare the recipe (those are fun to read). Thoughts?
We’re asking for bio in third person and headnote in first (“I” and “we”) or second (“you”). Admittedly, it’s hard to write about yourself in third person, but in most cookbooks and magazines, you’ll find short bios in the front to give you a feel for the people behind the articles and text. These kinds of bios have become popular in the “about me” section of food blogs, too. Talking directly to the cook is common in recipe headnotes, which introduce a recipe and act as a segue from the title to the ingredients. If there’s something tricky about the recipe or a way that you like to adapt it, this is the place to mention it. On the cookbook submission form, we just have a single entry point for “story behind the recipe,” which is where you can give some back story as well as tips that a cook would want to know before starting.
Melissa Joulwan of Clothes Make the Girl: Can we reuse recipes from our blogs, or do you want completely original recipes for the book?
You can definitely reuse recipes from your blog! We’d really like to see original recipes, but some of our best dishes might be ones that were inspired by other bloggers but that we made our own. It’s as easy as substituting ingredients that suit your family’s tastes and adding a twist that the original creator might not have thought of. Just be honest about where your recipes and inspiration come from. We all like to get a pat on the back for our work, and there is no greater compliment than someone taking your work and using it to inspire something else entirely, with credit, of course. (Just ask Austin Kleon, the Austin artist and blogger who recently published “How To Steal Like An Artist.“)
Thanks to our cookbook sponsor, Cooking Planit!