or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cookbook Reviews › Non-standard ways to organize recipes
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Non-standard ways to organize recipes

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
I like the tried and true tables of contents. Appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, desserts ... not that exact lineup, but variations on organization by courses. Within a course, breakdown by main ingredient. So all the beef entrees would be together, all the fish, etc. Perhaps in one chapter, perhaps in separate chapters.

The cookbooks that I use again and again stick to that kind of organization. I also have a few cookbooks, rarely used, that disdain the tried and true and venture into new organizing principles.

There's the book that organizes recipes by what time of year you're supposed to cook them. There's the one that organizes them by what kind of Moroccan spices they use. Anything I want to cook, I have to consult the index. It's hard to browse, and I end up not using the books.

Now that I'm copyediting cookbooks, I am running into other strange organizing principles. The authors seem to think that following the standard sequence is boring, and that they must do something innovative to stand out. The latest book is organized by a mishmash of principles, including "main ingredient" and "which of our three student restaurants serves this". It was completely ILLOGICAL. (Am I too much like Spock from Star Trek?)

I think my desire for a comprehensible structure is supported by cookbook sales figures. The books that sell in millions tend to be straighforward (so far as I know). But ... perhaps my prejudices are blinding me. Is there something to be said for non-traditional organizing principles?
post #2 of 4
As long as there is a good index, I'm pretty happy.

The book that peeved me organizationally was a Diane Kochilas cookbook on Greek food. It was an excellent book, but she chose a regional organization. So there were pitas of similar types all through the book in the different regions. It made it very difficult to compare possibilities and figure out which to cook. I'd have liked to have had a single rabbit pie entry and then break out the regional variations at that point. Much easier to cook from.

However, as a book highlighting regional differences and speaking about the regions, there was a reason to organize like she did. Informationally, it made sense, but as a cookbook, I think it hurt its usefulness. Others here disagreed with me, on that point.

It had a good index so all was not lost.
post #3 of 4
Actually, with the coffee table glosy cookbooks, my secret conspiracy theory is that they are organized by the colour photographs....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #4 of 4
Maybe it has to do with Greek cooking, Phil? :lol:

Dean and Catherine Karayanis' Regional Greek Cooking is, naturally enough, arranged the same way. And I found it rather disconcerting. Even with the index it's hard to find things.

On the other hand, I have no problems with non-traditional arrangements. Both Ana Sortun's Spice, and Andreas Viestad's Where Flavor was Born, for instance, are arranged by the major spice used. In both cases it seems like a logical and natural arrangement.

Nino Graziano's My Sicilian Cooking is arranged as Appetizers--First Courses--Second Courses--Desserts. Which initially seems like a curtailed version of the traditional course-by-course layout, but really isn't. The chapter titles are merely translations from the Italian. This arrangement does not follow the American (eg, French) course progression. And many (perhaps most, particularly in the primo and secondo sections) of the dishes are interchangable. But, here again, I don't find anything disconcerting.

I suspect Zora's problem is one merely of habit. We all get used to things being a certain way, and interpret that to mean "this is the right way." But there's nothing inherently right nor wrong about it.

A lot depends, I think, on the nature of the cuisine, and whether the book is intended for home cooks or for professionals. Home cooks are more likely, I beleive, to look for the course-by-course arrangement.

But what would you do with a book, say, about street foods of the world? Seemingly, the most logical arrangement would be by country or region. I think most people would agree with that. But such an arrangement couldn't get any further from the course-by-course type.

Actual case: The International Culinary Schools' new International Cuisine. I can't imagine any way of organizing it except the way they took. But it's certainly not the traditional course-by-course line up. Not even within chapters.

>I think my desire for a comprehensible structure is supported by cookbook sales figures.<

In the book industry it is never a good idea to attribute causal factors to known effects, unless you are privy to all marketing decisions. You'd be amazed at what determines how, and how well, books are sold.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
Reply
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Cookbook Reviews
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Food & Equipment Reviews › Cookbook Reviews › Non-standard ways to organize recipes