Monday, May 5, 2008

Recipe Formatting

Earlier today, I was on the telephone with my little brother James. He is only somewhat experienced in the kitchen so I trust him to give me the "Average Joe's" feedback regarding my blog and its recipes. We were discussing the new blog format: picture widget--introduction--ingredient list--directions--closing comments. One of his criticisms, a long, meandering descriptive recipe, has been addressed by the new format but he still had something to say regarding the ingredients list. He would like to see something, maybe an asterisk, next to hard to find ingredients. He makes a good point: It is horribly demoralizing to find a recipe and make a shopping list which includes an obscure ingredient but be unable to find/purchase the ingredient. I have been there and, for that very reason, usually go shopping with shopping lists for three or four dishes. If I can't find the special ingredient necessary for dish #1, I shop for dish #2. By providing an asterisk next to a hard to find ingredient, my readers can quickly scan an ingredient list and figure out if the recipe is cookable given their specific situation. I guess I would have to use common sense to determine what is "hard-to-find."

However, the issue of hard-to-find would be negated if I didn't cook such exotic food. One of the main reasons I write this blog is because I am trying to get people (read: fat Americans) out of McDonald's and back into the kitchen. I figure if my readers see a normal guy, such as myself, cooking good food on a regular basis, it might provide the impetus they need to give it a try for themselves. If there is anything I can do to make the transition from fast food restaurant to home cooked meal a little bit easier, I am all for it. The problem, as I mentioned before, is that I like to cook and eat exotically spiced food. How many of you already have ground turmeric, kalonji, ajowain and fenugreek seeds in your pantry? I fear that most of the things I cook are literally foreign to the majority of my readers which puts me in a quandry: Do I start cooking turkey sandwiches and spaghetti to make the recipes friendlier or do I continue on my current path? The clear answer, at least to me, is to cook the food I love to eat and hope others see the light.

During my discussion with James, I pointed out that missing an ingredient shouldn't necessarily prevent someone from executing a recipe because there are usually substitutes. This is where his advice was really, REALLY appreciated. I sometimes forget that I have a great deal more experience cooking than do most of my readers so James used this example: A cooking newbie comes to my blog and finds a recipe for Thai red curry. The newb can't find coconut milk and figures, "How important could it be? I'll leave it out." The result? Inedible disaster. The point is that I can't depend on my readers to figure out for themselves what ingredient is replaceable or omit-able.

In light of James' request, I will start asterisk-ing strange ingredients and, if possible, providing what I think is an acceptable substitute.

Any thoughts?


Brittany B. said...

Yeah, that makes sense. The people I know who don't like to cook are the ones who can't seem to manage an end product that's edible. I've discovered that, despite claims that they follow the recipes, they often make substitutions that make absolutely no sense, or simply leave things out. Obviously if an ingredient is hard to find, it is more likely to be left out or suffer an inferior substitution. :)

Mike Czyzewski said...

thanks, brittany. hope things are well with you!

James said...

Your brother sounds like a very wise man.

Mike Czyzewski said...

He just thinks he is. :-)