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Eat Your Words: Your 8-Point Checklist for Writing Original Recipes

Food writer, cook, and committed vegan Peggy Brusseau explains how you can craft a cookbook that engages your reader and stands out from the crowd.

It could be a word you over-hear, an aroma you catch as you walk past someone’s home, a selection of vegetables catching the light in your local market. Something gives you an idea for a new dish; when an idea hits, you must be ready to magic it into real life.

(Using Recipes in Your Non-Cookbook Manuscript: What You Need to Know)

1. Rough Out Your Idea

You might express yourself with pots and pans, but this is the right moment to pick up a pencil! Write down everything you imagine about your new dish: its flavor, texture, and color; the ingredients you think you will need, including herbs and spices, garnishes, and sauces. You can even do a sketch of it if that will help you hold on to the inspiration.

2. Try It Out

You can do this immediately if you wish. Often, there is nothing like the present moment—even a midnight moment—to make the most of a good idea. The creative force cannot be suppressed! However, sometimes you will do a better job if you wait and do some research before you test your idea. Simply swap this step with step number four. The result is a “less haste; more speed” precaution that works best for some dishes. Whichever order you choose, make sure you...

The Contented Vegan

The Contented Vegan by Peggy Brusseau

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3. Record Everything!

Writing a recipe starts with that pencil. No, really! You have to do this part. Date a page on your jotter and make note of every ingredient, how much you use and why you have selected it. Write down prep details, oven temperatures, and the type of pans you used. If you are using flour, note the brand, the grind, and even the weather (a damp day really does affect the flour). This step might seem petty but it can be the thing that helps you rescue a lack-luster recipe and make it brilliant.

4. Do Your Research

The aim of research is to boost your enthusiasm for the dish you are creating. Good research is a pleasure and will help you understand each ingredient, including its history and traditional use. Your bed-time reading can make you an expert in pastry applique or simply remind you of the best pan to use for cooking tomato sauce. “In the field” research includes buying four brands of the same spice and deciding which is best. Research is a way of life!

(How to Write a Good Nonfiction Book in a Month)

5. You’ve Made Your Dish, Now Eat It

Prepare your recipe to your best standard. Follow your own notes, recall your vision for the dish and serve it exactly as you imagined you would to family, friends and… yourself. Now follow through by assessing it in every detail: appearance, aroma, flavor, texture, and how well it went with the rest of the meal. Notice whether others finished their portion and listen out for comments. Make note of these and of your personal reactions, too.

6. Repair and Repeat

The best recipes need adjustments – it’s called development! Don’t think of these as failures, but as enhancements to your basic idea. Work through the ingredient list and see if there is scope to use a different amount or a better type of each ingredient. Look at the recipe method to see if you can achieve a better result by altering the techniques and timings you have included so far. Read through your notes about what it was like to eat the dish. If it was delicious but looked like slush, you know you have to work with color and texture. Do the work; of course it’s gonna be great!

Eat Your Words: Your 8-Point Checklist for Writing Original Recipes

7. Clarify and Simplify

Sometimes you can work on this point at the same time as step number six, but here you are thinking entirely of the person who will make your dish by following your recipe. Whether they live in the next town or in another country, you won’t be there to advise them while they are cooking. Your recipe has to do that. So, the main task you face is to write your recipe to prevent any concern or confusion in their experience. Can you ease their way by reducing the time it takes to prepare, the cost of ingredients or trimming away non-essential effort? You want to broaden the appeal of your dish while helping them succeed in preparing it. Generally, that means simplifying the method and clarifying what they should expect at each stage.

8. Serve “Hot”

Deliver your finished recipe onto the page with the same sizzling enthusiasm you had at the start. Write a short introduction to the recipe that tells the story of your idea. If it is your version of a generic dish, such as apple pie, then say so – but also celebrate what is different about it. Write in your unique voice to let your reader get to know you. Imagine you are with them in the kitchen and write to them, just as you might speak to them, showing your personality and sharing your special approach to food and cooking.

Writing an original recipe is a cross between creative flourish and a technical manual. These are of equal importance because, together, they can induce a successful transformation of the food in another person’s kitchen into the flavorsome, appealing dish you know it can become.

Research, interview, and explore the subjects that interest you. Then write about what you've learned in Writing Nonfiction 101: Fundamentals. Writing nonfiction is a great way for beginner and experienced writers to break into the publishing industry.

Research, interview, and explore the subjects that interest you. Then write about what you've learned in Writing Nonfiction 101: Fundamentals. Writing nonfiction is a great way for beginner and experienced writers to break into the publishing industry.

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