Recipe Wednesday: More Recipe Book Natterings

Okay, since people seem to be interested, perhaps I should turn one of my weekly postings into an update on gathering recipes and compiling recipe collections.  Perhaps that day shall be…Wednesday.  Yeah, Wednesday.  That’d be good.  Right?

So for the time being…for the next little while…I declare Wednesday to be “Recipe Wednesday”.

And in that vein….

One of my projects last week was to compile my historical recipes (mostly gathered and reconstructed through my involvement in the SCA) into a book.  I’d already done a lot of the work, as far as getting the recipes together into a single Word document and such.  But I want to be able to print nicely-bound copies of the volume, which means doing things like:

Standardizing typefaces and font formats:  I’d gathered a lot of my material from various menus and recipe files I’ve put together over the years.  But the files were all in different formats.  Some were formatted to print out as recipe booklets to distribute at feasts, while others were in the large-print format I print out and use when cooking at an event.  So when they were all gathered and pasted together, they looked a bit like a really odd (and long) ransom note.

So the first thing I did was to standardize all of the formats.  I chose Bookman Old Style as my primary font, but within that, each of the following has a distinct format:

  • Recipe title
  • Author
  • Original source recipe (usually from a historical text)
  • Ingredient
  • Instruction
  • Note

To see what the format I’ve chosen looks like, click the link below to open a PDF file containing a sample recipe:


I wanted the recipe title to be bold and easily readable as you scan through the book.  I also formatted it so that anything using that format will automatically be added to the book’s table of contents.

I thought the original source recipe should stand out a bit as well, so I ended up putting it in italics, then putting a border around it as well, to help distinguish it from the “Notes” section.

I think the formatting choices I’ve made make the recipes clean and easy to scan.

Standardization of ingredients and instructions:  The next thing I wanted to do was to go through and standardize the recipes themselves.  By this, I mean:

  • Eliminate most abbreviations.  I’ve gone through and tried to replace all of the standard abbreviations with the full word.  So instead of “teas.” or “t.”, you’ll see “teaspoon.”  Back when I was typing recipes onto 3″ x 5″ cards using a manual typewriter, abbreviations made sense.  After all, each keystroke introduced the potential for making a typo–which meant getting out the eraser, or the liquid paper, or sometimes starting over altogether.  But now, when typing and editing on a computer keyboard are so much easier, there’s no reason not to spell out the entire word.  (Or, if you still don’t want to type that much, there’s always “search and replace”.)
  • List ingredients in the order they appear in the recipe.
  • Make sure all ingredients used in the recipe appear in the ingredients list.  (Don’t you just hate getting three-quarters of the way through a recipe, only to discover that you need another ingredient that wasn’t listed?  And if your luck is anything like mine, it’ll be the one ingredient you don’t have and can’t substitute!)
  • Likewise, make sure all of the listed ingredients actually get used in the recipe.
  • Make sure cooking instructions are clear and concise.
  • List cooking times and temperatures, where known.
  • List number of servings and sizes, where known.

Once I had done all of that, I was surprised to see that my little collection of recipes was starting to look like a “real” cookbook.  It’s not there yet, but these are some good first steps!


About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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