It’s hard to believe, but it’s been six months since I first kicked off my own #ThatTranslatorCanCook and #Write52 challenge. Half a year. 26 weeks. That’s 25 recipe translations and 25 musings about translation challenges, ingredient substitutions, and whatever else happens to take my fancy. But not this time. This post is a little different.
I’ve read many a recipe in my day. But this challenge has forced me to venture outside my comfort zone. I’ve travelled to many unfamiliar websites, and I’ve sampled many different cookbooks.
The very act of translation means you analyse the text you’re translating – much more so than if you were to simply read it. You pick up on more. During the challenge, I’ve noticed various different approaches to recipes and cookbooks. Their style, their format, their tone of voice, their layout, and their organisation. Naturally, they follow trends too, and these, and the audience’s expectations, differ depending on the cultural context they inhabit.
As part of this, I’ve developed my own idea of an ideal cookbook, and have a few favourites. The below has been created using a sprinkling of my own thoughts, and hearty helpings of inspiration from my peers on social media – thank you!
A recipe for the ultimate cookbook
Good writing with a distinctive authorial voice
Clear, logically-ordered instructions which ‘say what the preparation should be like at each step.' (i.e. Cook onions 45 min or until caramelised) – Thanks to Andie Ho for this one
Large, well-styled pictures which inspire
Realistic timings for cooking and preparation
Well-tested recipes that work for the intended audience and context
Localised recipes which use available ingredients or offer possible substitutions
Measurements which are consistent, realistic, and localised for the audience
Add all ingredients to a beautifully bound colourful book and sort according to meal, dish type, or if you prefer, season. Add an index by main ingredient to finish.
Alternatively, you may choose to sort according to occasion. Additionally, if you like, you could include some of the following:
indication of the level of difficulty
interesting anecdotes, cultural references, stories, or even music related to the food
possible variations or substitutions for ingredients, inviting experimentation
step-by-step pictures – this is particularly helpful for tricky techniques that are difficult to describe
printed on paper that can be written on
Cookbook hall of fame
Below is a list of some favourite cookbooks, and the reason they love them.
Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem – for inviting experimentation - K-Rae Nelson
Rose Levy Beranbaum – for testing all her recipes with UK ingredients before releasing the British edition of her baking book – Claire Ivins
Deborah Madison for Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – for being printed on paper you can write on – K-Rae Nelson
Nigella Lawson’s Feast – for being divided by occasion – Helen Sanchez J
Leon’s cookbook – for ticking all the boxes – Theresa Leon Moreno
Cerys Matthew’s Where the Wild Cooks Go – for the wow factor, including anecdotes and music recommendations – Jason Shilcock
Rose Elliot’s Complete Vegetarian – for its a huge number of vegetarian recipes, from the basic through to the more adventurous (think satay cauliflower) - me!
Jack Munroe's Cooking on a Bootstrap (and other books) – for incredibly good value yet tasty meals - me (although I haven't yet bought it, I've seen quite a few recipes online.
I’ll be back to translating and rambling on about recipes again! It looks like I might have a guest post sometime soon – keep an ear out.