What do you feel when writing a recipe?
Is the process similar to what a tornado would cause by setting its tail on your kitchen?
Or do you always measure your ingredients up to the tiniest millimeters?
Well, you don’t have to be a chef to know that cooking is liberating. Every dish, every type of cuisine and every method contain a small world of possibilities in themselves. Cooking is how many of us unleash our creativity (heck, I’d love to be good at DIY crafts but I never learned to cut in a straight line).
But, if you’re writing about food for others, either for people to know about your daily kitchen victories or just to share a favorite recipe, the whole scene changes.
If you want people to remember, not only do your food tales have to be understandable and appealing, but your recipes have to be foolproof.
A little over a week ago I attended my first food blogging conference, the International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) presented by Foodista and in Seattle. I was lucky to hear a food tornado: Shauna James Ahern, more commonly known as The Gluten-Free Girl. After her session on Professional Recipe Development, I think we all left with the impression that you don’t have to sacrifice flavor for form. But you do need both.
And maybe a glass of wine to help the words flow?
Here are my takeaways:
On precision (aka the FORM in your writing):
“Cooking is at the moment. is spontaneous. It’s this beautiful moment of being present. Creating a recipe is nothing like that.”: You gotta trace and re-trace your steps, gotta make recipes timeless beings that people can reproduce if they like it,
Your recipes have to work. Simple as pie: people will come back to your blog if your recipes work. That’s why every time I make a recipe video I usually make the recipe a day or two before shooting it (to get inspired to write the script but also to jot down exact quantities)
“Stop offering substitutions — it’s liberating”: there are always going to be people who want to use this instead of that and who’d like for you to give them every single ingredient in a different measure unit. See “every comment on a recipe blog”. You can be generous, but stick to your ingredients.
“Learn the rules so you can break ‘em.” You gotta learn the specs, how to measure things the right way and how to mix them the right way (especially in baking). That said, once you learn and know the science behind the method, you can play around with it and create your own style — well, not with baking, with baking stick to science!
“You gotta remind people to stir”: mention even the smallest actions, there might be people who have never lifted a pan in their lives reading your recipes. That’s one of the reasons why I also prefer showing, rather than telling it 😉
On heart (aka the FLAVOR in your writing):
- “A recipe is much a reflection of who you are.”: for those of us who regard food as something more than just to keep chewing on, food is an experience and cooking it expresses a bit of ourselves in that experience. Write by staying true to who you are. Write because you like it, not because you’re looking for SEO keywords.
- Don’t be afraid to show your personality: goes hand in hand with being true. People like hearing “your story, your voice, the fact that you are vulnerable, that you make mistakes”. Every recipe has a story behind it. Each and every one of them.
True cooking is not about competing: sure, there are a thousand other pumpkin pies, but don’t feel like you have the need to fight all the other ones off. There are enough pieces for everyone!
Create what you love: the recipes you write reflect who you are the most when you are creating things you love. Sure, you can also tackle on challenges and whatnot, but at least you’ll be doing it because you love it. People will love you for it.
Shauna’s spirit and made me realize there is so much to learn in the world of recipe development and writing about food, something I have to get better at since I’m pretty much used to saying things on video… but hey, who says this learning process won’t be fun AND delicious?
As a first-timer with food blogging conferences, this session was a really encouraging, cherry-on-top for me, one of many illustrative experiences I lived on the IFBC weekend. A summary post (with #IFBCroadtrip adventures and video) coming up soon!
Disclaimer: I enjoyed a reduced-fee for the conference in exchange for writing about it. However, all opinions are definitely my own!