Why write a cookbook?
You cook because you love to. You improve and improvise, create your own recipes. Your reward is the compliments of those who enjoy your efforts. You deserve more. You deserve your own cookbook.
Where do you start?
Choose your topic. What are you good at, known for? Keep it short and simple to start with. You can always expand, but it becomes difficult when your dish cannot fit in the oven.
Ideas for topics
Choosing your topics is like choosing ingredients. Too many and you get a dish that tastes like everything and nothing. So focus on what you are good at and give it structure.
You can choose a certain category of food. Soup. Stew. Soups and stews. Are you good at baking? Cakes or cookies? Baked pudding or bread? Or both.
You may well be a category expert. Cape Malay from Salomi to Koeksuster. The princess of pasta, the king of curry, the main man of Mexican. Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, twenty ways to make a hamburger, twenty dishes you never knew you could braai. Birthday party delights.
Your topic could reflect your circumstances. Cooking for one, for two, for many. Catering for growing boys. Quick midweek meals for working parents. Do you have to cater for a diabetic in your family? Do you have to cater for a picky eater, but refuse to be a restaurant?
Or your book could be recipes not your own. Perhaps you live in a close-knit community, with various cooks giving you their recipes everyone loves. This community may be a street in a suburb, or it could a group of friends or all the aunts and uncles in your extended family.
Do you know that book on your shelf, the one with the handwritten recipes and magazine cut-outs stuck in? Blommie’s Beskuit – that one. You could pick the recipes you know works well and turn that into your cookbook. Just remember to acknowledge Blommie.
Who will use your book? Are they capable cooks or do you have to explain what blind baking is?
Write down your chosen recipes. Read them through the eyes of someone who has not been in your kitchen, or get someone else to read them. Can the reader recreate them? How much is a shake of nutmeg? How long and how warm is “bake until set”. If you use a pinch of something, measure your pinch. Half a teaspoon?
When in doubt, cook the dish and take pictures of each step.
Food photography is tricky. Even your greatest dish can look like a brown blob. Look at the pictures in glossy cookbooks and see how they used colour and texture and garnish to get appetizing results. Where possible, get a good photographer to help you.
Pictures taken on your phone are usually in RGB, a screen format. They need to be converted to CMYK for printing. They also need to be a specific pixel size, called DPI or PPI. Speak to your friendly Asset Print manager about this. It sounds technical, but we can help.
Layout and typesetting
Your cookbook will most likely be around A4 page size, or A5 (an A4 folded in the middle of the long side). Use 11 or 12 point type on your chosen size and this will quickly give you an idea of how copy-dense your pages will be.
Unless you have some training in typesetting and page layout, you will need the help of a graphic designer, or speak to your Asset Print manager – yet again we can guide you there.
Also, speak to us about paper stock, what kind of binding to use, cover options and so forth.
What are you waiting for?
Publishing a cookbook is like cooking a meal. What are you going to make? Get the ingredients; prepare the ingredients, cook or bake. Serve. Enjoy.