Blank Recipe Cards vs The Cranky Granny

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Blank Recipe Card Madness

Ruth and I collided as I pulled ginger snaps out of the oven. “Oh my goodness, Matilda, I’m sorry,” she said. We both creak over to pick up the mess of recipe cards scattered across her kitchen floor.

“Ruth,” I say patiently, because Ruth sometimes needs a little patience. “Recipe cards? Why not punch cards? Or better yet scrawl some symbols on slabs of stone or papyrus?”

“I like to be able to pick up any card for any time to get cooking at a moment’s notice.” She looks at me a little shy. Like she isn’t 64, hasn’t cooked for 7 grandchildren, and hasn’t ever seen anything as confrontational as a cranky granny who owns a cookbook software company.

“Ruth,” I say, maybe a little less patiently. “I can’t even make out some of these, scrawled out in pencil and nearly rubbed out with butter and grease. And how long does it take you to find a card? It takes a moment’s notice to stuff a card in that old box, but how long does it take to find it again?”

“But I just like blank recipe cards. You take a blank recipe card and you can write anything you want on it. A blank recipe card is like a new day. Anything can happen.”

Ruth is a romantic. Romantic grandmas can be very stubborn people. But she’s only 64, still young and impressionable. So I put up my best argument.

“If you use my software to print your own recipe book, all your recipes will always be in alphabetical order every time by recipe type. All your cookies will always be with all your other cookies. All your soups will be with all your other soups. And when it gets so warn out that you are embarrassed to show it to your best friend–ahem–you can just print another copy. And print out a copy for her too.”

She flinches a little. “But the blank recipe cards, Matilda! I love the blank recipe cards!”

I knew I had her. “So you can still use the blank recipe cards. Write on them all you want. But then staple them to the blank pages inside your recipe book. That way they stay organized. A cookie recipe card gets stapled to a cookie page in your cookbook. Once a year, type all the cards into my software, hit print, and just like that you’ve got an updated cookbook.”

She stayed silent, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I had another customer. She may have only been 64, and a romantic 64 at that. But she was old enough to see a little reason.

For more information about cookbook software, click here.

Bill Cosby Does Not Sell Yorkshire Pudding

From time to time I’ll add in some of my favorite recipes. This one is a favorite of mine from the Olde Country. The “e” in Olde stands for England.

Yorkshire Pudding Recipe

Yorkshire Pudding, despite what the Yanks may think, has absolutely nothing to do with Bill Cosby or Jello. Yorkshire Pudding came about some time ago when food supplies were short and the squalid masses needed something to stretch out a stringy piece of meat. Originally it was referred to as “English Meat Grease Bread,” I believe, or I could be making that part up. The people of Yorkshire have a reputation for bluntness, so maybe not.

Anyway, despite its meager beginnings, it’s a delightful way to use the delicious drippings from a nice roast or steak or even sausage. Always cook it right before you serve it. It doesn’t keep, unless of course you work in a Yorkshire pub, in which case they will serve it to you months after it should be thrown out.

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup flour (4 oz)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon water
2 eggs

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450.
Sift flour and salt into a bowl.
Make a well in center and add milk and water gradually, beating with a wooden spoon.
Beat eggs separately until fluffy.
Add to flour mix.
Beat until bubbles rise to surface.
Pour batter into a pitcher and refrigerate for 1/2 hr.

When meat is done, remove from pan and place on a warm platter.
Re-beat batter and pour quickly into still hot cooking pan.
Bake in oven for ten min at 450.
Reduce heat to 350 and cook for 15 min more, or until it is well risen and has turned golden brown.
Serve immediately from pan in which it was cooked.

The Top 3 Family Cookbook Mistakes

cookbook ideas

There are many reasons to make a cookbook (church, business, etc), but this story focuses on ideas for family cookbooks.

Maybe you buy my fine software. Maybe you go it alone using Microsoft Word. Or maybe (heaven forbid) you go with one of those scoundrel competitors. Whichever you do, let’s be clear on one thing: You are a saint.

Really.

It was your idea to put together a document of the most precious things you give to your most precious people–the food you feed your family. Someday you’ll be dead and everyone will be very grateful. For the coobook you left them, that is. Not that you’re dead.

But I’m afraid, my poor dears, you are going to screw it up along the way.

Can’t be helped. Nobody every published anything perfectly the first time, and if it’s your first crack at it that’ll be especially true. The following tips won’t prevent all the mistakes, but they’ll at least clear the way for some new ways to goof. Alas, life is about learning.

Mistake #1. Making the One Final Perfect Family Cookbook.

Oh, I see it all the time. You spend hundreds of hours pouring over every recipe, quibbling over every detail. You go with one of these big Vanity printing presses that charge you thousands of dollars to get them printed. You proudly hand them to every family member. And have no idea why they get buried at the bottom of a cupboard.

Why? Because there’s no such thing as The One Final Perfect Family Cookbook. There are ALWAYS new ideas and new recipes to add. There are always little typos you missed along the way. And even if there weren’t, what does that tell the rest of your family when you foist on them a giant tome? “It’s not yours.” That’s what.

Go with a lower budget! Give everyone a cheaper book and say, “Mark it up and return it to me next Christmas!” Make your Family Cookbook a living, breathing document that gets added to every year, not just by you but by everyone. It won’t get buried in the cupboard, dear, if it belongs to everybody.

Mistake #2. Making the Family Recipe Book About Recipes

Last Christmas did you run into the house, tear open the presents and leave without talking to anyone? I certainly hope not. The holidays are the one chance to see everybody. Even the smelly ones are nice for a little while.

Building a family recipe book with just recipes is like ripping open presents and running out the door. Stay a while. Put some photos in there of big events. Write some scuttlebutt. (Nothing too scandalous!) Throw in an address book and birthday calendar if you want. (My software helps you do that, at the risk of tooting my own horn.) The point is to make it a family recipe book and a family year book. Will Great Uncle Larry really care about your new peanut brittle recipe? Probably not. But he’ll take a look at it if it’s got a photo of him at third base seats in Shea Stadium.

The idea of Christmas isn’t the presents. The idea of a recipe book isn’t food. It’s feeding people you love. Let your book reflect that by involving people in the book.

Mistake #3. Bad Proof Reading.

If you are writing your family cookbook, you are going to be a lousy editor. Even if you are a good editor most of the time, you will disappoint yourself with what you missed. Get two or three people to help you.

I always tell my proof readers there’s a Waldo on every page. As in “Where’s Waldo.” The Waldo is a mistake that I know about. “If you are half as clever as you think you are,” I say, “you’ll see it.” Sometimes there isn’t a Waldo, but more often than not the proof reader will find it anyway.

That’s all the mistakes I can think of for now. I suspect I’ll be adding to this as I continue to make more. The most important thing to remember about your cookbook, and life, is that the mistakes mostly don’t really matter. If you’ve shown people you love them and you pass on a little knowledge, the hiccups along the way tend to sort themselves out.

If you are interested in some really great cookbook software, come check it out at CookbookPeople.com.

Warning: Armed and Cranky

I go and put together this software for making family cookbooks, and next thing you know my nephew Willie is saying, “Grandma, you need a blog on MySpace.”

Ammunition.

I tell him I’ve got all my space I need, but he won’t leave me alone. So I hit him with a large turnip. Crack! Right in the melon. Wiped that know-it-all look right off.

But you know he’s a smart little firecracker, even if he had to wear a diaper until he was 8. He’s some hotshot marketing executive now, and if he says I need one of these blogs to help me sell my cookbook software, well, then I guess I’ll give it a try.

So here I am. I (and a team of scurilous ne’er-do-wells that I’ve kept in line with a sharp stare and good aim) put together Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software, and this is the blog I’ll use to give you handy hints on how to use it.

While I’m at it, I’ll throw in some tips on how to print out your cookbook at Kinko’s without letting those eggheads get all snooty on you. (Hint: bring them a tray of macademia cookies.)

I might also spread some gossip about my nephew, reply to any comments you have, and just generally waste too much time here when I could be cooking. Please feel free to comment on our software, or better yet buy it. Whatever you do, keep it polite.

I’ve got a turnip and I know how to use it.