RE: Tech writers and cookbooks

Subject: RE: Tech writers and cookbooks
From: "Krezel, Lillian" <Lillian -dot- Krezel -at- midata-ebs -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 14:13:19 -0500

One of my favorite items in my collection of good techwriting samples
IS a cookbook -- actually a 2-volume set, Julia Child's et. al.
"Mastering the Art of French Cooking".

The first of these was published in 1961, well before DTP or any other
form of computer-assisted book editing or manufacturing. The
publisher took care to design the book's layout to *enhance* the
content and intent of the writing (what a concept!).

Recipes are presented in two columns. Left column lists *utensils*
as well as ingredients for each major part of the recipe. I can see at
a glance whether I have everything I need to make it. Right column
has prose instructions, not numbered steps; they are consistently written
in the order you do them, with possible exceptions noted at the point
they occur. If you can prepare part of a recipe ahead of time, it is
clearly marked as such. Instructions to continue note any extra step
if there was a hiatus, e.g., "Let the bowl of chilled sauce come to
room temperature before proceeding." Variations of a recipe are
presented at the end, cross-referenced to other recipes as needed.

My favorite part is the index. These were clearly done by a professional
indexer, with entries listed under their major terms. E.g., "Vegetables,
Hot, Eggplant" and "Eggplant". Most certainly NOT "Mary Jane's Eggplant."
(I have another cookbook that *is* indexed like that -- and thereby
rendered useless. One of these days I'll make a good index for it.)
Best of all IMO, the index of Volume 2 is cumulative and printed in two
colors, so you only have to look in one index to find anything in the set
and it is obvious at a glance which book your recipe is in.

I learned not just French cooking, but cooking in general from these
books, because the whys of the basic techniques are clearly explained,
and discussed separately from the whats of a particular recipe. If you
don't know these books, I suggest looking them up and studying
their layout.


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