Last week we looked at advice on editing food topics. Today we’ll continue with the only market in which you can eat your education: honing in on recipes, thanks again to specialist Julia Armstrong.
Here’s more of what Julia has to say:
Know the target audience
Who is going to use the magazine or cookbook you’re editing. Experienced cooks will understand what to do if the method says “Deglaze pan,” but will everyone? It may be preferable to spell out the steps.
Use the right measurements
Many Canadians still cook and bake using imperial measurements (1 cup, 1 tbsp, etc.). If you’re working for a Canadian publication, find out in advance if metric equivalents are to be included as well. If so, you need a list of standard equivalents. Ask the editor for the house style guide. If there isn’t one, refer to the recipes in a trusted magazine or cookbook and make a list so that you’re consistent. (You can get Julia’s list at her workshop.)
Follow ingredient conventions
Did you know that there are rules about the order in which to list ingredients? We’ll discuss why during the workshop. We’ll also talk about the pitfalls of imprecision in the ingredient list and method. Will the user know:
- exactly what to buy and in what quantity/volume/weight?
- how to prepare the ingredient (let thaw? trim? chop? slice?)
- in what size and type of vessel the mixture is to be cooked and how (over medium heat? covered? stirring occasionally?)
- and for how long it is to be cooked/baked?
Vet nutrient claims
Beware of casually tossing off terms like low-fat and high in fibre. The Government of Canada has established nutrient content claims that determine when it is appropriate to use such terms for one serving of a dish or product. Unless nutrient analysis has been done by a dietician, you won’t know how many grams of fat or fibre are in a serving of the recipe in question.
Use style guides and references
Today’s cuisine embraces so many global influences and ethnic ingredients that you'll need a good food dictionary to supplement your regular dictionary. Here are two that many food writers and editors have on their reference shelves: The Cook's Essential Kitchen Dictionary: A Complete Culinary Resource and The New Food Lover’s Companion.
Julia began her publishing career in the copy department at Canadian Living, and went on to be chief copy editor of Toronto Life, then a senior editor at Style at Home. Her advice also draws on experience copy editing and proofread several cookbooks for HarperCollins, Random House, and Robert Rose as well as from being project editor for The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook by Elizabeth Baird and The Canadian Living Test Kitchen.