Meditations

Much ado about recipes


Chicken Marsala Recipe on Rouxbe Screenshot

Chicken Marsala Recipe from Rouxbe.com

I’m facing a dilemma I’ve faced several times before. What to do about recipes?

We don’t focus on churning out lots of start-to-finish recipes here on Foodists, mainly because it’s more about sharing food experiences rather than “just” recipes. But we do share our recipes, and try and tag the blog entries with ingredient hints to help find them. Still, it’s not ideal for sharing lots of recipes.

Most of my cooking using recipes falls into the “inspired by”, “adapted from”, or “I’m sure it’ll be fine if I substitute half the ingredients” categories. But I’d like to keep track of those sources, whether it be from just the right Google search or from a physical cookbook.

And yes, I’ve got lots of cookbooks. At the one end I’ve got basics like Joy of Cooking and Fannie Farmer, and at the other end I’ve got various cookbooks from second hand or thrift stores, plus a smattering of regional cuisines purchased while traveling. While I like nothing better to sit down with piles of cookbooks all around me, engrossed in reading and dreaming of food, it’s not very practical to a) easily find a recipe amongst dozens of cookbooks or b) to share that recipe. Where’s my digital index for my physical cookbooks?!

I tried to solve my dilemma a while back by building my own recipe website. It does a passable job of sharing links to recipes I’ve found elsewhere, and a pretty terrible job at inputting recipes with full ingredients and instructions. And, I really don’t need to be maintaining yet-another-website.

So over the holidays, I again began looking for a great place to make my “digital recipe home”.

My first stop was at Foodista. It’s a startup out of Seattle that’s just barely a year old, run by a friend of a friend. Foodista is unique in being a kind of Wikipedia of cooking. You can set recipes to be public, which means that anyone can edit and evolve them, whether that means fixing mistakes, clarifying the directions, or adding a note that Brand X flour needs to be used differently. I love this feature, and I love the concept of seeing the history or changes of recipes over time.

They also have a widget that links blogs to recipes and vice versa (similar to Urbanspoon). Here’s an example of a Foodista widget for my favourite Czechoslovakian Cabbage Soup recipe: Czechoslovakian Cabbage Soup (Nutbread & Nostalgia) on Foodista

Foodista is still relatively new and will be evolving more features (check out my taste profile). I’ve already left a comment about making it easy to link in my own photos from Flickr.

Next stop was our own local recipe / learning website, Rouxbe. I’ve got an account from ages ago, and couldn’t recall if they actually let you enter in your own recipes. They do, so I started work on entering in Shredded Short Ribs with BBQ sauce that I made over the holidays. At first, I was excited by the interface, which lets you upload a photo for each step. Ultimately, I gave up before completing and publishing the recipe, because there were too many fields and too much to fill out.

I think Rouxbe has a great interface for longer recipes, especially those with unfamiliar or complicated techniques (many of which they have video tutorials for that you can link in), and I would definitely use it for that kind of recipe. They even have a “Save as Draft” feature to make it easier to finish inputting those long recipes. Here’s the embed for the Chicken Marsala that I used a screenshot of at the beginning of this post – the embed is gorgeous, but at the same time doesn’t show the ingredients (which is what *I* would want out of a widget) and busts out of this blog layout:

Rouxbe Online Cooking School & Video Recipes

So, Foodists, help me with my recipe dilemma: What recipe sites do you frequent? How do you share / keep track of recipes that you find online? What features do you want out of an ultimate recipe website?

And yes, I’m still contemplating building my own — recipes.foodists.ca anyone? :P

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