Thursday, November 12, 2009

Crowd-Sourcing a Cookbook

Posted By on Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 12:47 PM

click to enlarge crowd.jpg

Bites is not a recipe site. Many of our readers do a great job developing recipes and sharing them with readers, and we try to feature them from time to time. Our very own Nicki Wood has great reputation as a cookbook editor, but there are more comprehensive places on the interwebs to figure out what to cook for dinner.

In an interesting experiment, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs are actually composing a cookbook based on recipes submitted online and juried by their readers. is a blog where Hesser and Stubbs present weekly contests for home chefs to enter recipes in various categories. The editors select potential winners and present slideshows or videos of themselves actually preparing the meals. Then the food52 community selects their favorites which will eventually be published as a full cookbook.

Their intention is to have the readers also choose the title of the book, select the photos and design the cover. And presumably these same readers will represent a ready-made audience to purchase the hard copy after it has been published by HarperStudio, even though all the recipes will already be online.

It does sound like a fun project, but I wonder if this utterly democratic process can actually produce something worth adding to your kitchen shelf. I guess it can't be much different from a Junior League or church group effort, which I know Nicki has seen more than her share of. But the real value of a cookbook editor is to be able to mentally prepare a virtual meal from a written recipe and to watch out for the pitfalls which might come from ambiguities in your grandma's secret biscuit formula. Was that a teaspoon or a tablespoon of vanilla? "Did I say baking powder? I meant baking soda. My bad."

What do you think? Does it sound like something you'd contribute to? Something you'd buy? Personally, I think I'll stick to the Hoppin' John from that dog-eared Savannah Girl Scout Council Cookbook I found in a yard sale years ago.

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