My personal cookbook

So how do you keep track of all the recipes that come flying at you in blogs, emails, websites, subscriptions, your mom’s index cards…. and even books? What happens if you travel somewhere? How do you access this? I’m getting the idea that what I do is somewhat unorthodox – I’ve found I’m usually on the path less travelled – but none the less there are occasional kindred spirits along the road.

This is about how I keep track of it all. We’ll see how many of you think the idea actually has some legs.

My inspiration goes back to about 2009 and a book The The Cure for Death by Lightning By Gail Andersen Dargatz.   This is a wonderful, tragic, deep hitting novel about a poverty stricken community in rural BC in the late 1940’s. In it the mother of the main family keeps a scrapbook in which she puts and writes anything to do with her cooking. It forms not just a personal recipe collection and reflection, it is a diary – the life of her family revealed through a culinary perspective. I thought at the time that its a cool idea  – and wondered how it could happen for me.

It didn’t take me long to fix on Excel as the vehicle to go with. Recipes on the internet are always  written in columnar fashion. I use excel for virtually any function that requires data entry, and feel very comfortable in this environment. It enables tons of text data without taking up a lot of space. It can be sorted so that a chronology can be entered. It’s easy to copy and paste a recipe – most of the time recipes are a simple copy and paste. It’s equally easy to respond to those “Ooooh! that was delicious – can you send me the recipe?”. Sure. No problem. It’s easy to find, easy to copy into an email and send it along.

In the last few years I’ve migrated it to Google sheets   – this enables me to use whatever computer I’m at without worrying about backups,

How it works

  • Each sheet is a different food category: baking, desserts, soups, salads, etc.
  • Each column is one recipe.
  • Each row has a few common elements: row 1: title; row 2: source or URL row 3: date entered; row 4 notes. Below that its however the recipe comes to you.
  • And that folks is it!

I should note that I have a couple of other sheets not part of this: a bread baking log, a sausage log, and a fermentation log.  

How can you use it?

  • Being a google sheet, and in columns, its easy to read and even edit on an android phone.
  • I can make changes on the fly without having to worry about saving or backing up
  • Easily store every recipe you have.
  • Share it with your loved ones – in effect creating a growing family cookbook. In my case, only my son has editing privileges. He’s turning out to be a good cook, and he knows Excel a lot better than I do. As I noted to him, “This spreadsheet constitutes your culinary DNA.”
  • Whenever a friend makes something that I find remarkable, I’ll get them to contribute. This usually means they tell me orally what the recipe is, I write it down, and put it in the spreadsheet. Then I send them a copy of that by email with the question – “Is this what you meant?” Once they are clear and I am clear this is the recipe, in it goes
  • Copying a recipe, you have the option to either paste the text only or keep it in a table. Thus you could easily pick off certain recipes and put them together as a small self published book for friends.
  • Use any of the empty cells to do measurement calculations
  • Like with any spreadsheets you can widen or narrow the rows and  columns. The text wrapping controls offer more possibilities than Excel.

Generally if you are comfortable in a spreadsheet environment, you will be comfortable with this.  Since its a google sheet, it’s best viewed in Chrome. If you don’t have it already, you may need to get Google Drive from their play store. If you can download it as an Excel document that will work too.

If this means of storing recipes is an idea you would like to play with, download it as an Excel file, then do your playing. You don’t even need to do that. The concept is the thing.

What I have done is to copy and paste one of the sheets with all its warts and wrinkles. I’ve made it editable by anyone with the link. It means that I am prepared for it to be inadvertently (or deliberately) messed up. I figure that chances are it will be ok, but if it’s not I’ll just copy and paste from my personal file. If you like it as an approach to store your recipes, great. Go for it. The value is more in the process than in the recipes themselves.

As the years go by, it grows. How can it not? At this point, after 6 years, I’m about at 600 recipes. Who knows where it will go.

Here’s the link https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1qCoT2R1XCij-vHwCGcr-C0LwxZqcTfJDQuXHauxpEpE/edit#gid=0

I am curious in this day of infinite possibilities, how do you keep track of your recipes?

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