Recipes 4.0

Dear Crabby,

What up with all the crazy colors on your recipes now, dog?

Colorblind

Dear Colorblind,

1. Sorry, you are probably S.O.L. on this one, because I like my color scheme.  Sorry.

2. Here’s my rant.  I have long, long believed that the recipe is a technology in desperate need of an upgrade.  You Cook’s Illustrated types will have no fucking idea what I am talking about.  Fair enough, please go and organize your jars of heirloom beans in alpha order while I talk this out.

The rest of yous might be able to appreciate this.   I am impatient when it comes to recipes.  I want to understand a recipe at a glance.  I don’t want to miss an important detail like the length of time I should saute a scallop before it turns into a rubber eraser.  So why are those important details so often lost in the middle of dry, wordy, finger-wagging sentences?

The way I see it, recipes should be as easy to immediately grasp as guitar tablature.  There’s a huge difference between this:

Place your index finger on the fourth string from the top at the second fret; place your middle finger on the fifth string from the top at the third fret; and place your pinky finger on the bottom string at the second fret; but refrain from hitting the top two strings.

and this:
d-major-chord.gifA paragraph is an imperfect form for a list of tasks that have varying difficulty and length.  We move from task to task. 

Also, why are the ingredient amounts listed separately from the instructions?  Some people measure every ingredient out onto individual bowls in a dish-dirtying mass of mise en place.  I am not one of those people.  I want to grab the cumin once, throw the right amount into the pot at the right time, then put the cumin back into the pantry. 

Why is it that temperatures and times are given the same text weight as nonsense like “bring to a” and “stirring occasionally”? 

The digitally trained eye no longer reads.  It scans.  It looks for keywords.

Recipes can be poetry, and they can be prose, but rarely are those kinds of recipes utilitarian for me.  I cannot bear to use my pinky knuckle to scroll down the page of a particularly chatty recipe when my fingers are full of pork juice.

At their core, recipes are just collections of data and should be treated as such.  I have a gazillion ideas about how to organize recipe into data that can
be scanned and sorted by the cook who doesn’t want to stand around
reading the details of a recipe before digging in and making it.

If you’re a developer who wants to work with me on my grander ideas, get in touch.  In the meantime, I’ll be experimenting with recipe presentation in the coming posts using
text, font styles, color.

For now, here’s the color decoder to my upcoming recipes:

blue: ingredients
red: timing
green: action

These changes have already given me much satisfaction.  Stay tuned for more, and let me know if they work for you.

5 comments

  1. Tobin

    You’ve expressed what I’ve felt ever since I started cooking a few years back: these recipe things are clunky. Some worse than others.
    Hmm, now I’m going to rethink and attempt to rearchitect this whole recipe thing, thanks to you.

  2. Stephanie

    Hi Ganda,
    I really appreciate your new color system. As someone who is a visual learner this makes things so much better!
    Great Idea!
    P.S.
    I am glad your back to your blog! I missed reading it!

  3. Ganda

    I think the colors are just a start, something to invite people to think differently about recipes. I’m going to try and establish a few new conventions, but I hope to draw from you all for more ideas.

  4. Labrill

    I totally hear you–this combining of ingredients and instructions is similar to the way I write out my own recipes. (If you take it even further–too far–you get recipes on Twitter.) BUT (with all due respect), I think there are too many colors. I would keep the verbs (“Add,” “saute,” etc.) in B&W and leave the ingredients and times in blue and red. Once your eye (my eye, anyway) latches onto those 2 items in the line, it’s easy enough to grab the ingredients and then see what to do. (PS–I tried to learn to play guitar once. I gave up.)

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