Myron Mixon’s Cupcake Chicken
WITH a box full of carrots and a hankering for something vaguely exotic, Mary-Claire van Leunen turned to her computer for a recipe.
“I looked for ‘Turkish carrots’ and I found it easily, in fact I found half a dozen,” says the retired Seattle software researcher.
Everyone’s done it: fired up a search engine to deal with that mound of parsley or a bumper crop of cucumbers.
But van Leunen wasn’t randomly appealing to the online universe. She was searching the recipes in her own cookbooks, the roughly 2,000 volumes that line her shelves. Without ever cracking a single spine.
“In the past, I would have gone to the Central Asian section of my books and gone through the indexes,” says van Leunen. “I would have looked in two or three cookbooks, and wound up adapting something for fennel or something to the carrots.”
Today, the online cookbook indexing service called Eat Your Books lets her instantly search the index of nearly every cookbook she owns. When she finds the recipe she wants, the website tells her the book it’s in.
It’s part of a new wave of digital tools that are changing the way home cooks explore new recipes, revisit old ones and create satis-
technology is changing the once simple cookbook. fying meals.
Eat Your Books, launched nine months ago, boasts a library of 88,000 books with more than 2,000 indexed volumes. Users just tell the site which cookbooks they own, then they can quickly peruse the recipes of the chefs and authors they already trust.
Likewise, the website Cookstr catalogues recipes from more than 500 chefs and cookbook authors and offers them to users – free of charge.
And mobile applications and e-books, once little more than digitised versions of cookbook content, have begun adding features that make the experience interactive and highly personal.
Cookstr offers roughly 8,000 recipes from 16 major cookbook publishers. Want a chicken dish that’s spicy, requires only one pot and has fewer than 500 calories per serving? Cookstr offers up 16 recipes, including West African chicken stew and a Thai green curry.
The company has extended the reach of this highly personal, on-demand approach to actual cookbooks, packaging the well-known 1-2-3 series of three-ingredient cookbooks from award-winning author Rozanne Gold into 32 different digital books for iPhones and iPads. Sold through Apple’s iBookstore, recipes can be purchased in bundles of 10, 50 or 250, allowing buyers to build their own a la carte recipe collections.
And cooks seem to be responding to these new digital options. Cookstr has grown from 12,000 users when it launched nearly three years ago to roughly 250,000 unique visitors a month, says Cookstr chief executive officer Art Chang.
Meanwhile, anticipation of the digital dining revolution has prompted designers of applications or “apps” – the programs that run on mobile phones and tablets such as the iPad – to add features that go beyond simple ingredient searches and shopping list creation to elements such as “push” notices that send daily recipes to your device, “shuffle” functions that create new menus from the same tranche of recipes, ingredient substitution options, and comprehensive videos on tips and techniques.
CulinApp, a Houston-based application development company, plans to offer products that couple cookbook content from wellknown chefs and authors with high-definition video personalised to the individual user’s preferences – cookbook meets on-demand cooking show.
The company’s just-released first app combines two-dozen recipes from baking expert Dorie Greenspan’s bestselling cookbook Baking: From My Home To Yours, with comprehensive video of every step in every recipe.
If the new technologies are changing the way people cook, they’re also changing the way authors write.
Greenspan says the app allows her to offer tips and advice that she couldn’t in a printed cookbook – for instance, demonstrating what “room temperature” butter looks like (it should hold a fingerprint).
Greenspan says it also forced her to rethink her recipes and communicate them in a different way. – AP