Ardent cook and cookbook lover Andrew Gray was frustrated with trying to locate favorite recipes in his vast cookbook and magazine collection. He enjoyed using sites like epicurious.com and he wanted the same handy reference for his print media, too. Where is that amazing recipe for chicken briyani? Which recipes are keepers and which are duds? What variations, substitutions and tweaks worked? Enter Cookbooker, a new online cookbook/recipe review database and community site.
Here's how Cookbooker works: first enter in your cookbooks, magazines, and websites. This is really easy to do, either by using the search engine or by going to a profile of someone who has a large list (some members have more than 200 cookbooks!) and clicking on 'add to my bookshelf' for the appropriate titles. You can also just browse other people's lists, comments and reviews without creating your own profile.
Your next step is to start entering reviews and comments on recipes, as well as reviews of the books themselves. This will be a handy personal reference for you, as well as others, as you contribute to the growing, searchable database.
Cookbooker also has articles on how to choose a cookbook, a list of cookbook stores, and a blog. You can provide an extended personal profile which will allow you to connect with people who enjoy the same books as you or live in your community. The site is still in beta but I'm really impressed with how much Mr. Gray, a web designer as well as a cook, has taken care of various foibles, as evidenced in his updates on the site's blog.
Cookbooker hasn't reached its tipping point yet, as it is only a few months old. The site will really come into its own and become a go-to reference place once more books have been added and, even more importantly, all the recipes have been reviewed. You can see this starting already with more popular titles such as Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.
Clever Cookbooker is already working on expanding their database by adding a fun feature called the Cookbooker Challenge in which members are invited to join a collaborative cookbook review challenge, with the goal that all the recipes in a chosen title get reviewed within a given period of time. Prizes are offered as incentive, but the fun of publishing your review and participating in the process might be its own reward.
It's free, with possible subscription-based content coming soon.
It's international: Cookbooker has attracted people, and their unique cookbooks, from all over the world. As a avid fan of British cookbooks, I especially enjoy this feature.
It's easy to use and even easier to discover new titles, recipes and websites.
Learn of potential recipe problems before you start to cook.
Get advice on tweaks, substitutions, difficult techniques.
The Browse Section of the site is really great and will come in handy as the database grows. Here you will find the most-owned cookbooks; most popular recipes, websites and magazines; top contributing members; and 'enhanced books' where special content is provided by authors and publishers.
The Cookbook Challenge as mentioned above is a fun way to participate and will help in growing the database.
Magazine recipes in particular are difficult to keep track of. Cookbooker offers a great solution: enter the date and page of your favorite magazine recipes and you'll never spend houses flipping through back issues again.
Articles and interviews with cookbook authors and bookstore owners are great additional features.
You still have to get/find the actual recipe. Of course neither you or Cookbooker can include the actual recipe in the database, as it is copyrighted material. So, unlike epicurious, you will have to go between your print media and the Cookbooker website which is an extra step.
In the case of blogs, for convenience sake I would want the review right there in the blog comments rather than having to click over to Cookbooker to see if someone has commented on it there. A compromise would be a link to the Cookbooker review in the blog's comments.
In Praise of the Well-Used Cookbook
How Many Cookbooks is Too Many?
Visit Cookbooker.com and check it out for yourself!
(Image: Dana Velden)