Recipe Headnotes: Do We Really Need Them?

published Sep 19, 2011
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Headnotes are practically a requisite for a recipe published these days. Open a cookbook or visit a blog, and you can’t miss it: a paragraph or two of friendly introduction leading into the recipe. But do these headnotes really add anything to the recipe? Do we need them?

I’ll confess. I often skip over the headnotes. Even when I’m reading a cookbook for pleasure instead of in a need to get dinner on the table, I’m usually more interested in the recipe itself than, say, the writer’s trip to Spain. I still like to hear about the trip, mind you. I just prefer to read it as a longer story in the book’s introduction rather than little blurbs before recipes.

There are exceptions, of course. Some cookbook authors are particularly adept at writing engaging headnotes. They pull you in with descriptions of the food, ideas for serving it, and stories that explain unfamiliar ingredients. These headnotes enhance the recipe and give it context. (By the by, the headnote pictured above comes from Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It by Karen Solomon, which had some of the best headnotes I’ve read in a long time!)

Dianne Jacob, author of Will Write for Food, had an interesting post about this very subject a while back. There were lots of opinions on what makes a good headnote:

Do you always read the recipe headnotes? Do you think we need them?

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