— Recipes, Programming — 3 min read
I've been looking for a way to store my recipes. I have a lot of cookbooks in a very small apartment. Through great trouble and expense I've been working to transform my library into ebooks and the like. However, recipes are a special kind of written material- merely transforming them into ebooks doesn't seem like it'd be the most efficient way of storing them. Better put, ebooks are at cross-purposes with the contemporary conception of recipe collections.
I think most people think "cookbook" when thinking about a collection of recipes but I don't think that's the way most people think about their own personal recipe collection. One's personal recipe collection may include unwritten things like:
And written material such as:
A big problem with all of this is that it's inherently transient. The first three, unless passed around to others through an explicit "let's cook together and let me teach you how to make this" process, die with you. That sounds morbid but it's possibly even worse. They die when you forget how to make them; time passes, ingredients become unavailable in certain periods of your life, skills fade, dietary restrictions for you or the people you cook for eliminate large swaths of cuisine, and you simply don't cook something for long enough- you're effectively reverse-engineering it the next time you make it.
Written material is better, but still has its issues. Recipe cards are highly sought-after, especially the handwritten ones, but are extremely fragile. They're often very much non-archival-quality notecard paper and some random ballpoint ink, covered in splatters of ingredients, and pinned to cork or shoved in boxes or subjected to other abuses repeatedly. I'd also classify "printed recipes" as recipe cards here- inkjet or laser printer paper is way more fragile than a 4x3 notecard.
Blogs are probably worse than recipe cards. Links die, and it's on the order of five or ten years and not the fifty that it might require to destroy a recipe card. Running a website is expensive and labor-intensive for a great deal of people who eventually have changes in their profession or health that makes even keeping their site up too much of a chore. Or, as happened to one of my favorite pie crust recipes, the author explodes in popularity and takes their best recipes offline to charge real money for in their new cookbook series. Sure, you can always print a blog post, but then it becomes an extra-fragile recipe card.
Cookbooks probably have the highest staying power out of all of these (at least the commercially-printed ones- my in-laws have a vanity-printed plastic-spiral-bound notebook full of contributions that an enterprising family member solicited from the rest of the cooks), but still present a handful of problems.
This is all to say that I want something that isn't necessarily offered by existing solutions. I want something:
It turns out that many people have tried to solve this problem, so there's many different types of digitized recipe formats available:
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, but enough to give some background.