How to write a Cookbook, in 12 Easy Steps

1) When you get your book deal in March, cry a little. Maybe a lot. Celebrate with wine and the friends who cheered you on as you wrote your proposal. Really enjoy these moments with them, because you're not going to see them for a long time; it's just going to be you, your writing partner, and that guy with the glasses who always gets the good corner seat at the coffee shop. 

2) Forget that you have a blog/neglect it terribly. For example, don’t update it for months at a time despite the fact you call yourselves “bloggers.” This is necessary, since you will barely have time to sleep between your jobs and working on the book, but still, it will make you feel bad. Recruit your landlord's cat for comfort. 

3) Send approximately 197, 638 emails to potential contributors in order to secure/organize their recipes for the book. Joke that you are not writing a book, you are writing emails (Step 3.5: feel very pleased with yourself for making this dad joke). Enjoy the excuse to get back in touch with so many cool people across the country.    

4) Once those cool people’s recipes start pouring in, say goodbye to your inbox for awhile and begin working on the actual book. When you are not making grocery lists, recipe test. When you are not recipe testing, photograph. When you are not photographing, write. When you are not writing, edit. When you are not editing, make grocery lists. And on it goes. Create massive, shared multi-tabbed Google spreadsheets to organize yourselves. Fill many notebooks with lists. Know that if for some reason the Internet swallowed these spreadsheets/someone lit your notebooks on fire, you would cry inconsolably for a week. 

5) Recipe test, recipe test, recipe test. Sometimes this will involve very large messes. Drink wine while you clean them up.

6) Spend an inordinate amount of time wandering down neighbourhood alleys in search of wood to use in food photos, aiming for them to say to the camera, “farmhouse chic!” rather than “I am alley garbage.” Use hammers to pry rusty nails of them, wondering aloud about when you had your last tetanus shot. 

7) Every Sunday for the entire summer/fall, haul all the ingredients for 5 to 7 recipes + photography equipment over to your friend Jillian’s house, where you’re shooting the book. Be sure to bring at least 2 bags of potato chips, as well as all the necessary ingredients for cocktails. Wait until it is noon, then mix up cocktails for everyone. Actually, if it is not yet noon, mix them up anyways; you’ll need these to get through the day. Spend many hours cooking, food styling, photographing, eating potato chips, and drinking cocktails.

Clean up, then leave exhausted and happy. 

8) Edit your photos. Sit in awe at how beautifully some of them turned out, and laugh/cry in horror at the ones that didn’t. Re-shoot those. Edit again. Write the headnotes and stories for your book. Refine them over weeks and months. Edit until you no longer recognize the English language and start saying things like, “Is there is an M in salt? Silly me, it's an X." Take a little breather, then edit some more. 

9) Take one weekend off and let two pals whisk you to Tofino, where you camp, surf, have picnics on the beach, visit a brewery, and don’t look at your computers. Appreciate this little break (and the friends who gave it to you), then return to Vancouver refreshed. 

10) LEARN. This process offers you an endless education in all things book-related. And life-related, for that matter. Marvel at the power a deadline has to motivate.

11) Repeat, repeat, repeat until you’re on the homestretch in November, and spend three solid days holed up in one of your houses, piecing together the hundreds of documents you’ve compiled. Spend hours agonizing over how best to assemble them in a way that manages to tell your story. Occasionally, lie down on the floor and shout, “This is HARD!” to no one in particular. Thank your kind friends who drop off really, really amazingly good Indian food for you to eat. 

12) Once you're done, write down a guess for how many total words you think the manuscript is. Get your writing partner to do the same. Reveal them to each other....

...and stare, jaws agape, at the fact your guesses differed by exactly 4000 words. Acknowledge that yes, you have been spending too much time together. Also, neither of you are right. Each of you overshot by a few thousand words, indicating that you both think you've worked harder than you actually have. At midnight, SEND YOUR MANUSCRIPT TO YOUR EDITOR BECAUSE YOU ARE DONE. Then, saber a bottle of sparkling wine with a kitchen knife--because in this family, we saber--and revel in the joy of having 'finished' your book (for now, anyways. You don’t know it yet, but there are still at least 6 rounds of intensive editing to go). Try to muster some excitement that night, but out of sheer exhaustion instead earn the nickname “dead eyes.” Drink your sparkling wine, have a good sleep, then return to Tofino. 

Simple, right?! 

(More book-related musings on their way -- so glad to be back on the blog!)




Meggyleves Love

Some time has passed since I explored Germany, Austria, and Hungary along the Danube with Viking River Cruises last summer; however, thanks to #culinarytravelweek, hosted by our fellow Saveur-award winning friends at The Funnelogy Channel, I currently don’t feel too far away from the experience.

I was in Budapest, Hungary for three days, most of which were spent walking around as many parts of the city as possible. I strolled around the Castle District,

the Jewish Quarter,

up the steep incline to the base of the Liberty Statue,

through numerous outdoor and indoor marketplaces,

and across the many gorgeous bridges that connect the city’s “Buda” side with its “Pest” side.

During these exploratory walks, I came across all kinds of food I still think about regularly. There was catfish paprikash with noodles along the Danube;

Kürtőskalácsa (or “chimney cakes”), a Hungarian treat of yeasted sweet dough, cooked over a fire to create a sweet, caramelized crust (and sometimes topped with chocolate);

a plate of “Cold Goose Homemade Delicacies” eaten while watching the afternoon sun illuminate the Szent lstván Bazilika;

and of course, many servings of goulash, the iconic Hungarian paprika-spiced stew of meat and vegetables.

While I loved all of these, there were few dishes I appreciated as much as the humble meggyleves, a simple cold soup of sour cherries, sugar, sour cream, and spices, traditionally served just before a main course.

Hungarian cuisine is comfortingly heavy, and this light, tart soup is always the perfect way to precede a rich and meaty entree.

Because meggyleves is a summertime delicacy, it typically requires the use of fresh cherries; however, in the midst of a cold, Canadian winter, I discovered a bag of frozen B.C. sour cherries buried in my freezer. Turns out, they work just as well.

I borrowed (and slightly adapted) this recipe from Visit Budapest’s website. Because of their rich colour, Morellos are the ideal cherries for this dish, but since my freezer stash was made up of the blushier Montmorency variety, I made a slightly paler (but just as tasty) version of this Hungarian specialty.

Meggyleves (Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup)

500 grams frozen sour cherries
3 cinnamon sticks
4–5 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup red wine (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring the cherries and about 1 litre of water to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, and add the cinnamon sticks, sugar, and cloves. Let it simmer until the cherries are soft, about 10 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl whisk together the sour cream, flour, and a pinch of salt. Add in 1 cup of the hot cherry liquid and whisk until smooth. Add the sour cream mixture to the cherry soup. Simmer for another 5 minutes, but make sure the soup does not start to boil again. Add the red wine to the soup, if desired.

Remove the cinnamon sticks, and let the soup cool down. Refrigerate until service. Serve cold on a hot summer stormy January day.

The rare mid-winter tastes of these succulent orchard fruits are to be savoured, and freezing a bag of sour cherries is just about the best thing you can do for your mid-winter mental health. Tasting this soup brought me back to the busy streets of Budapest, and I immediately started craving a paprika-spiced meaty stew.

I guess I’ve got some more cooking to do…


**check out The Funnelogy Channel for more posts celebrating Culinary Travel Week