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Superfluous U’s and Different Names

18 Aug

I’m Canadian.  I’m telling you this because the target market for kosher cookbooks would be the USA, not Canada.

When I wrote the first draft of my first book, I didn’t give a lot of thought to my spelling.  If it was spelled correctly, that’s what mattered.  I also used names for produce that I have always used.  It didn’t even occur to me that this would be an issue.  So when the US rights to my book were bought by an American publisher, it surprised me when I got a request to do a major edit of the whole book before it went to press.

See, there were a number of things that were fine for my Canadian editor, but for the American public, they had to be changed. At first I questioned the request.  I thought then, and continue to think, that Americans wouldn’t have a problem with an extra u in flavour or colour.  But then I realized that if that little issue would make it a ‘better’ book for my target market, it wasn’t too much to ask for.   Just time on my part.

With the spelling changed and dozens of u’s deleted, we moved on to food names.  The first one to go was “English cucumber”. Nope, it had to be “long seedless cucumber”.  “Roma tomato” needed to be “plum tomato”. Etc.  Now I find myself asking questions like “do more people say green onions or scallions?”.  A little poll I took today was no help.  The respondents were almost split in half.

So what do you do when you’re writing a book? Do you do what is natural for you and correct or do you tailor the book for another country (which is also correct — but different)? And how do you decide what to do when there’s no clear answer?

Next question to ponder: Metric or Imperial? Probably both.

Difference of Opinion

12 Aug

I’ve been talking to everybody I know about Jewish food for the last few months. (A lot longer than that, but really focused on it now.)  The most interesting thing to me is that my sister and I have opposite views on the important things.  We grew up in the same house and had the same parents and grandparents cooking for us, so how did our preferences diverge so widely?

For instance:

  • Matzo Balls – I like them fluffy.  Not super-fluffy so they’re falling apart, but fluffy so it’s not like I’m eating a cement ball.  My sister feels that they should be firm enough that they’ll bounce off the floor and hit the ceiling if you toss one.
  • Fried Matzo #1 – I like it sweet with syrup drizzled on top. She likes it savoury with butter and salt or some sautéed vegetables.
  • Fried Matzo #2- I prefer using the pancake method – one single pancake of fried matzo, nice and brown on both sides.  She’s of the “scrambled eggs” technique. You mix it up as it cooks and it doesn’t form that nice crust (“I don’t like it crusty!” says she. “Oh, I do” says I.)
  • Even though we’re (both) Ashkenazi, I like to say that I have the taste buds of an Ashkenazi and her taste buds are Sephardi. A chicken dish I made last week was liked by all, but my lips went a little numb and I made the comment “cut back on the chili powder a little”. Her response “no, it’s good.”

This is just a sampling, I’m sure I could go on.  Check back later for a new  post, potential title “My Mother Prefers More Salt – I Prefer More Pepper”

Cooking & Tasting

11 Aug

Last week I took a few days off of work so I could spend the time at home, working on recipes for the cookbook. I got a lot done, but not as much as I had planned.

I’m going through my lists of tested recipes and to-test recipes, trying to figure out what’s left to do.  The problem is that I keep thinking of new ideas, so the to-test list isn’t really getting any smaller.

In the last week or so I’ve worked on:

  • potato latkes (not just for Chanukah!)
  • zucchini/leek latkes
  • sweet potato ginger latkes
  • matzo balls
  • zucchini/spinach/chicken soup (needs a good name)
  • brownies
  • meringue cookies with toasted coconut/almonds/chocolate chips
  • sautéed eggplant & roasted pepper salad
  • an old-school beef flanken recipe
  • blueberry coffee-cake
  • sweet potato/apple side dish
  • roast chicken with roasted vegetables – a little sweet, a little spicy
  • matzo brei (can’t have passover without one recipe — will do at least two — one sweet, one savoury and maybe a couple of other variations)
  • strawberry/blueberry conserves for the matzo brei ( it would also be good on matzo)

Some of the recipes I’ve been making for years and just needed to be written down.  Some are new for me and have to be tried a few times, tweaking things here and there.  Some recipes (like a brisket I cooked on Sunday) just don’t work at all and aren’t worth tweaking.  Those are the most frustrating.

While I normally count on immediate family members for taste-testing (don’t worry, there are no critiques more honest — sometimes brutally honest — than those of your parents and siblings), I was lucky enough to have some extended family visiting from out-of-town.

tovina latkes

This little 2-year-old thought the sweet potato and ginger latkes were just fine . . . and she stopped eating them after latke #4 or 5.

The 6 dozen latkes made that afternoon were gone quickly. And it was a lot of fun having the kitchen full of family, grabbing the latkes as soon as they came out of the pan.  It’s true — these Chanukah treats are as good in April or August as they are in December.

So I’m moving along in the kitchen, and getting as much typing done as I can between customers.  It’s almost time to start thinking about what has to happen when the cooking is all done.  Just not yet.

It’s all about the recipes.

4 Aug

For me, the best part about working on a cookbook is the recipe development and testing.  Well, that’s usually true.  Sometimes the testing can be less than fun — when I’m trying something for the 6th time and it’s still not right.  At that point I’m no longer enjoying myself.

The part I’m not as fond of is typing up the recipes.  I procrastinate and can’t do a long stretch without checking the eG forums and then Twitter and Facebook multiple times. When I wrote the last book I didn’t have these distractions — in fact, I spent a good chunk of time up at the lake doing nothing but typing.

Again, I think this probably has something to do with the self-publishing vs. using a publisher. No one’s setting deadlines for me but me.  So I’m trying to figure out how to lay down the law — with myself.

I’ve been pretty good with the testing.  Every day that I haven’t been at work, I’ve been working on recipes.  I’ve put all of my recipes into a spreadsheet so I can see what I have and what I still need.  It’s looking good and the end is in sight.   I’ve made arrangements to take the rest of the week off from the family business. I’ll spend the next few days working on recipes and there won’t be much left on my recipe to-do list.

I’d like to take a couple of weeks cooking/baking the recipes that I wrote a few years ago.  I haven’t made some of them in 2+ years and I’d like to include weights — something I didn’t do then.  Then it’s on to typing.

I’ve tried to keep up with the typing.  Typing as many recipes as possible between customers at the store.  But I still have a stack of 20+ recipes that need to be typed, plus whatever I get done in the next couple of weeks. Then on to editing and writing the bits that go before and between the recipes.

There are so many things that I have to think about this time that I didn’t give a thought to with the last book.  I’ve started researching printers and shipping, layouts and photos — but I can’t devote a lot of time to these other areas until the recipes are done.

The good news is that I’m still on track  and should be able to have the book done  for Passover 2010, but there’s a lot to do.


29 Jul

For a variety of reasons I’m trying the self-publishing route with this book.  There are a lot of pros and cons either way, but after giving it a lot of thought (read: sleepless nights), I decided that the potential pros outweighed the cons.

Doing this myself means that things are a lot different.  First of all, I don’t have a publisher (two actually) giving me deadlines or telling me how they think the book should look. I get to decide if the book will have metric or Imperial measurments, if I spell things like a Canadian or American (lots of u’s being used), how many pictures will be included, etc.

It also means that I have to set my own deadlines and enforce them. This is much harder. If all goes well, the book will be completed in time to have it printed and available before Passover. If all  doesn’t go well, I’ll have to rethink the plan.

Add the editing, photographing, printing, marketing, distributing, listings and anything else that I’ve forgotten to my list of responsibilities and doing it myself is a lot more work. Thankfully I have friends and family who are ready to pitch in.

The next few months should be interesting; learning as I go.  It’s also exciting and nerve-racking. All sorts of questions keep coming up and I’m trying to find the answers.

Shana Tova! (really belated)

15 Oct

I’d like to wish everybody a happy, healthy and sweet new year. Shana Tova!

Life continues to be hectic, and I don’t find myself with the time to post here.  I’m working on another cookbook, and I’ll post about it when I have some information.  In the meantime, as it’s getting much cooler in Winnipeg, I find myself leafing through the Soup book and planning on making big batches to keep us going through the winter.

I hope the year has started off well for everybody.

Take care,