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I’m convinced that all recipes should have introductions, or as editors call them, “recipe hednotes.” I just finished 200 hednotes for my next cookbook, so I’ve thought a lot about their purpose. I see each one as a special chance to connect with readers: These individuals are right there at the top of the page ready to see what I have to say. So, I’ve got a great opportunity to tell them why I care about food in general and this recipe in particular.

Here’s an intro I especially like for a peach cobbler recipe. I hope it makes readers hungry to read further, and maybe even tempts them to rush to the kitchen and ready the dish.

“When I asked around Mountain View, Arkansas, for the best home bakers, Jean Jennings’ name kept popping up. People would look heavenward, sigh blissfully and mention her cobbler. One musician friend of hers even told me, “Lordy, eatin’ her peach cobbler is better than sinnin’!”

I’ve also thought a lot about the dos and don’ts of writing hednotes. If you’ve ever considered writing a cookbook or food articles, read on. Even if you just love food, you may find the info here interesting.

Don’t start every recipe with “This recipe is…” There’s nothing wrong with introducing an occasional dish that way, but both editors and readers will want to scream if every page of a cookbook or every recipe in an article starts with this same phrase.

Do: Start with your personal take: “I really like this dish because….” Or at least invert your sentence order and begin with: “The perfect thirst quencher on a muggy day, this recipe is….” Or better yet, tell a story-how you came upon the dish, or what inspired it, why it’s unusual, what’s wonderful about it, etc.

Example: “The buttery, mildly yeasty taste and melting, float-away texture of these home-style rolls remind me of ones that were the pride of several gray-haired ladies who baked for the frequent fund-raising church suppers of my childhood. Neatly aproned and hair-netted, they would stand in the back of the parish kitchen deftly turning out dozens of sheet pans of rolls, which were whisked straight from the ovens and devoured by eager tables of diners. For me (and probably for many other customers) the highlight was not the featured ham, or oysters, or turkey, but those amazing, all-you-could-eat rolls!”

Don’t use “mouthwatering” or “delicious,” to describe your dish. I’m tempted to say never, but certainly almost never. I never, ever use mouthwatering because Atlanta-Journal-Constitution writer John Kessler did a search and found that it was the most common food adjective used. I don’t want my writing to be that ordinary. Plus, the word “mouthwatering,” just doesn’t sound appetizing to me-sorry, but I picture drooling! As for delicious, I allow myself one per cookbook; it doesn’t tell the reader what is appealing about the food, which is really what I think a hednote should do.

Do: Think about how the dish is delicious: Is it juicy? Tender? Fragrant with spices? Silky on the tongue? Warming? Refreshing? There are hundreds of food adjectives and innumerable ways to say what a recipe tastes like; use them.

Example: I adapted this boule from a terrific recipe shared with me by Craig Ponsford, founder of Artisan Bakers of Sonoma, California. Craig brought some of his gorgeous multi-grain loaves to a baking conference, and, though I’m not normally a great fan of multigrain breads, I was bowled over by the unique earthy flavor, light but hearty texture, and handsome look of his loaves. The secret is the combination of nine different whole and ground grains and seeds, which adds a wonderful graininess and crunch, yet doesn’t hurt the teeth and completely avoids that earnest “it’s good for you so eat it,” character of some multi-grain breads.

It’s true that crafting tempting recipe hednotes takes time and effort, but I think these bits of text are probably the most carefully read parts of any food article or cookbook. Don’t pass up perhaps the best opportunity to engage readers and win them over to your writing and culinary wares.

Source by Nancy Baggett

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