Indexing the Cookbook: From “A – Apple” to “Z….” ummm… “Zapple”?

Editing is mainly done, and that’s a big part of why I haven’t been writing as of late here to the blog. Sure, my wedding was a big part of why I’ve been absent as well, (it was wonderful) but with respect to the work I’ve been doing at the computer, it’s been all editing, all the time as of late.

It’s an interesting experience editing a book that you’ve written – if only for the fact that you feel you are looking over the same text over and over, and you can’t imagine there could possibly be another mistake. And yet, the moment you find one, it’s like the breaching of a dam – everything suddenly comes flooding in, and all you can see are mistakes.

Stupid text! Be more right!

And this is when you find yourself in a pit of despair. You can’t believe you missed all those errors the first 200 times you went through the book. I of course respond to this with the utmost civility and maturity. I would usually walk away and ignore the book for about 3 days each time this happened. I don’t know – maybe thinking I was teaching it a lesson by ignoring it.

But cooler heads prevailed, and I found myself tackling the massive collections of issues my text presented to me, and have whipped it into a shape that I feel would not embarrassing to me were I to actually attempt to sell it to the masses. (Always the kind of ringing endorsement you want to hear from an author about his latest work…)

So now I’m confronted with the task of indexing the book, since we know what page everything is going to appear on. At first, this seems like a simple enough task. List all the recipes, and place them in alphabetical order, and then tell people what page they’re on in the text. But who opens a book, and looks in the index for “Fenneled Fingerling Potatoes” or “Cozze di Mare”? Obviously, I have to figure out what the readers would likely be looking up as ingredients in the book, and then finding the recipes that have those ingredients, and then determining if that recipe is worthy of being listed under that category.


For example – in my “Tuscan Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary,” obviously this would be listed under “Chicken,” “Lemons,” and “Rosemary.” But in the recipe, I also use carrots (among other things) as the base on which the chicken roasts in the pan. Should I therefore also list this recipe under “Carrots?” I don’t think so, but if I were to use an auto-indexing program, it of course would do that for me.

And so ingredient by ingredient, I have to go through the text and determine if each recipe is worthy of listing as I go. All I can hope is that I don’t leave anything important out.

And that I do it right the first time so I don’t have to give it the dreaded silent treatment as well…

Chef Matt

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One Response to “Indexing the Cookbook: From “A – Apple” to “Z….” ummm… “Zapple”?”

  1. swan says:

    Proofing can be exhausting, especially with a piece as big as a cookbook! The indexing seems daunting, too. This book is obviously a labor of love–and gives me an appreciation for all the cookbooks that came before it! (Of course, Jamie Oliver probably has about 50 editors going through his books with a fine-toothed comb. You’ll get there someday!!!)