Digital Storytelling – A 21st Century Cookbook

We all cherish those battered, dog-earred cookbooks that once belonged to our mothers and grandmothers. They are priceless family treasures that tell us a lot about the generations before us. That being said, if you’re like me you prefer to manage your favorite recipes on your desktop and/or handheld. I am a devoted Paprika fan [Mac – $19.99, iOS – $4.99] because I can use the built-in browser to capture recipes from my favorite food sites with just a couple taps. And, I can easily forward a recipe to friends and family via email in a format they can then import into their cookbook app. In today’s fast-paced world, these apps are great tools and fun to use.

Apps like Paprika also give us the opportunity to add notes and photos to a recipe making it a delightful way to document the provenance of the dish or maybe a special event where it was served. There’s no law stating the image has to be of the dish itself. Take advantage of your app’s functionality to tell the story of your favorite family dishes – both old and new – and you’ll create a legacy that will be just as treasured by future generations as traditional print cookbooks.

Paprika editing screen.

Here’s the recipe editing screen in Paprika. The recipe photo in this example is a picture of my dad (the recipe’s creator) and I. Notice in the category area I’ve checked both the Soups and Stews category and a category I created called Legacy. I use that category to identify family recipes. Paprika can quickly filter recipes by category so I can easily pull together all those family treasures with one click. You’ll also notice that I’m displaying the Notes editing screen. Here’s where I can include anecdotes about the recipe, its creator or a special event associated with it.

The recipe view.

Here’s what the finished recipe looks like when viewed in the app. Both the photo and the notes are front and center for everyone to see.

I have been using cookbook applications since the late 1990s and have been able to successfully export my collection between apps and even from Windows to Mac with minimal effort. Although Paprika doesn’t have cookbook publishing capabilities (yet), most of the other apps I’ve used do. I’ve published two family cookbooks in the last 20 years. The first one was manually created, but the second one was built from a cookbook export that was then highly modified. I considered publishing a third one, but just about everyone in the family is using some kind of cookbook software now so our family cookbook is constantly being updated with emailed recipes and exported datasets passed on as shower gifts and special event souvenirs.

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been difficult to get most family members to add a photo and some notes about the provenance or story behind a favorite recipe they are sharing. And, building a family favorites collection for a new bride will give her a bit of history as well as some great dishes to help introduce her to her new family.

Although the idea of a legacy dataset is still a new and unusual concept to most of us, younger generations are growing up digital and this will be as normal to them as the telephone has been to us.

If you’re considering a cookbook app, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Mastercook 11.0 [Windows – $19.99] set the cookbook standard many years ago. It has kept up with the changes in operating systems and user needs and continues to enjoy a huge user base.
  • Living Cookbook 2011 [Windows – $34.95] is the app I used to print my second cookbook. I exported to Word format and then added styles, section pages and lots of pictures using Word. I successfully migrated my database from Living Cookbook to MacGourmet when I moved from Windows to Mac.
  • Macgourmet Deluxe 3.0 [Mac – $40.24] and its companion iPad app [iOS – $4.99] offer a full spectrum of features for capturing, sharing and publishing recipes – and building cookbooks.
  • Paprika [Mac – $19.99] and companion iPad app [iOS – $4.99] aren’t as full-featured as MacGourmet or the Windows apps, but both are just so easy to use that its a favorite in my family. The formatted recipe attachment generated when a recipe is shared via email can be imported to just about any recipe app.


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