I don’t know about you, but my galley is way too small for the stack of cookbooks I use at home. (Well, back when I had a home.) And these days I get many of my recipe ideas from the internet, which also doesn’t work that well in my galley 500 miles offshore. (Actually it doesn’t work that great in most marinas!) And my recipe database, started 10 years ago, has trouble coping with recipes from the internet. Plus I find recipes from the internet, even if I save a copy, just won’t do offshore – I have to edit almost every recipe to reduce the cooking steps and dishes required for offshore use. I also make substitutions to keep my provisioning list reasonable while still keeping meals interesting. What should I use as my master cookbook?
The Manually Printed Cookbook
For my last major ocean crossing where we would be out of sight of land for as much as a month, I created a little recipe book during the provisioning phase before we left. It was the cutest thing, with hardback covers and 3×5 pages, all held together with a single metal ring. I could insert, reorder, or remove pages easily, or rotate the whole book to expose the one recipe I was cooking from. It didn’t take up much room. The database I printed it from allowed me to create a monthly menu and a provisioning list for the month’s meals which made shopping much easier. However there were some disadvantages, too. The book itself was a little too labor-intensive to produce, and was all but destroyed by the end of our wet voyage. (It was a shake-down voyage, but more of a drip-down because of new, poorly installed port lights.) Plus I’ve never seen another notebook like it, so I can’t make another. That was 2008.
The On-demand Printed Cookbook
In coastal sailing since then I got a little more sophisticated. I still used Living Cookbook, which had all my recipes from the first trip and ones I had added since. However I used Living Cookbook’s ability to output a word or PDF document to produce a book which I then had printed on LuLu.com. It was paperback, spiral bound so I could lay it out flat, and cost about $7 a copy. Rather than 3×5 it was 8×8, but still fairly small. I had one on the boat, one at our vacation place and one at home. I figured when we left for voyaging I would print a few extras, put them away for gifts or to renew my working copy when it got too battered.
Lulu.com now only offers spiral bound on 8.5″ by 11″ books. I feel this is too big for my galley so I will not print with them again. There are a few on demand printers that will do these smaller spiral bound books. BookPatch and SmartPress are two of them. CreateSpace does not. At this point I would go with BookPatch as their price for printing my cookbook is about $8 which is very reasonable.
The Cookbook App / iPad Cookbook
After a couple of years of using the on-demand printed book, I got a mini iPad – my favorite device ever in a long line of favored devices – and started using recipe apps. After a short time many of my favorite new recipes were in Epicurious’ “recipe box”, but some were still in JOC or 10 other cookbooks, some were in my recipe database, and I still had a 3-ring binder from post-college days that I was carrying around. How could I possibly go off for a multi-year sailing trip and not have access to all my recipes?
I love Epicurious’ iPad app. But it’s really just intended to display recipes from their Recipe Box. It wasn’t a complete solution.
Can I have it all? Online Access and On-demand Print?
It was time to do some research. I wanted a Mac-compatible cookbook app that could import from various formats, be displayed on an iPad, and be used to create a Word or PDF for on-demand printing.
First I researched software products that enabled me to make printed books. These had to export to Word or PDF. Living Cookbook, which I had been using for many years, still was quite powerful, but it only runs on PC and I had switched to Mac. But since it exported to Word as well as PDF it enabled me to more easily edit the final document. I could add attractive cover pages (the supplied clip art in most recipe programs just made me shudder – us design professionals are a very cranky bunch), change the styles, add page numbering etc. It provided a lot of customization power. And the new, 2015 version, updates the interface and adds the ability to import from internet recipe sites. If you are primarily a PC user and wish to print customized recipe books, this is a great product. For me, and for others that are primarily Mac users, this isn’t the day-to-day product I was looking for.
I also looked at Cook’n and Mac Gourmet Deluxe, both export only to PDF, which prevented me from styling the way I wanted to. You may not find this as much a problem as I did. They are quite capable programs, although the interface for Mac Gourmet Deluxe is a bit mystifying at times. I wasn’t completely sold.
Slowly, after reviewing these two and several other products, I realized that I might have to give up on the printed book idea. After all, I was going to use my iPad to assist in navigation and other ship-board tasks, so it would be kept charged. Why not just use it as my primary cookbook?
If I give up (at least temporarily) on needing to print, Paprika App is my new favorite. It’s not free. The desktop version is $20 and the Android, iPhone or iPad version is $5. So for $25 I can have it on all my devices. That’s affordable.
Features of the Paprika App that I like
- If I’m in the grocery store and suddenly decide I want to make fajitas, I can check the recipe on my mobile device and see what I need – it syncs across all my devices
- The app automatically makes a shopping list and organizes the list by the grocery aisle!
- Allows you to tag the recipes with multiple tags such as part of the meal (side-dish or entrée or dessert) as well as other characteristics (vegan, one-bowl)
- The data is stored locally, plus synched in the cloud – so as long as I sync before casting off this is an app that will work great without connection to the internet
- Easy scaling – scale up for big parties; scale down for a little smidgen of dessert!
- Import recipes from recipe sites with just a couple of clicks or from any on-screen source (Word, blogs, etc) with ease
Conclusion – for now
I am still unsatisfied. I want an on-demand print copy as well as the on-line ease. I want an online version that outputs to Word so I can style it for printing and convert it to PDF, then upload to an online service that will print in a small spiral bound format. There must be a solution but I will come back to this in a future post. For now I’ll have what I really need on my iPad.