The Writing Life: Consistency is Not Overrated
I’ve been making pizzas like a mad woman for our next cookbook: Naples style thin crusts, New York style sturdy, puffy Sicilian pan pizzas, and tangy sourdough pizzas. They’re all fabulous because of my co-author, chef Craig Priebe, who has a brilliant palate.
As you might guess, I am extremely popular with friends, neighbors, colleagues and my exercise classmates. I am also avoiding the scale.
Now that I am writing a cookbook again, no issue that makes me crazier than ensuring consistent language. Consistency means that you say the same thing the same way every time. I suppose it’s not critical for a blog, but it’s critical for a cookbook.
So when Craig sends me recipe drafts that say:
* Ladle the sauce onto the dough
* Spread the sauce onto the crust with a spatula
* Pour the sauce onto the middle of the crust
I must change it to say the same thing each time. It might sound boring, but it’s necessary, and somehow Craig’s voice must come through to keep the text from sounding wooden or dull.
I know consistency is an issue because I am paid by cookbook editors to make language consistent, as one element of editing. Now I get to tackle it up front. And boy, I have renewed sympathy for prolific cookbook authors.
Cookbook authors must also standardize the ingredients, stating them the same way each time, and often in the same amounts. If Craig wants to sprinkle parsley over a pizza, it should be the same amount. If it’s basil, that’s a bigger question. Sometimes he shreds it; sometimes he chops it into ribbons, so the only thing I can standardize is the amount: 7 leaves.
To keep the amounts and language consistent, I’ve started a style sheet. I made a list of how I state amounts and how I say to prepare them, and I leave the file open when I’m typing up recipes. This system works brilliantly until I decide to change the way I’ve said something. Then I have to find every single instance of the phrase and change it.
But otherwise, I’m having a blast, and learning a lot about doughs and how to make a super-tasty pizza with a crisp bottom crust. I’ve made about 40 and I’m not tired of them yet. We’ll see if I feel that way by the next newsletter at the end of March 2014.