Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cooking in the Modern Age

I've already confessed my cookbook addiction and mentioned my recipe collection on my computer in my last post. This digital collection started several years ago. I subscribe to various cooking newsletters, and have some recipe gadgets on my iGoogle page. As I would come across recipes that I wanted to keep, I would print them as a PDF and save them to a folder on my hard drive called "Recipes".  Thus began my digital recipe collection. I currently have about 300 recipes in this folder. I would peruse this folder when making out a menu for the week, then print the recipe when I was ready to cook. I have a drawer with many of these printed recipes, so I don't always have to re-print them.

Then, I got an iPad and my whole world changed. Ok, I'm being a bit dramatic, but it did change the way I collect recipes. I have used Microsoft OneNote from time to time and like how it gives me the ability to collect different bits of information from various sources about a particular topic and organize it into a notebook. But, it doesn't work that well for my recipe collection. After I got my iPad, I started reading various articles and ebooks that discussed different apps for the iPad. A former coworker actually turned me on to Evernote when he got his iPad. It's a much simpler version of OneNote but includes the ability to save your notes to the "cloud" meaning they are accessible from anywhere. OneNote can do this too but it's kind of convoluted and a pain to use. My use of Evernote completely changed the way I collect recipes.

I have the Evernote app installed on my iPad and iPhone, and I have it installed on my desktop PC. Now when I come across a recipe online, I can select all the text of the recipe on the webpage (I usually first choose the Print option on the recipe to put it in a better format for copying). Next, there is an option on my browser right-click menu called "Evernote web clipper" that lets me clip the selected text. The selected text automatically gets copied as a new note in Evernote which then pops up on my status bar with a notification that a new note has been created with an option to edit the note. At this point, I have options to put the note into my Recipes folder in Evernote and can add "tags" that let me further categorize the recipe such as beef, chicken, pasta, soup, appetizer, vegetarian, etc. you get the idea.

Here is a screenshot of my recipe collection in Evernote.

The two best reasons for keeping my recipe collection in Evernote are: (1) accessibility, and (2) search.

These recipes are accessible to me via my desktop PC, my iPad, and my iPhone. I suppose I can log in from any computer with internet access, I just haven't tried. If I am at the grocery store and remember a recipe I want to make, I can open the recipe from Evernote on my iPhone and get the list of ingredients. When I am in the kitchen, I can open the recipe from Evernote on my iPad to follow the directions.

Having the ability to search my recipes means that in addition to using the tag definitions I've placed on the recipes, I can also use keyword searches for specific ingredients. For instance, say someone gave me a bottle of Brandy and I wanted to find any recipes I had that included Brandy. I can search across all my recipes for Brandy.

I was also able to import my existing PDF recipe collection as notes into Evernote. Now I have all of my digital recipes in one location. Evernote provides me two more advantages: (1) I always have a backup because my Evernote recipe collection is saved in the cloud, and (2) Evernote provides a sharing capability that allows me to share my recipe collection with others. So, if you want access to my recipe collection on Evernote, send me an email, and I will send you an invite to access my recipe collection. I haven't tried this before, so I apologize in advance if there are some kinks to work out.

While using Evernote provides me much flexibility in my recipe collection, I still really enjoy sitting down with a cookbook, thumbing through the pages, looking at the pictures. Perhaps one day I will get ambitious enough to scan some of my favorite recipes and put them in Evernote.

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