Tag Archives: cookery books

Conference season – that back to school feeling

Next week the Society of Indexers is holding its annual conference in Birmingham. It has the title Back to the Future.  But I don’t think it involves fast cars and time travel (more’s the pity, but I will be taking the train). This will be the third time I have attended the Society’s conference. Why should a trained, professional indexer want or need to do this? What might I get out of it to help me in future? I think there are three main reasons:

  1. There’s always something new to learn: on a one day event there’s only so much that can be done. I’m looking forward to hearing from Dennis Duncan on the history of indexing, and learning from Michele Clark-Moody more on cookery and gardening book indexing. Reflecting on how things were done in the past is always a way of informing present practice, and hearing from an expert is a good way to refine one’s own approach. I like working on cookery books, and maybe I can expand into gardening titles too.
  2. Networking: Meeting people who otherwise only appear to live on email message groups is always fun. I’ve met many before but new friends can be made in the spaces between sessions.
  3. Giving a bit back: As a relative newcomer to indexing I’m taking part in the session for new indexers and how to get started. A small panel of similar folk will hopefully be giving useful tips to even newer indexers and those still on the training course.

The one-day format packs a lot in. We’re also discussing ethics in indexing (censorship by authors, clashing with authors’ beliefs, quality of other indexer’s work, lack of skill or subject expertise, table of contents indexes). We have a Code of Professional Conduct which we all abide by, but perhaps sometimes situations force us to consider it very carefully. And we are also taking a look at digital publishing, backwards and forwards to the future.

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Chicken tonight?

Many people lead busy lives and we’re all being encouraged to cook from scratch at home these days for health and financial reasons. So cookery books can be a good resource for inspiration and instructions. However, as the author of the tweet above pointed out, finding recipes can be difficult if the book has a poor index. The book in question has a very skimpy index, pretty much just a list of the recipe names. Lookinside shows what I mean http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bird-Hand-Chicken-Recipes-Every/dp/178472002X.

A typical recipe might generate between 2 and 6 entries for the index, so what else could a good index include apart from the recipe name? The first recipe listed in the index is ‘baked chicken with tarragon and mustard’, so entries could be made for both tarragon and mustard because other recipes might include them. The type of chicken used is ‘joints’, so there’s another to distinguish from the recipes that use a whole chicken, drumsticks, breasts or thighs. It might be relevant to index the ‘baked’ dishes, as others might be ‘stove-top’ or ‘grilled’.

After a bit of work on the other recipes other links might become apparent, perhaps including ethnic origins, so ‘Spanish’ might list ‘Casa Lucio’s chicken with garlic’, and ‘Mar i Muntanya’, as only a human indexer will associate the Madrid restaurant with Spain and spot that a Catalan dish comes from Spain.

There are many other links a good index can make that will help users make the best of a cookery book. A good index makes all the difference in a cookery book and a poor one can be criticised and loose sales. Sometimes too much time is spent on the design and layout and not enough on the human users of the book. Don’t let that happen to your cookery book.