Digital Cooking 2013

Our well-worn copy of the Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery. We only have volume 3, which is fine, because that's the one with cookies.

We're heading into Thanksgiving in the US. I do the bulk of the holiday cooking nowadays, and like most things in my life I have over-technologized the process. But in so doing, I've vetted some processes and products. Maybe they'll be helpful for you, or if you've got better stuff that I've missed, let me know. Or at the very least we'll look back on this post in five years and laaaaaugh.

First. Cookbooks. I don't like digital cookbooks. They're probably the only books I prefer on paper 100% of the time. I don't use them when cooking at all (except The Joy of Cooking if I've forgotten something embarassingly basic, or The Way to Cook if there's a technique I don't know or have forgotten). Cookbooks are all inspiration and idea sparking for me. Maybe I should put a list of my faves at the bottom of this post. Nah. Different post.

Second. Planning and process. My go-to is a piece of software called Paprika. It's ten bucks on my Mac, and another three bucks for the Phone, and another three for the iPad. I normally bitch and moan about non-universal iOS apps that I have to buy twice to have on all my devices, but with this I don't care.

Here's the thing with Paprika. Yeah, you could use Evernote food or just any notepad app to keep these, but the Paprika's superpower is in its ability to take almost any web-based recipe from its built-in web browser, tear it apart, and fit all the information into a uniform standard. Accurately. It's pretty fantastic. So I almost never have to input a recipe by hand—most of the recipes in my books exist somewhere online, so if I really want to snag one (go try with Alton Brown's fruitcake) it parses it perfectly.

THEN, Paprika comes with a free sync service, so when you input it on one version, it's instantly on all the other devices. I use the desktop version if I'm doing a LOT of recipe altering and thinking (like around Thanksgiving time), but it's my least favorite of the three. The iPad version is what I use to leisurely peruse new stuff, or maybe pull ideas from my past cookings, and it's what I leave running on the counter when I'm cooking. The iPhone version is the go-to oh-crap-what-do-I-need-to-make-this app. When you're cooking, you touch the ingredient you've added and it dims so it doesn't clutter what you're looking at that follows. I love that.

There's a grocery list feature, and a weekly meal planning feature, but I don't use those. If it were only me I might, but planning/shopping is a multi-person endeavor in my house and my wife is completely uninterested in wedging software into that process. Plus I use Omnifocus for all my lists anyway.

Finally, if you use one of the older classic recipe programs like Mastercook or BigOven, or if you have another fringe app that will export to those files, Paprika will import them. This is good because there are a crapton of cooking forums out there with interesting recipes that folks have put into mxc files over the last ten years.

This software will not solve the quandary of whether it's ok to make latkes at thanksgiving this year. I'm doing it, though I'm in danger of being kicked out of the kitchen for removing mashed potatoes form its sacred spot.