Here is a half-baked plan to illustrate recipes visually to make them easier to understand.
I’m not much of a cook. I rarely cook for myself. When I do “cook,” I mostly just heat things up. Sadly, except for when I make pancakes, I have not experienced the plaisir of cooking (that’s French!).
Why don’t I cook more?
- I wait to think about food until I’m hungry
- I haven’t learned many recipes
- I lack cooking vocabulary
- I find the textual format of printed recipes hard to follow
- It takes effort to acquire or find all the ingredients
- I have low confidence based on past failure
I think recipes should be communicated visually like a subway map. Show things on a timeline, so it is obvious what needs to happen concurrently. Use separate visual representations (like a flowchart) of ingredients, nouns (“mixing bowl”), and verbs (“mix”).
This is a rough sketch, but I still think it is easier to read than 2 instructional paragraphs. Here is a more complicated recipe for Gyro-style lamb with cucumber yogurt sauce over Quinoa.
My sketch is clumsy, but I love the idea of working from left to right working to a simple conclusion. Sure, there are a lot of lines, but isn’t that preferable to how long this recipe is when written out.
Of course, I’d also like to use this visual format to create an iPad app that you can scroll around in as you cook. It should have integrated video to demonstrate important steps, and a “buy all ingredients” now button (via Amazon Fresh of course).
What do you think of this idea? Would it make it easier to cook? Please leave a comment below.
Aside: I did investigate whether there was a common electronic format for recipes. There is an XML based format, the ingredients and amounts are broken out, but the instructions are just a text blob.