It feels treasonous to say it out loud, but I have to: there are certain things that you just need in print. Like a cookbook. Sure, you can just use your phone or tablet to hunt down your favorite recipes on Pinterest, but that’s not all that convenient. From reading tiny font to having to scroll back and forth to see the whole recipe, to getting shmutz all over your phone/tablet, and so on… And then you realize that you forgot to make notes the last time on your pin to remind yourself to use more flour and less sugar. What are you going to do? Print out your recipes and spiral bind them like your third grade teacher used to do for your writing exercises?!
That isn’t exactly why Anna Couran started Cookbook Create.
“One day I was looking for a family recipe that my grandmother used to make for my father when he was little—these chocolate drop cookies,” said Couran. “My dad said the recipe was in my mother’s cookbook and I hadn’t looked in it for more than a year. But looking through it, I realized it was the story of my family. There were recipes from my great-grandmother and my aunt… The book was actually given to my mother by my aunt in 1959 with a dozen recipes hand-written in the front.”
Launched in April 2012, Cookbook Create is an online platform that sits right at the intersection of functionality and nostalgia. Users can sign up to create a private or shared account, and add their own recipes—complete with their own pictures—or curate recipes from the community. Users can then order their own designed, print-on-demand cookbook to give as a gift or keep handy around the kitchen.
It solves a familiar problem. My mother’s method of keeping track of age-old family recipes was to handwrite them all out on index cards or post-its and store them all in a decrepit old Tupperware container, or stick them all in the back of her copy of The Joy of Cooking. So when I ask my mom for the recipe for Grandma GiGi’s anise Christmas cookies, she affectionately digs out the old dusty Tupperware container that weighs as much as a small dog and dumps it in my lap.
I don’t have a Tupperware container full of recipes. I tried doing that at one point, but handwriting recipes and putting them in a box felt so prehistoric.
Cookbook Create solves two practical issues: the first being the curation and storage of personal and family recipes, and the second being the discovery of new recipes. Users can request recipes from other users or discover new recipes through the community. Couran says that the company plans to add features in the future that will allow users to create a shared collection, in which they can invite family members or friends who will add their own recipes. Additionally, the company has plans to work with high-profile chefs and cookbook authors.
What does Cookbook Create specifically have to do with women and their needs? True: it seems a little sexist to suggest that “ladies be cookin’ all the time,” so they need a way to manage their recipes. But the reality is that the majority of household meals are prepared by women. In an average day, 66% of women spend time on food preparation and cleanup, compared to 40% of men. American women spend an average of seven hours per week on grocery shopping and meal preparation, which increases to 11 hours a week for women with children.
While Couran says that the Cookbook Create platform does have male users (including a body builder with a very specific diet), the user base largely skews toward women.
Another key way in which Cookbook Create appeals to women: it allows them to tell their family story through food. Surveys reveal that women place a lot of importance on keeping and storing memories. One survey from DADapp asked respondents which item they’d be most upset to lose, and fully 85% of female respondents said that photos are the one item they’d be most heartbroken to lose, more than phones.
The print-on-demand industry is growing, with Shutterfly taking the largest slice of the pie. With $641 million in sales for 2012, Shutterfly accounts for 50% of the photo products and services market. How can smaller fledgling companies like Cookbook Create hope to compete?
Cookbook Create sets itself apart by being both a nostalgic keepsake as well as a functional social product, allowing users to save their family recipes and find new recipes.
The company is currently in invite-only beta and has been entirely bootstrapped to date.
Image source: cooklikeajamaican.com