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Food For Thought: 5 Cookbooks That Inspire Innovative Instructional Design

Note: I have added Amazon links to all cookbooks if you wish to check them out. I am in no way affiliated with the sale of these books.


Ottolenghi Simple

Simple is awesome because it straddles the delicate line between being quick and easy enough to be worth extra effort of following a recipe and challenging enough to offer something unique in terms of flavour and texture. Ottolenghi’s cooking appeals both to the modest and experienced home chef. The introduction of a set of ten pantry staples elevates the flavour of ordinary ingredients to an exceptional level, so even the fussiest eaters will reach for a second serving of their most despised vegetable. Along the way he also offers timesaving tips and tricks that can easily be reapplied. This book has also been extensively tested, and great attention has been placed on getting the elements of a good cookbook right, such as proper page layout, attractive photography and clear, consistent text formatting.


What we can learn: Cut down information to the bare minimum of what the learner needs to know. Introduce a small set of innovative tools that save time and ensure value is provided to both the beginner and advanced student. Get the basics right and test your course.


Forest Feasts for Kids by Erin Gleeson

The exciting thing about this book is that my five year old could browse through and select a recipe, then gather and start preparing the ingredients even though she is not yet able to read! How is this possible? With very clever use of beautiful watercolour paintings and photography to show prepped ingredients such as chopped carrots or a half cup of yoghurt alongside a photo of the finished meal. An emphasis on colourful foods promotes the visual appeal of healthy fruit and vegetables.


What we can learn: Convey information through clever use of attractive, colourful graphics to enhance the appeal of your course and reduce cognitive load.


Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Matrix

Want some inspiration to cook eggs? Or beetroot? Bittman presents an incredible number of recipes in a very small volume, meticulously organised.


He uses the recipe generator method to enable the reader to combine various ingredients and cooking methods to suit their preferences.


For example: eggs- scrambled/fried/etc served on- toast/English muffin/black beans accompanied by- salsa/parmesan/chopped herbs.


He uses the x ways method to show how a base recipe with universal instructions can be cooked with different sets of complementary ingredients.


For example: tomato sauce (9 ways), with seafood, puttanesca etc.


Careful attention has been paid to page layout, with proper use of tables, heading and bold fonts. All combinations are represented with an image. Black and white is used for formatting and text, allowing the colourful photography to be the star.


What we can learn: Organise large amounts of information based on category and subcategory, with careful attention to page layout and formatting. Present sets of choices side-by-side to empower the learner to select and create new combinations. Use black-and-white text formatting to focus attention on colourful graphics.


Modernist Cuisine at home by Nathan Myhrvold

This revolutionary cookbook featuring the iconic photo of levitating sandwich ingredients on the front cover has much to teach the home chef. Modernist cuisine aims to play with the molecular structure of food in order to create the ultimate dishes. This book starts with detailed descriptions of how to use various kitchen tools right from pots and pans through to pressure cookers and ovens. The oven is depicted as a photograph cross section (yes, they sawed an oven in half) with visibility of features such as insulation and airflow, so that the reader can understand the variation in temperature between different regions and the importance of thermometers for greater accuracy. Recipes are presented very scientifically, as a table with columns for ingredient, weight, volume and numbered procedure step with accompanying instructional images labelled by step number. The recipes play with unique transformations of food such as sous vide to cook slowly and retain flavour and juiciness, or carotene butter that extracts colour and flavour from carrots.


What we can learn: Explore the use of innovative methods and tools to create dramatic transformations. Describe any shortcomings of the tools and recommended workarounds. Use labelled cross sections to show the inner workings of complex systems. Present information systematically, using a consistent, numbered procedure with attention paid to critical variables.


The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

This innovative cookbook takes a scientific approach to cooking. He painstakingly spends hours testing and tweaking common recipes that are as simple as boiling pasta to find out whether commonly used extra steps such as adding salt really do benefit the end result. He then hones features of recipes like achieving the ultimate level of crispness of a potato chip, by experimenting with the cooking process such as varying the size and shape of the ingredient or cooking methods and temperatures. Lopez not only describes the conclusions from his experiments and provides what he believes is the ultimate recipe, but also ask the reader to question and explore themselves.


What we can learn: Present information using enquiry based methods that challenge the status quo to find optimal methods and solutions. Arm your learners with the ability to explore and think for themselves so they are empowered to continue refining.


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