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The Six Basic Cookbook Index Styles

The index to a cookbook can be used—among other things—to highlight a star chef's specific recipes, to stress the use and combination of ingredients, as in regional cuisines, or to make it easier for a child to look up recipes.

This index style guide is designed to help you select an indexing style to fit your book's author, audience, design, and space requirements.

Styles 1 and 2 are commonly used for all book indexes.

These styles are used for cookbooks when you feel it is more important to index ingredients and types of dishes than titles of recipes.

The examples below for Styles 1 and 2 are recipes from Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book.

Style 1

All main headings are capitalized, none of the subheadings are.

  Japanese, in black bean sauce, 276
  and sausage lasagna, 258-259
  baked, Creole style, 124
  huevos con chorizo, 128
  omelet with greens, potatoes, and chorizo, 129

Style 2

All headings, main and sub, are lowercase. Only proper names are capitalized.

  Japanese, in black bean sauce, 276
  and sausage lasagna, 258-259
  baked, Creole style, 124
  huevos con chorizo, 128
  omelet with greens, potatoes, and chorizo, 129

Styles 1 and 2 keep ingredients and/or types of dishes grouped together in lists of subheadings. See Joy of Cooking for a good example.

Styles 1 and 2 are also useful when you want to permute (rotate) titles of recipes. Restaurant-based cookbooks lend themselves to permutation. Permuted cookbook indexes repeat the rest of the recipe name under each ingredient in the recipe title. This illustration is from my index to The Bombay Café Cookbook:

  cauliflower and ginger soup, 40-41
  carrot and ginger soup, 40-41
Soups, 37-45
  cauliflower, carrot and ginger, 40-41

Styles 3-6 are specifically for cookbooks.

Use of all initial capitals is an alternative to using boldface type for page references of recipe titles and then posting a note at the beginning of the index explaining the significance of a special font.

Style 3

Like Style 1, main headings are capitalized; subheadings are not. The difference is that all initial capitals are used for recipe names.

This example, with two recipe names, is from my index to The Wicca Cookbook.

Eggplant, Eclectic, 174
  Springtime Quiche, 60
  symbolism of, 49, 60

Style 4

Like Style 2, both main headings and subheadings are lowercase. The difference is that all initial capitals are used for recipe names. Ingredients, types of dishes, etc. are all lowercase.

This style makes it extremely easy to distinguish recipe names from everything else in the index. Here's The Wicca Cookbook example redone in this style.

Eggplant, Eclectic, 174
  Springtime Quiche, 60
  symbolism of, 49, 60

Style 4 is especially useful for a book that is about another topic and includes only a few recipes. Style 4 makes those recipe titles really easy to spot.

With Style 3 or 4 indexes you can omit less important words from recipe titles. This keeps the index short.

Styles 3 and 4 are very useful for cookbooks about one type of food or main ingredient, and for cookbooks where there are two different kinds of recipes.

For example, Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book has recipes for making sausage and recipes for using sausage as an ingredient.

In Aidells' cookbook, I used Style 3 for the index. I used all initial capitals for titles of Aidells' homemade sausage recipes. I capitalized only the first word of titles for recipes that include his sausages.

Here is what Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book index looked like when published using Style 3:

Styles 5-6 use complete recipe names.

Style 5

Style 5 looks like Style 3, but each recipe title is given exactly as it is in the text.

For example, my Style 3 Aidells’ index above would look like this if full recipe names were used:

Styles 5 and 6 require a lot more space for the index!

Style 6

Style 6 is the same as Style 5, except that only the recipe titles are capitalized. Other entries begin with lowercase. This is a slightly more informal style, but still presents the full flavor of the recipe titles.

Here is an example from my index to Molly Katzen’s Honest Pretzels:

Easy Pasta Salad, 60
  Eggflower Soup, 28-31
  Egg Salad and Cucumber Sandwich, 51
  and fried rice, 70
  puffy, 18
  Scrambled Eggs, 12-13
  separating yolks from whites, 8-9

Styles 5 and 6, with complete recipe names, may be called for when children are the audience for a cookbook, and/or when a chef wants to describe dishes or products fully in the index.

Like Styles 3 and 4, Styles 5 and 6 are also an excellent choice for a book that is about another topic but contains a few recipes. Capitalizing all words in recipe titles makes the recipes easy to spot, especially with Styles 4 and 6.

In general, choice of cookbook index style is a matter of personal preference and how much space is available. However, a more formal style may be appropriate for some cookbooks, while a casual style may best fit others.

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