Debbie Moose: Confessions of a Crazed Cookbook Author: 7 Tips for Writing a Cookbook

Buttermilk: A Savor the South(R) Cookbook, by Debbie MooseDebbie Moose is author of Buttermilk: A Savor the South® Cookbook. Replete with helpful tips and advice for finding the best quality buttermilk available, Buttermilk explores the rich possibilities of this beloved ingredient and offers remarkably wide-ranging recipes. Moose provides readers fifty recipes—most of which are uniquely southern, with some decidedly cosmopolitan additions—from Fiery Fried Chicken to Lavender Ice Cream to Mango-Spice Lassi. For each recipe, she includes background information, snappy anecdotes, and preparation tips.

Moose is a veteran cookbook author, and in a guest post today she offers seven recipe-creating and cookbook-writing tips, all of which she learned the hard way.


People often ask me how to write cookbooks and where I get my recipes from, as if there’s a vat of material somewhere that I just pump out onto the pages. That’s called “plagiarizing from the Internet,” and it’s a rant for another time.

As with all writing, there’s a certain amount of mystery involved. A high number of trips to the kitchen for snacks and other attention-diverting activities are also critical. (“I really have to clean everything in the kitchen cabinets and alphabetize my spice rack before I can possibly consider starting on this book!”)

After writing five cookbooks—the newest, Buttermilk: A Savor the South® Cookbook, will be out from UNC Press this month—I believe I’m qualified to offer seven tips for creating them. Feel free to take notes.

  1. Learn how to politely decline offers from friends who swear that they have “the best recipe for X ever” and all give you the exact same recipe, which came from the back of a soup can.
  2. Expect that those who do have excellent, unique recipes which you would like to have permission to include or adapt will suddenly drop from sight before you can get the details, and take months to resurface.
  3. Wander supermarkets, farmers markets and ethnic grocery stores looking for ideas for developing recipes. Some call it shopping for dinner, but you can label it work time and deduct the mileage as a business expense.
  4. Provide fair warning to your significant other that you will need feedback on the current project: “Honey, I’m testing recipes today, so it’s 10 potato salads for dinner! Crank up those taste buds!”
  5. If you need 50 recipes for your book, know before you even start that you will have to toss out No. 48. Why? You’ll be desperate by then and not thinking clearly. That’s how I had the unfortunate idea, for my first book, to devise a deviled egg made from a pickled egg. It was the 48th recipe – or would have been if it hadn’t gone into the trash.
  6. Explain to the hosts of any potluck party to which you’re invited that you will be bringing a recipe from the book, seasonally appropriate or not, because that’s all you have time to cook and brain cells to focus on. Hope that you have hosts who appreciate such things as fruitcakes in July or ice creams in January.
  7. Assume that any unfortunate coincidences that can occur, will. My husband and I had long planned a major home renovation that would, at some point, affect the kitchen. Two weeks after it began, and was past the point of no return, I received the happy news that I would be writing Buttermilk. Both projects were due to be completed at about the same time, which meant that I was developing recipes in the midst of nail guns and saws. But those workmen were surprisingly discriminating tasters.


Debbie Moose is an award-winning food writer and author of five cookbooks, including Buttermilk: A Savor the South® Cookbook, Deviled Eggs: 50 Recipes from Simple to Sassy, and Potato Salad: 65 Recipes from Classic to Cool. Visit her website and follow her on Twitter @DebbieMoose.