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Eat Your Words

Side Dishes: Part-time Vermonter launches online cookbook database


Published October 21, 2009 at 5:21 a.m.

Sometimes those who own the most cookbooks use them the least — because they’re daunted by all those pages of possibilities. It was a problem part-time Wilmington resident Jane Kelly faced every time she wanted to whip up a stew or bake a cake. “I’ve got a lot of cookbooks, about 700, and lots of other food reference books as well,” she says. “I never had the time to look through and find recipes.”

Kelly’s solution? “I said to a friend that, in an ideal world, I’d build myself a database of recipes so that I could search them,” she recalls. So she did. Her new business, an online service called Eat Your Books, allows users to create a virtual bookshelf.

Right now, Kelly, her sister and a handful of freelancers are “indexing” cookbooks as fast as they can. They’re selecting the most popular and influential tomes and typing in the names and main ingredients of every single recipe. Once a book has been indexed, its contents can be accessed via a robust search function, which sorts them by criteria such as ethnic affiliation, special dietary needs, and occasions such as picnics and parties. So, instead of guessing where to flip for the funkiest gingerbread recipe or fruit punch for a crowd, EYB participants will have the cookbook title at their fingertips.

To date, Kelly and co. have put details from more than 700 books on the site, which launched on September 1. After a free 30-day trial, annual membership costs $25. For now, early birds can snag a lifetime membership for $50. And if they don’t see their favorite volume, they can request its indexing by email.

Mad River Valley localvore Robin McDermott will interview Kelly on her weekly show, the “Dinner Hour,” on WMRW-LP 95.1 next Tuesday, October 27, at 5 p.m.