Notebooks are how I collect my thoughts and get my head together. Not just any notebook will do. I can be a snob about them. I can spend hours poring over them before I find just the right one for a particular use. Sometimes, I’ll even get one notebook to test out and destroy before committing to a “real” notebook.
You can use any notebook you want for gathering recipes, but I like quality ones that last. Leuchtturm and Moleskine come to mind for most people, especially the dotted ones thanks to the Bullet Journal community. There’s a great variety even within those brands.
Moleskine, for instance, has a special recipe journal that’s part of their passion line. It’s full of reference material including cooking tools, types of meat and poultry, and measurement conversions. It’s also separated into five sections: appetizers, first courses, main courses, side dishes, and deserts. Availability can be limited – I’ve only seen one copy in person at a Barnes & Noble – and it’s restrictive too. You’re at the mercy of a rigid structure with a particularly formatted notebook.
I tried out a pocket reporter pad from Moleskine. Its compact size and higher degree of customization were great, but Moleskine has its drawbacks. The spine can degrade over time and use. The pages are thin, ghost easily, and stick together, making it a hassle when I’m flipping through trying to find exactly what I need.
Which brings me to the Leuchtturm. I can really nerd out over these. I’ve been journaling in them for a couple of years, and a separate, dedicated notebook solely for cooking seemed like a great choice. The paper is solid, multiple bookmarks come in handy, and it’s paginated for quick reference. If you take good care of them, they’ll last a lifetime.
I forego the Leuchtturm’s index and make a series of my own. There’s a page for general thoughts on cooking, guides, and techniques that other chefs use that I can incorporate into my kitchen. Following that is a series of two-page spreads for the following categories of recipes: eggs; beef, lamb, and pork; pastas; poultry; salads; seafood; soups; and vegetables. I want to plan my dinners for each week according to a particular nightly theme. There are eight categories, you say? Eggs are a class of their own because eggs are awesome.
Actually cataloging recipes is pretty simple. Each needs a name, a list of ingredients, the directions, some notes and thoughts on the dish, and how many it serves. Brevity is one thing I took away from the smaller Moleskine. I tend to abbreviate my recipes and use short, clipped sentences. The Leuchtturm’s larger size can be annoying – I have to set it aside on my kitchen table and go back and forth – but unlike the Moleskine, I can leave it flat open and see the entire recipe at once rather than constantly flipping back and forth with hands drenched in olive oil.