ASI Online Learning Course Replay: Culinary Indexing—Food for Thought

Culinary Indexing—Food for Thought

Three-Part Series with Amy Hall

“I can make a good case for an intelligent index being the key to a cookbook; it should not be an obstacle course that the user has to figure out on an empty stomach.”
—Rose Grant, Culinary Indexer

Indexers play a vital role in creating the cookbooks that readers love. Their work guides cooks and chefs to the recipe they are looking for or helps them discover ones they didn’t know about. Because they are used again and again, cookbooks have a large number of repeat readers, relying on you to help them find “that” recipe.

Since no two cookbooks are the same, each index is custom made, unique to that book. As an indexer, how do you determine what to include? Do you index the recipe titles? Which ingredients should be indexed? If the cookbook is for a particular style of eating, like low-fat or gluten-free, how does that impact your indexing decisions? What choices do you make to help readers who are browsing an index vs. searching an index for a specific recipe? How do you handle different terms for food, such as in British vs. American English?

Amy Hall will provide food for thought in this look at the interesting work of culinary indexing.

Session 1: Appetizer and Entree

Whet your appetite for learning more with this introductory taste of what culinary indexing is all about. Delve further into the main course of indexing styles, categorization options and more.

  • Introduction and overview of the course
  • My background as an indexer and first cookbook indexing job
  • Opportunities in culinary indexing (cookbooks and non-cookbooks, hybrid books, diet books)
  • Time to complete a cookbook index vs. a trade book index
  • Traits of a good culinary indexer
  • Suggested resources and tips for acquiring culinary knowledge
  • Different names for the same ingredients
  • Formatting and sorting issues
  • Categorizing by cooking method, time of day, dish categories, etc.

Session 2: Specialty Menu

Indexing specialty ingredient cookbooks and one-subject cookbooks requires thoughtful choices. Discover how to flavor these indexes in order to make them appealing for readers.

  • Specialty ingredients
  • Foreign language cookbooks and cultural considerations
  • One-subject cookbooks
  • Wine and cocktails
  • Indexing photos (placement, appropriateness, and accuracy considerations)
  • Creating additional access points for some recipes

Session 3: A Taste of the Unexpected

No meal is perfect, nor will your index be. However, you can learn how to handle challenges such as an index that runs too long, unusual ingredients, or problem recipe titles. Finally, for that bite of sweetness at the end, delve into tips for finding culinary indexing work.

  • Problems with index length (too long or too short)
  • Problems with recipe titles
  • Recipe variations
  • Recipes that require other recipes from elsewhere in the book
  • Working conditions (indexing software, monitor size, working from a hard copy)
  • Who’s writing cookbooks?
  • Industry trends and forecasts
  • Working directly for an author vs. a publisher
  • Getting culinary indexing work


Culinary indexing is an interesting field that requires expertise to do well. Join us for this three-part look at what you need to know, as an indexer, to offer this skill on your indexing menu.

Because each class is loaded with so much information, all sessions will be recorded and will be available for registrants to revisit as often as desired.

These sessions were originally presented October 14, 21, and 28, 2020.

Please note: Attendance at the live sessions is not required. Registration entitles you to “on demand” access to the course and unlimited repeat viewings after the initial sessions have aired.

About our Presenter
Amy Hall has been indexing since completing the USDA Basic Indexing course in 2006. She was a contributing author to Indexing Specialties: Cookbooks and enjoys indexing both comprehensive and specialty cookbooks, as well as general trade books. Amy lives with her family in Maryland, just outside the nation’s capital.

ASI members, please log in to the website for member pricing.

The rate for this 3-part class is $349 for non-members, and you will have long-term access to the replays.

After completing your purchase, return to this page and you'll be able to access the three presentations and accompanying handouts.

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