Siliconrepublic.com spoke to Jane Travers, editor of Tweet Treats, a book consisting of 140 character-long recipes from Twitter which has been shortlisted for the Gourmand World Cookbook Award.
Tweet Treats contains tweeted recipes from contributors from all over the world, including famous names such as comedian Dara Ó Briain, author Neil Gaiman, chef Rachel Allen and broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan.
Travers said the inspiration came when she was struggling for ideas for dinner one evening.
“I don’t really enjoy cooking. I’m chief cook and bottle washer in my house, mainly because my husband’s cooking is only barely edible,” said Travers.
“Being a born procrastinator I have a tendency to leave dinner until the very last minute, when I can put it off no longer. One such evening in April 2010 I stood in my kitchen, staring at a packet of chicken thighs in despair. It was already 6.30pm, everyone was starving, and for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything to make with that chicken.
“After several minutes I did what I always did and turned to Twitter for a solution. Within a minute I received four or five perfect little recipes, each unique and complete in 140 characters or less, and an idea dawned. How many such recipes could I collect, I wondered? Could I get enough to compile into a book, and donate the royalties to charity? The idea wouldn’t go away, so I got to work,” she said.
The finished project compiled hundreds of simple, short recipes written in 140 characters or less, as inspired by Twitter’s tweet word count. The book was published in October 2011 with all proceeds going to Medicins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
The communicative power of Twitter helped make the book become a truly collaborative project. Travers said she found it “remarkably easy” to get people to submit their tweeted recipes and kept actively seeking more from Twitter users.
“In the beginning there was huge interest and the recipes were coming in thick and fast,” she said.
“I was afraid that interest would fizzle out after a couple of weeks, so I tried to keep it fresh and jokey. I blogged daily, setting different challenges every day, praising individual efforts and encouraging people to keep thinking of new recipes. It really worked,” she said.
Travers believes that there was something about Tweet Treats that tapped into the zeitgeist. She said the project was basically a hashtag game. “And diehard tweeters do love their hashtag games!” said Travers.
“Added to that was the brain-stretching challenge of fitting recipes into 140 characters, which writers especially seemed to really enjoy; the community feel of the project; interest in the celebrities who contributed; and the desire to support the charity that was going to benefit. People came along, joined in, and stayed to have some fun,” she said.
The feedback for Tweet Treats has been quite positive and the book has been shortlisted for a Gourmand World Cookbook Award. The winners will be announced in Paris on 6 March.
“I always expected that the Gourmand Awards would deal with serious cookbooks by established chefs and food writers, so to have a little book filled with tiny tweeted recipes – compiled by someone who isn’t a professional cook – taken seriously is a huge coup for me,” said Travers.
“All along I was afraid that people would see this book as just a novelty item full of joke recipes, but it’s far more than that. It’s a book of endlessly useful recipes for time-poor, hassled people, and I’m so proud that the Gourmand Awards have recognised that fact,” she said.
Travers said the feedback she cherishes the most is the responses she has gotten for Tweet Treats over Twitter, with many contacting her throughout the Christmas period.
“Every day over the Christmas holidays I had new followers telling me that they’d received a copy of the book as a Christmas present and were thrilled with it,” she said.
“Other people tweeted to say that they’d given copies of the book as presents and had gone back to buy a copy for themselves because they were so impressed with it.
“It’s getting feedback like that – from readers, cooks, busy mums, vegetarians – that means the most to me. I get the warm fuzzies every time,” said Travers.