doing it ourselves

Isabel is a phenomenal cook. There is just no denying it. It's remarkable how quickly she can throw something together, even for a large group, and somehow it is always great. In some ways, it bothers me because I know I can't compete, but I suppose we all have our strengths.

I've thought about it on many occasions - how it can be that a 23-year-old picks up these skills effortlessly while mainly focusing on completely divergent and contrasting disciplines. I don't really have an answer other than Isabel just being an exceptionally driven and talented person with an unusually high amount of grit.

Isabel has done a lot of traveling. We used to joke that she has restless leg syndrome because she has difficulty standing still, both metaphorically and physically speaking. She lived in an ashram in India, earned some high-ranking yoga certifications there, lived in Australia & New Zealand, and briefly went to school in Hawaii while secretly living in a van. It all sounds very exhausting, but I can't help but think that these formative experiences were a crash course in life. I know that she also took a lot of cooking classes and picked up a ton of knowledge along the way. This all happened while I was getting my 4-year degree in Business Administration about 100 miles north of the city we grew up in. I'm not saying I regret going the more traditional route, but I think it's pretty clear which of these two paths you would learn more from.

Our mom had been pushing Isabel to write a cookbook for at least a year before she finally did. "People love watching you cook!!!" I'd hear echoing day after day from the kitchen. Our mom is effective at making things happen. She just keeps harping on something until finally, it clicks, which can take some time in the case of Isabel. Once Isabel decided it was time to write her cookbook, though, things started moving very quickly.

When Isabel texted me about doing the graphics, formatting, and website for her cookbook, I was on a beach in Tacoma with my ex-girlfriend. We had just broken up, but I was hoping it could still work out, so I drug it out much too long. To her credit, she put up with me trying to hang out with her for a couple of weeks after things ended. We even went camping. Weird. This was in late spring 2021. I remember thinking Isabel's cookbook couldn't be more than 20 or so recipes formatted nicely in a simple ebook. Nevertheless, I texted her back, saying I'd love to help. 

Shortly after that, I learned that it was more on the order of 50+ unique recipes and around 150 total pages. Given that she wanted to launch it in a matter of single-digit weeks, I started getting anxious. She had been working on it behind the scenes for months but realized that formatting it would be a job in and of itself. Now, ~55 recipes or so is not much by cookbook standards, but it is a serious exercise in graphic design, formatting, and editing.

I (Cole, Isabel's brother and chief cookbook editing officer) am not formally educated in design. Graphic nor industrial. Our mom is a talented industrial designer, and our dad studied fine arts in college. Needless to say, there were a lot of creative projects happening around us in our formative years. I probably should've studied design in college, but I always believed that I wanted to own a small business when I grew up, so I studied business. It wasn't until a couple of years into my education that I started to get the sense that a Business degree really doesn't have much to do with entrepreneurship. All this being said - graphic design and, subsequently, industrial design are my biggest passions. While I was in high school, I started educating myself in both and feel pretty good about my ability to bring simple projects to fruition. Although I have plenty more to learn, I saw the cookbook as a great exercise in something I didn't have much experience with; print.

mistakes were made 

I hadn't pulled an all-nighter since my first year of college in 2014. Suffice it to say; I was out of practice. I pulled at least two while working on the cookbook, if I recall correctly. We launched the website at 8 am on a Saturday, and I hadn't slept for 36 hours. I thought I could immediately go to bed upon launch, but there were issues right away. Since we had multiple book formats, I zipped (combined) the three files because our website provider wouldn't allow multiple files for a digital product. This proved to be a horrible idea, and we had to choose just one format for the deliverable. In hindsight, this was probably for the best because other issues became apparent quickly. 

The reception of the book was overall very positive. I got countless emails with photos of dishes with messages like "this is now my sons' favorite bread!". It was so cool to see and hear these things! But, with all the positivity, several folks contacted me about issues in the book (incorrect ingredient amounts, incorrect conversions, references to recipes on wrong pages, etc.). The problems were primarily clerical, but there were some big mistakes - (1/2 cup salt instead of 1/2 teaspoon salt, type mistakes). So, over the next couple of months, we re-issued the cookbook with tons of errors corrected. This felt good. Although I wish we had gotten it right from the jump, I felt good about being able to provide updated downloads with corrected information, even if there was no guarantee that everyone would see the messages.

Most creators of Isabel's size would work with some sort of publishing company or production company to bring a project like this to life. I'm sure she's been reached out to regarding just this. But, this just really isn't how our family works. For example, when a massive tree hit our house when my sisters and I were much younger, my dad took it upon himself to rebuild the roof in slate instead of hiring a company. He hauled literal tons of slate onto the roof and installed it himself. Or when my mom decides our lounge chairs are getting a bit worn out, she re-sews the covers herself. I always give her crap for this because I don't think it's worth her time, but I digress. The point is to say that we love doing projects ourselves. It is fulfilling, but it's also great to create something truly unique that you have control over.

So, this is the route we are taking for Isabel's cookbook. Doing it ourselves, that is. We found a fantastic print shop here in the US, and everything else we're handling ourselves. From design to fulfillment. At this point, Isabel and I are both really proud of the cookbook. The ebook gave us tons of feedback and time to implement changes and corrections. So we feel confident about it now, which is an excellent feeling before taking something to print. We hope you love it, too.

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