This post deviates a little from my usual choice of content. But a recent event last week made it impossible to not write about. Last year sometime, I went swimming with my beloved iPhone. Beloved because only a month before, my trusty eight year old iMac bit the biscuit, leaving me–luckily at the time–with a full back up on my phone. That’s 6000 songs, a couple thousand pics, and alas, all my recipes. Well all that changed when I ended a great all-nighter up in the mountainous jungles of east-coast Taiwan with a beautiful sunrise swim in a fresh mountain stream.
So yeah, the phone died. And with it, so did all those years of collecting tunes. All those photo memories of grainy cloud-scapes, dot-sized unfocused moons, boring pics of my crappy bike, and a whole lot of other stuff that sure was funny and inspired at the time. But worst of worsts, was the loss of all my recipes. About 60-something in total; not a huge lot, but a personal database that included family recipes, inventions, tweaks, and a whole bunch of things I was going to get around to trying.
If you’re at all like me, you’ve gotten by, more or less, with scribbled-down recipes, scattered around the house, in this book or that. Chicken-scratched lists of measured ingredients, randomly speckling every fancy to crap notebook you still haven’t had the guts to throw away. You ambitiously bought a pretty Moleskine notebook. Labeled it with something like ‘Baking 2015’, then a week later–two recipes in–and the book somehow got demoted to ‘Generic and Lame To-Do Lists 2015-16’, penned in a toddler’s handwriting, no doubt.
Well at some point, I must’ve gotten smart and did a bunch of research for the best recipe manager app on the market. After some dabbling around with free apps, I found Paprika. Available for Apple users and Androids alike, it was only a few bucks, and totally worth it. I still had to locate all those dust mite and mildew ridden papers, and transcribe everything. But the app was very intuitive. If I typed ‘T’, a list of little pill-shaped buttons would appear with things like ‘tbsp’, ‘tsp’, ‘turmeric’, that could be clicked on, and the word would magically be inserted into my new recipe. Once I got used to it, this saved hours of time. My fat Edward Hotdog Hands tapped away on my little smart phone. Soon all those scraps of yellowed paper were face-lifted and teleported into the 21st Century. It was a beautiful thing.
Then it all went to shit when I drowned my phone last year. The recipes were for sure gone. While Paprika offers a back-up option to the cloud, I was pretty sure that I hadn’t flicked that setting on. So with all loss, after surreal disbelief becomes anger, anger to sadness, and finally sadness opens up into acceptance, I eventually got a new phone and slowly started collecting music, photos and food recipes once again. I re-downloaded the app. When I opened it for the first time on my new phone, of course, it was empty. A clean slate that was ready for all the new scraps of paper I’d gathered, resting on just about every flat surface in my apartment. Yuck. But I got it done, and now had a whopping 18 recipes, fully digitalized, with pretty little thumbnail pics next to pretty little titles. It was a start anyway.
But then something weird and magical happened just a few days ago. I was looking around in Paprika’s settings, and decided that this time I’d be a smartie and turn on the damn back-up feature. The little wheel started to spin. It was thinking, good. It was taking too long, bad. Surely the app was crashing. Luckily I was waiting at a bus station, so I had some time. I played some Scrabble. Checked again. Wheels turning. More Scrabble. And when I checked the third time, my recipe count had jumped to 80-something!! What! All my recipes thought long lost forever, were back. Every one of them, including such hits as, “Curried Pork Stew–I’LL FINISH WRITING THIS ONE LATER”, or “Pie Pastry–ASK NAN!” It was like finding money in the pocket of a jacket, unworn for years. I guess I had backed up everything from the beginning after all. You gotta love when smart-past-you really helps out stupid-now-you.
Okay, so let’s get down to why I think this is the best recipe manager app on the market. Sure, there are a lot of recipe websites that offer management and storage of all your creations. They’re all subscription based, and I tend to shirk away from them. I already have and pay for a billion other services, so I chose Paprika because it’s a stand-alone app. Plain and simple. It’s available in 3 versions; desktop, tablet, and smart phone. For Apple users, It’s $6.99 and totally worth it. I’ve added a link below to their website for more information. I opted for the phone version because I think it’s key to have my device close at hand while cooking. Like a cookbook. Or a soggy scrap of paper. Just way better.
As I already mentioned, typing in your own recipes is pretty easy once you get into the rhythm. The recipe creation interface is all categorized; ingredients, directions, time, and more. Once an ingredient is typed in, it will be automatically added to a shopping list page, on which you can easily create–-well, shopping lists, if you so choose. Also, once you’ve entered in the amounts of any ingredient, you can change the scale of any recipe with a tap of a button. I have a recipe for some cookie or whatever, with a yield of about 2 dozen. With a tap of the scale button I can increase that yield to whatever multiple I so desire, without having to do any pesky math. Very useful.
But perhaps my favorite thing about this app is its in-house web-browser. I can easily search out a recipe online, and if I like it, it can be downloaded, auto-formatted into Paprika’s clean recipe pages, and added to your list. Sometimes I just search out and save stuff I know I won’t get around to making for who knows how long, just to have the recipe. Sure beats aimlessly dicking around on Facebook. Recipes can be shared with other people who own the app, although I’m the only person I know who does. But this could and should be totally useful, since most of my recipe-sharing with friends and family come in text message form, sometimes adding up to a lot of texting.
There are also a lot of other decent, smaller features like a built-in timer. I use that a lot. And when you’re cooking a recipe, the app doesn’t allow your phone to dim or auto-lock. I especially like this feature when my hands are wet or covered in flour. I can simply just glance over at the phone and see where I’m at, without having to wash and dry my hands, open the phone, type in my stupid password, and bar bar bar. A very recent update they made is excellent. It is a conversion button. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent endless hours converting Fahrenheit to Celsius, US empirical measurements to metric. This is awesome.
So lookit, if you want an all-in-one app for creating and storing your own food creations, and one that takes all that content from a webpage and arranges it neatly into a recipe, Paprika is the app I recommend. Pay once and it’s yours. The creators update it regularly enough, and are continuing to add new and useful tools. And most importantly, if you decide to take your good ol’ pal for a drunken swim at dawn, don’t worry, Paprika’s got your back…up.