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Guest blog: Foodista launches a "crowd-sourced" cookbook

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The latest lucky food blogger to nail a book contract? Well, it's not exactly a blogger. It's Foodista.com, which includes a blog, but is mainly a group effort, an ever-changing online database of recipes submitted by users, linked to definitions of foods, tools, and cooking techniques. Most significantly, Foodista is also a wiki, meaning that participants can edit the contents of the site as they wish.

Think the recipe someone posted for chickpea stew would be better with a dash of lemon? Maybe your ideal brownie contains fewer walnuts than someone else’s version? Log on and make the change yourself.

The Foodista cookbook, to be published by Andrews McMeel in 2010, will be composed of winners of a recipe contest on the site.

The idea bemused me at first. A cookbook, to me, is something with a personality, or a theme, or at least a single trusted voice. Some of Foodista's charm, by contrast, is the idea that the hive mind is a vast, collective resource, and that recipes are not written in stone. A crowdsourced Foodista cookbook seemed as oddly frozen in time as an encyclopedia published by Wikipedia.

I e-mailed Barnaby Dorfman, Foodista's co-founder and an acquaintance of mine, who wrote back that cookbooks are different from websites, but that each has distinct advantages and disadvantages. (Most of the recipe editing on Foodista doesn't involve changing fundamentals, he said, but deals with spelling and clarifications and other editorial notes.)

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