Stories with your sustenance
February 11, 2022 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Why do online recipes so often start with long narratives despite frequent criticism of the practice? For one, because it works. Bloggers want you to stop shaming recipe bloggers for writing a lot. One tool that allowed users to easily scrape recipes was taken offline after a backlash from bloggers. Even Mindy Kaling took some heat for her criticism. And it doesn't stop at traditional blogs - FoodTok creators like The Korean Vegan share their food with a large helping of stories, as well.
posted by mosst (237 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Lololol I had to stop reading the "stop shaming" link. I wish bloggers would just be honest about what they have to do to make money. Yes there are a very few sites which use the introduction advertisement space to actually be helpful and supplement the recipe - like Smitten Kitchen or Sally's Baking Addiction. But most add no value. And even with the sites I mentioned they could put the recipe at the top and the informative text below except then
... We wouldn't scroll through the ads!
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on February 11 [51 favorites]


I don't know about shaming but at this point "uhhhh don't you hate how food bloggers have their LIFE STORY at the top of every recipe" is up there with "so what's the deal with airline food?"

Yes, it has been drawn to my attention once or twice
posted by ominous_paws at 1:18 PM on February 11 [31 favorites]


Also, stop skipping the intro on Netflix, you philistines.
posted by acb at 1:21 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


No sympathy on this. If I want stories about food, I'll go looking for stories about food. I just want to know how to fix the food.

When I pull up, "How to fix the hood latch on 2005 Ford F150?", Randy doesn't do a rambling dissertation (in between blinking ads, auto-play videos and annoying pop-ups) about how his Grandpa was always a Ford man and then there was that time in college when he and three of his friends rebuilt a transmission in a weekend and did I know that Henry Ford once built an entire community in Brazil to corner the market on rubber production?

No, Randy just tells me how to fix the damn latch.
posted by ITravelMontana at 1:28 PM on February 11 [97 favorites]


As long as there's a good "format for printing" link I'm fine with the life story. Sometimes it even helps, when I learn enough through skimming it that I don't trust the person writing it enough to cook anything they recommend.

Also, stop skipping the intro on Netflix, you philistines.

If they made more intros like the Opening Credits of Peacemaker on HBO Max I would. Most of the time we watch that twice. Seriously, even if you don't like superhero shows or John Cena or whatever go and watch that. Choreographed by Charissa Barton, and you can even watch her husband Alan Tudyk act as a stand-in in a rehersal.
posted by true at 1:31 PM on February 11 [20 favorites]


You know who did this first? Every Cook's Illustrated cookbook and magazine recipe I've ever read. But at least those preambles were about the trial-and-error process of arriving at the optimized result. And admittedly, in print media, it's easier to skip it and find the recipe.
posted by dywypi at 1:33 PM on February 11 [10 favorites]


#1. It is not even 1% hard to scroll down to the actual recipe, wherever it is on the page, if that is what you want.

#2. I've been writing a niche informational blog for (checks watch) about 20 years now and it is actually quite astonishing how much long articles with all the details really pay off - and how many people will read them, every word.

In my case it is strategic for a few different reasons - SEO just one of them. The people who are interested enough to actually read every word of a long article are exactly the people who you are interested in retaining, reaching out to, bringing in as members, and so on. So it is a bit of a filtering mechanism.

If it filters out 99.9% or even 99.999% of the potential audience - so much the better. That 0.001% is exactly the group of people you are really interested in.

Because if you are interested in a niche topic, the audience you are exactly looking for is the audience that is very, very, very, very interested in exactly that niche topic.

Also:
  • I make a point to make the headline a summary of the article and the first few sentences a slightly more in-depth summary.
  • When possible, a photo or graphic with caption is included, that is designed to communicate the meat of the story at a glance.
  • Clear and informative headings that allow for skimming, catching the gist quickly, skipping any sections you're not interested in.
  • Bulleted lists, bolded keywords, and other basic writing techniques that allow the reader to get the gist of a story quickly.
So some people will get the gist of the story from a headline (which is also published to social media), some click through and read for 20 seconds to find out a bit more, and some might read and (dare I say!) study for 5-10 minutes.

All those audiences are valuable and worth communicating with, but it's also clear that the people who will spend 5-10 minutes with you - even if those make up only 1% or less of your total audience - are by far the most valuable. (For whatever type of value you are looking for, money or perhaps, just perhaps, something else.)

And . . . this type of thing is the most basic way to create content that is able to communicate and appeal to different audiences.

All that is a lead up to - yeah, you still get the feedback "your articles are too long" "I didn't read all the stuff" "Why do you waste your time" blah-blah-blah.

It's just part of the landscape. Ignore. At most you might take it as a cue to try to make it even more obvious that people are welcome to skim and move on. The full article is there for those with the highest interest level and everyone else is welcome to skim and scoot.

TL;DR: Oh, never mind. This one time you can read the whole thing to find out what I was talking about, or just skip it - your choice.
posted by flug at 1:34 PM on February 11 [62 favorites]


I enjoy reading the stories.

But once I've found a recipe and I want to get back to it, it's frustrating to have to hunt and peck for it. There it is! Nope just a list of ingredients without quantities. There's the method! Umm. Scroll up. How much of that again? Back down. Lost my place. Boo the page refreshed and I'm back at the top!

I saw a "lol boomer" thing where someone had photocopied a recipe from their iPad. That's actually kind of smart.
posted by freethefeet at 1:38 PM on February 11 [14 favorites]


Paprika is a really great app for scraping recipes, organizing them, and making them a bit more usable (including - my personal favorite feature - making sure your phone screen doesn't turn off while you're cooking).
posted by mosst at 1:43 PM on February 11 [35 favorites]


I'm not into recipes at all whatsoever, but y'all can just literally scroll down to find the recipe. Recipes are written specifically enough that you should be able to ID where that part starts.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:48 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


I don't know why people should be so resentful of their audience's wishes.

I think there are certain situations where extended introductory text is important. If you're presenting a food to an audience that is presumably unfamiliar with it or its culture, you may consider some description placing the food in its broader cultural context indispensable. I get that. But, no, really, I'm not interested how this recipe reminds you of May days and quilted bedspreads or whatever.
posted by praemunire at 1:54 PM on February 11 [34 favorites]


Hit that reader mode button (f9?) next time this crosses your mind.
posted by mhoye at 1:55 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


#1. It is not even 1% hard to scroll down to the actual recipe, wherever it is on the page, if that is what you want.

Counterpoint: It is not even 1% hard to put the recipe at the top of the page. If I want to read your story grafs I can scroll down, since it's so damn easy.
posted by axiom at 1:55 PM on February 11 [48 favorites]


The long scrolls to the recipes are a slight annoyance, I'm fine with that.

All of my ire is reserved for the mountains of ad bullshit, videos, and poorly optimized CMS code that forces my CPU to heat up to the surface of the sun when I visit these websites. Many food bloggers use the same crapola template and it's getting to the point where I can recognize them based on how soon my laptop fan starts whirring.

It's hard to put too much blame on the creators for terrible Wordpress templates, after all, they're not coders. But at the same time I have to wonder, do they even visit their own websites? You know you have a choice as to how many of the 'monetization" features you add, right? It doesn't have to be "all of them and all the time".
posted by jeremias at 1:58 PM on February 11 [42 favorites]


Counterpoint: It is not even 1% hard to put the recipe at the top of the page. If I want to read your story grafs I can scroll down, since it's so damn easy.

Alternate counterpoint: it is not even 1% hard to put a "click here to just skip to the recipe" link up at the top of the page. In fact, several food bloggers do precisely that, and it'd be super nifty if all of them did.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:58 PM on February 11 [46 favorites]


From the article as to why:

There's also a more technical element at play where recipe narratives are concerned: search engine optimization (SEO). Recipe bloggers want to catch the attention of the illusive Google algorithm -- and, ideally, land their recipe on the coveted first page -- so they must demonstrate "authority" in their field. This means more comprehensive content, which is really hard to pull off with a concise recipe alone.

So, y'know, the reason is money, like everything else in the world.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:58 PM on February 11 [12 favorites]


I do just back up if there is too much guff before the details, before inevitably landing on the BBC goodfood page. I didn't know I could shame them for it. Does anyone have any further recommendations for good shaming opportunities?
posted by biffa at 2:00 PM on February 11 [11 favorites]


Heck, If I didn't have to fast-scroll to the bottom of recipe blog pages to get to the actual recipe, I'd get no exercise at all!
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:00 PM on February 11 [21 favorites]


I think this what triggered my comment (that many people thoughtfully disagreed with ) in the NYT/Wordle thread. Akin to the first link in the post, complaining about this does feel very "How dare the person offering useful information that is otherwise free to me present it in a way that disagrees with my preferences, even if following my preferences means they lose out on income!"

People often commercialize things like this because they have to to keep doing it. There's amazing research on airline travel preferences- people talk about all the things they're willing to pay for, and then if you actually analyze their purchases, those same people buy the cheapest most stripped down options every time, just like everyone else.

If you want your favorite food blogger to keep posting recipes, let them do what supports their business. Or heck, ask them to start a Patreon where you can pay them for access to "just the recipe." On a computer, Ctrl-F "tsp" (or "preheat") will frequently get you to the recipe part. If you just want to keep going back to the post with your favorite recipe - screenshot it, photograph it, print it and/or copy it by hand. (And you can always buy a cookbook.)
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 2:15 PM on February 11 [20 favorites]


land their recipe on the coveted first page

I understand why that is coveted but I've started going right to page two or three for most recipe searches just to skip the "best" SEO.
posted by Mitheral at 2:18 PM on February 11 [14 favorites]


When I had my blog I would occasionally post recipes that I had found or adapted and liked and I did include a couple of intro paragraphs about why I was sharing this particular recipe. It wasn't a huge wall of text and there weren't videos or ads plastered everywhere but I did it because it was just a general blog and starting with a list of ingredients felt like too abrupt of a change from the other posts.

These days if I'm looking for a recipe if something comes up from allrecipes that is high rated and has lots of reviews I'll just go with that. I'll randomly find recipes from food bloggers and it's funny because even if I bookmark one of their recipes and use it fairly regularly I will never bother to check out the rest of their site for their other recipes.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:24 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I'm just glad there are recipes online.

/Floats away on zen cloud
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 2:24 PM on February 11 [29 favorites]


this does feel very "How dare the person offering useful information that is otherwise free to me present it in a way that disagrees with my preferences, even if following my preferences means they lose out on income!"

It's actually more than that, but I appreciate you saying that because it helped spur me to articulate my own thought more clearly and realize what I disliked about these myself. Previously, I had thought that my dislike of this practice was similar to my dislike of microtransactions, but it's actually more than that.

I grew up on the old internet, where people would make websites for free because they wanted to share things with others. Recipes were there because you wanted people to be able to cook the food. Maybe there would be a bit of a story, but it would be a sincere story, not just whatever is tailed for search engine optimization. Some few people put ads on their webpages, but mostly not - and when they existed, they were off to the side and not a big deal. The point was the content.

Now, this open world of the internet that was supposed to be about sharing of information - which we all like, or we wouldn't be on Metafilter - has become a monetization game. People share videos or recipes or fun lists not because they want people to see them but because they're hoping to get a cut of ad revenue. We are essentially seeing the commercialization of what was once a digital commons. This does not benefit most people; in fact, it leaves us socially poorer and content-poorer.

And the inevitable response is, well, they're just trying to make a buck. They, too, live under capitalism, and this is what they're trying to do to scrape by. Nobody has time to do things just for love anymore when we're all so precarious. And I get that! I do. I get why if you're struggling with income and you have this thing you love and some devil tells you that if you just tweak it a little more, you'll be able to help your family, I get why you would want to do that.

But I also, as a collectivist, do not like that some people feel the solution to the shitty and exploitative world we live in is to try to exploit others. To try to bait people into clicking on things they don't want, or reading content you know they don't want, so that they will spend the requisite amount of seconds on your page for the ads to pay you 0.002 cents, or whatever it is these days. You are taking their time - the most precious commodity of the poor - to try to get a little edge, rather than trying to take on the situation that's fucked up.

And I don't like it. I don't like that we're losing the great promise of the internet and I don't like that people are willing to push each other for a buck. And it makes me sad, and kind of mad, and just despairing on a minor level.

This is probably why I buy cookbooks.
posted by corb at 2:27 PM on February 11 [193 favorites]


If you love gorgeous apps that do really neat things with programming, Mela is not only the prettiest cooking app I've ever used, it'll let you subscribe to cooking blogs and automatically extract recipes from them. It'll also let you browse the web and strip out recipes from web pages as you go.

It's also just really fantastic for ingredient shopping and cooking directions and note-taking and all of it. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. If it's available on a platform you own, it's worth the cup of coffee it costs. Because, seriously, fuck the sheer unusability of recipe blogs these days.

(RSS: still sexy in 2022.)
posted by rorgy at 2:27 PM on February 11 [8 favorites]


And corb, I just flagged your comment as "speaks directly to my fucking soul."
posted by rorgy at 2:28 PM on February 11 [8 favorites]


This criticism has been doing the rounds for a while, here too, and I haven't really understood it. I really, really like the stories, and sometimes I don't even read the recipe.
But now I realize it is because I mainly follow the big sites, like Serious Eats or Saveur and sometimes Smitten Kitchen and Woks of Life. They have enough views to not need to bother us with extra, useless content and they have professional writers, so their above the recipe content is really useful. I can read what they think about cooking all day and feel inspired. Often what I am looking for is more of a principal than exact measurements -- I always cook my lasagna on high heat, what is the benefit on cooking it in a medium oven? I don't need to know what goes into the lasagna.

I do use lots of other blogs than the above mentioned when I am trying out new stuff, but then I often click the straight to recipe link right away, and I'll look at several recipes at once.

I think it is a rare skill to be able to write a good food background story, but those who have it are really inspiring and useful.
posted by mumimor at 2:42 PM on February 11 [11 favorites]




And I don't like it. I don't like that we're losing the great promise of the internet and I don't like that people are willing to push each other for a buck. And it makes me sad, and kind of mad, and just despairing on a minor level.

I too miss the days before everything on the internet was gunk generated as a place to put ads. And when you could use a search engine to find pages where you could learn about something, not just places trying to sell you something.

As it becomes increasingly clear that most of these ads are ineffective, I wonder if the internet itself might gradually turn back into something more useful for actual people. Let all the garbage ads move to the metaverse! Now that Google changed it’s mission into organizing all the world’s commerce, maybe a new search engine could be developed to help people find information.
posted by snofoam at 2:48 PM on February 11 [12 favorites]


If I want stories about food, I'll go looking for stories about food.

As that very-entertaining first link points out, there are plenty of recipes online that don't start with a story, but you're not going and looking for them, you're just looking at the first thing that comes up on Google.

If the recipes written the way you want aren't the first thing that comes up on Google, that's not the recipe-writer's fault. That's your* fault for not searching right.

(*it's capitalism's fault)
posted by straight at 3:10 PM on February 11 [9 favorites]


I grew up on the old internet, where people would make websites for free because they wanted to share things with others.

And those people are still out there, still sharing stuff. What's changed is that Google and Facebook killed off all the blogs and other ways we had of connecting with each other, so now we're stuck with whatever the big internet companies shove into our face when we type a few words into their proprietary search bars.

Because who has time to connect with other people? I just wanna type "banana pudding" into a computer and get instant instructions for how to make banana pudding. From the computer.
posted by straight at 3:17 PM on February 11 [8 favorites]


I just wanna type "banana pudding" into a computer and get instant instructions for how to make banana pudding.

Personally I want the banana pudding to pour out of the computer
posted by oulipian at 3:26 PM on February 11 [44 favorites]


maybe a new search engine could be developed to help people find information.

Million Short is a search engine that lets you exclude the top million most popular sites from search results. It's not the solution to worthless SEO-optimized content churn, but it's an interesting experiment, and it's led me to some good stuff.
posted by Gerald Bostock at 3:31 PM on February 11 [47 favorites]


Personally I want the banana pudding to pour out of the computer

Pouring banana pudding into the computer will only end in tears.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:37 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


I really appreciate the people who have offered that wistfulness, corb, (and similarly in the Wordle thread), and I certainly agree. It was fun to have people share nice things, and it is lovely to have that community. It's just...we all paid at least five dollars (and some of you amazing people have chipped in much more!) to have this lovely civil conversation which would be so hard to have on other sites which are free because it costs money and effort and time to continue to provide nice things repeatedly as a service.

I dunno, maybe I should stop thinking about this as disagreeing - I'm not meaning to be disagreeable. Both thoughts (missing the sharing, and wanting creators to have financial support) can be true?
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 3:38 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


I suppose I could up my search game. recipename -my -grandmother -yogurt
posted by emelenjr at 3:41 PM on February 11 [9 favorites]


How dare the person offering useful information that is otherwise free to me present it in a way that disagrees with my preferences, even if following my preferences means they lose out on income!

If you wish to make the relationship purely transactional, then fine. How dare this person selling my eyeballs not give me the product I actually want in return?
posted by praemunire at 3:43 PM on February 11 [24 favorites]


There's a particularly terrible subgenre of the food blog story, endemic to the "cooking for kids/families" blogs, in which every story starts with "Wow, I had such a long day, everything was going crazy, and after all that who has time for a long fancy recipe? Boy, I can't wait to throw myself into bed right after I write up this delightful pasta dish." YOU AND ME BOTH, BLOGGER. MAKE WITH THE GOODS.

We did end up subscribing to NYT Cooking. Spendy, but worth it.

(also pssst i find most cool stuff via rss or mastodon nowadays)
posted by phooky at 3:45 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: sad, and kind of mad
posted by genpfault at 3:46 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


y'all can just literally scroll down to find the recipe

I have scrolled down through the irrelevance, all the way, only to find a "And now, on to the recipe!" link (which, by that time, I'm not hitting; instead going to the Back button to try the next DuckDuckGo search result).
posted by Rash at 3:52 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


Yet another reason why I work a job I hate but is stable: so I don't have to figure out how to monetize myself, my brand, and my interests/hobbies and then get slammed for all of that all over the Internet.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:52 PM on February 11 [19 favorites]


I cooked from a blog recipe last night, and firstly, the annoyance from scrolling to find the recipe is substantially increased when you're looking for a specific attribute in the recipe. I was making Tom Yum soup, didn't have (and didn't have access to) some of the traditional ingredients for from-scratch, but did have a jar of Tom Yum paste in my hands. It took half a dozen recipes before I could find a useful one to me, each of which had a bunch of scrolling associated with it, because none of the information was relevant unless the ingredients in the soup had the thing I needed and not the things I don't.

But, inspired by this post, I went back and actually read all the crap I had to wade through to figure out if a recipe would be useful to me or not.

Interestingly, none of them had personal stories or whatever like every single post on Smitten Kitchen does. (Surprised it's being flagged as one of the better sites). Instead, the text contained mostly the same elements:
1). A description about what Tom Yum tastes like. 2). Exactly the same information as the recipe, but without measurements and with more text and pictures. 3). Links to other content on the website, etc.

The first of these is baffling to me from my perspective -- why would I be searching for recipes for something when I had no idea about what it tastes like? I'm here because I want Tom Yum, I know it's delicious. The worst way for helping me understand what it tastes like is a bad paragraph of adjectives; the best way is to help me make it.

And the second also seems baffling; it's exactly the same information I want except less useful. The only thing that is added is a few extra words around the ingredient and a photo of someone holding a cup of mushrooms above a pot of broth, in case I've never seen mushrooms or broth before.

It seems clear that aside from Google, the implied audience for every single recipe is someone who has randomly clicked on links until they found a food they were entirely unfamiliar with, and who has also never cooked anything before.
posted by Superilla at 3:54 PM on February 11 [7 favorites]


I'm a long-time user of Copy Me That. It has really nice meal planning and shopping list organizing tools, and it preserves the link to the recipe so you can go back and read about the writer's magical afternoon in Provence that inspired their recipe
posted by MengerSponge at 4:06 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I'd like to note a related problem with Food on the Web: Restaurant web-sites. What do I want when I go to their site? In order of importance:
  1. Hours and location
  2. a Menu
  3. Phone number (contact info)
What do I get, usually? A photo of something (maybe, not even the restaurant, or one of their dishes) intended to convey the restaurant's ambience. Maybe even a photo of the staff, everybody smiling. Scrolling down, probably dealing with one of those annoying moving-window-shade animations; hours and contact info at the bottom? Perhaps. Definitely on their Yelp page, which even has a little map. And user reviews, which might even be useful (or, as any reader of Yelp knows, not).
posted by Rash at 4:08 PM on February 11 [22 favorites]


The first of these is baffling to me from my perspective -- why would I be searching for recipes for something when I had no idea about what it tastes like?

I made sticky toffee pudding from a recipe without knowing what it would taste like. It ended up tasting really good but I was prepared to not like it. But also, say I wanted a pickle recipe, there are all kinds of ways to turn cucumbers into pickles. Some are sweet, some are vinegary, some are garlicky, and so if something's telling me this will make great sweet pickles then I'll know to nope right onto the next recipe (I mean just seeing sugar in the recipe will tell me that but if I see garlic I may not know if it's an amount for a regular pickle or a garlicky one).
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:12 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Deb on SmittenKitchen is able to write a reasonably interesting story with useful comments about the way the recipe developed and options for making it. And I can scroll to the recipe quickly. She's good at cooking, food blogging, photography and doesn't cheat by posting recipes she didn't develop and cook a few times. So I trust her. Otherwise, I pick the top few search results and compare, so I feel sort of confident it won't be a bad recipe. I don't read most other blahblah preceding the recipes. And if a tiny video pops up on my screen, I'm done. If I'm reading a text story, text ads are fair game, but those stupid little videos annoy me no end.

People on Facebook Marketplace seldom list sizes. I don't care about the rich Corinthian leather; what size are the farking shoes? How big is the table? I message them, "what is the height of the table, the width, the size of the leaves?" I seldom get complete or useful information. Or, and I blame fb, as one should, there are ads for a place I might consider going to get, say a burger, beer, and my beloved sweet potato fries, and they seldom give the town name. Unless it's genuine destination-worthy cuisine, I'm not driving 25 miles on back roads for that burger. Just put the location in the ad. Fb is selling 'local' ads to businesses where local is vague and ineffective. Businesses should never, ever trust fb.

This stuff is marketing 101. You got the person to your site, yay, you got their eyes on your stuff, you got them to pay attention to your ad, now, make it easy for them to buy your stuff, read your recipe, whatever.
posted by theora55 at 4:29 PM on February 11 [13 favorites]


So glad I inherited my late food scholar MIL’s cookbook collection so I don’t have to wade through non-pro prose to get to an untested recipe.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:31 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Even Mindy Kaling took some heat for her criticism.
Weird how the Kaling piece makes no mention of her early, deliberately tangential "Things I Bought That I Love" blog.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:43 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


I feel like there's a question begged here: people ("people") want more MFK Fishers, or they think there's already the right number of MFK Fishers? The disconnect is glaring: is it necessary, or even more, is it a good use of anybody's time? Is the writer writing for readers that exist? Are people scrolling past good writing because they already know where to find the food writing they like? Is there a renassance of food writing that is being unfairly derided as fluff? The "let me tell you about the first time my kid had a grilled cheese" stories we might gloss over, but are we losing anything? OK, pithiness aside, that was all inspired by:

Mela is not only the prettiest cooking app I've ever used, it'll let you subscribe to cooking blogs and automatically extract recipes from them. It'll also let you browse the web and strip out recipes from web pages as you go.

The proof is sitting right there. If this app can strip out recipes for their no-guff subscribers, why not strip out the stories, too, and make a kind of magazine out of it? All of the food writing for people who like that, and bare recipes for those people. And for people who want both? Wait until you hear this...
posted by rhizome at 4:47 PM on February 11 [6 favorites]


Corb, I just talked to somebody in their 50s (I'm older) who has no idea how to find content on the web other than fb and youtube. That's one reason why I still love MeFi, Kottke, and aggregators of all sorts. The only downside to the serendipity of finding some cool site is that it can be quite difficult to find it again.

flug, I love it when MeFites have interesting blogs; yours is not in your profile.
posted by theora55 at 4:51 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


y'all can just literally scroll down to find the recipe
bwah ha ha ha you clearly aren't using a 2015 iPad that freaks out every time it encounters a pop up ad or little video. They take forever to load and if you try to scroll past them it breaks down entirely and you have to start again from scratch, taking extra special care not to brush a popup by accident lest it take you to some completely different horrible site. Then, when you're cooking, it turns itself off and you have to go through the whole loading the page thing again. I take a screen shot - OK, sometimes I take a photo of the screen with my phone because I am an Old - now and that sort of works.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:54 PM on February 11 [29 favorites]


y'all can just literally scroll down to find the recipe

You ever have your phone die while you're navigating between three sputtering hot pans on the stove, and with your hands in and out of oven mitts, and now you have to run and grab your charger, and get it plugged in, and boot your phone back up, and put the mitts back on to deal with some shit, and then get the browser open, and use your sticky fingers to scroll to the correct place on four different sites, through SEO-driven text, subscription overlays, and auto-play video ads, while your chest is covered in flour and little flecks of oil are jumping onto your forearm?

I appreciate that people have every right to express themselves, but in the vast majority of circumstances, there appear to be somewhat less artistic motives at play, and I am generally not reading recipe sites in my leisure time while lounging on the couch with a cup of tea, but while I'm on deadline for getting dinner in front of myself and/or someone else.

The person who put their heart and soul into writing a post about their grandmother's rugelach is absolutely allowed to be frustrated that I have skipped past their carefully crafted words to get to the measurements, but I think I'm also allowed to be frustrated that I am being thwarted by UI design for the sake of SEO and ad revenue while I'm handling slippery knives and hot pans.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:14 PM on February 11 [20 favorites]


I'm with BlueBlueElectricBlue. If you don't want to deal with all the extra crap, then pay for the privilege of ad-free content. I'm all for paying providers for their work.

When I replied in a related question on this topic on the Green, as I was looking into it, I found that every food blog I came across did indeed have a 'jump to the recipe' at the top of the page. Yes, some of the sites are complete crap and bog down. Those get closed asap by me, and I'll move on to another.

My tip: if you have trouble with losing your place in a recipe or internet connections, take a screenshot (or two) of the recipe and use that for your reference while you're cooking. Bonus, you can save that for later (in case the blog shuts down).
posted by hydra77 at 5:19 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


As I understand it, Recipeasly (bad name, btw.) didn't just strip out the irrelevant stuff from recipes, it also kind of averaged them together, creating "the most common" version of the recipe (which has a lot of potential, especially if it could also identify the most common variations and group them, for instance, when adding optional ingredient A, it's also common to add optional ingredient B and reduce the amount of base ingredient C). This is immensely useful.

Also, it's worth noting that it's not just the long, dumb stories that make online recipes difficult to use. The lack of configurable units of measurement (I want metric, and weights, not volume, please, especially for baking, and I want centigrade), the way the list of ingredients is often scattered around so I can't get a centralized shopping list, and so on, is just annoying.

Bring back Recipeasly, improve it, give it a better name, maybe an app where you can check off steps, get a timer that'll tell you when it's time to add the next ingredient and so on, and fuck those bloggers. I mean, they can be annoyed all they want, but recipes are non-copyrightable (for good reason), and the convenience of thousands of people trying to just make some food without fucking it up or cutting their finger is more important than whatever tiny ad revenue someone can get out of posting their life story with a recipe intertwined.

And if that gets popular, then add a mechanism to kick money back to recipe creators or something. It probably wouldn't be much, but it'd be something, and it'd also not require the surveillance nightmare that is online ads.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:32 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Pouring banana pudding into the computer will only end in tears.

In the old days computers had a little button you could press and then a banana pudding holder would slide out.
posted by wordless reply at 5:37 PM on February 11 [29 favorites]


Adding to the raves for smittenkitchen. Deb has a button where you can bypass all of her (witty, informative and well written) commentary at the start about the recipe. But I always read it :). My whole family loves Deb!
posted by bluesky43 at 5:44 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


As a reasonably experienced home cook who's mainly looking for ideas when I recipe-hunt online, all I'm looking for are two things: (1) the basic components of a dish, and (2) interesting additions/variations on the ingredients/prep over multiple recipes. I'm not terribly bothered about "being forced to" scroll down to the info I want and I wouldn't want to deny the bloggers their opportunities to blog; more power to them and the people that enjoy reading it. But if I want to read about food and cooking as opposed to getting dinner planned and made, I'd much rather be reading a book. I love the internet for its information-gathering strengths, but for leisurely reading I turn my eyes from the screen to the printed page.

In conclusion, recipe blogs are a land of contrasts. (I know that's a gag line, but in this context it does seem actually appropriate)
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:24 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


rorgy, Mela is amazing. No less respectful of recipe creators than what I had been doing (pdf-ing from the site’s print option) and much more elegant. Can’t wait to try out shopping lists, etc.

For the record, I know what a shill is and I am not one.
posted by skyscraper at 6:27 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


The first of these is baffling to me from my perspective -- why would I be searching for recipes for something when I had no idea about what it tastes like?

In my case it's because some ingredient I've never or rarely used before was on sale in the discount bin at the grocers. Lamb chops are cheaper than chicken? Let's buy them and figure out how to cook them later.
posted by Mitheral at 6:41 PM on February 11 [6 favorites]


I mean, part of it is that those head notes are often terribly, terribly written and inauthentic. But I also think there’s an important distinction to draw between emailing a recipe blogger to gripe about their site — not ok! always rude! — and merely griping on, say, Twitter, which is actually fine. Clearly tons and tons of us find this style of blogging to be very annoying, and we are allowed to think and say that! People are free to not read a website, but also, bloggers are free to not value randos’ opinions (again, as long as they are merely in the ether and not personally sent to the blogger, which is just mega shitty to do and is one of the major downsides of online publishing).
posted by Charity Garfein at 6:42 PM on February 11 [8 favorites]


Sure, you can complain about the food at McDonald's, but I'm allowed to shake my head and wonder why you keep eating at McDonald's.
posted by straight at 7:07 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Jump to recipe
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:15 PM on February 11


I made sticky toffee pudding from a recipe without knowing what it would taste like.

Toffee, if I had to take a wild guess.
posted by star gentle uterus at 7:21 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


There are just as many SEO optimized to death sites about how to SEO optimize your food blog to make an additional income, as there are SEO optimized to death food blogs. The advice used to be starting with a story. Now because we made fun of the stories, the advice formula is to re-state each step of the recipe with mostly unhelpful exclamations of enthusiasm, and pictures.

My actual problem with a lot of blogs is that their recipes aren't good or they aren't original. And god FORBID you need to make one ingredient substitution that some fucking wellness fad diet is into, because then you can't find a SINGLE recipe where every ingredient isn't replaced with paleo bullshit just I can't have cream. MADDENING.

I too have started buying more physical cookbooks.

(also smitten kitchen's red wine chocolate cake recipe--holy shit, make it today)
posted by wellifyouinsist at 7:35 PM on February 11 [7 favorites]


Toffee, if I had to take a wild guess

It was made with a ton of dates and I'm not fond of dates. I was worried it would be date-y and it really wasn't.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:55 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I dislike too long of a preamble and some bloggers do this better than others. What I really object to is someone using the space to basically live laugh love all over the place, oh life is precious and god is in the eyes of my brilliant child who taught us to love again today and I discovered these elusive truths while perfecting this recipe tirelessly for you which will satisfy your very soul and its like but its just a guacamole recipe
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:01 PM on February 11 [23 favorites]


It's pretty funny that the preambles to recipes exist because google likes them. Google wants to read stories and the writer ends up doing emotional labor for the enjoyment of a page ranking algorithm
posted by Vulgar Euphemism at 8:09 PM on February 11 [25 favorites]


There was this recent post of the meaning spread around the word trauma.

I think that a post of the word shame would also be fitting.
posted by NoThisIsPatrick at 8:36 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


while perfecting this recipe tirelessly for you which will satisfy your very soul and its like but its just a guacamole recipe

To be fair, guacamole does satisfy the hell out of my soul...
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:43 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


As somebody who is generally sort of unambitious about cooking but loves to read about food, I am the precise target audience for these narratives, sorry. (When they're written as more than SEO bait, at least.)

Want to tell me about your family's culinary traditions? Great. Your recipe development process? Go for it. Thousand word disquisition about your emotional relationships to parsnips? Sure. Foodways are fascinating. Recipes are fine, too, I guess.
posted by eponym at 8:46 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


No. Reading some novel before getting to the recipe is annoying.

Yeah, I get it. SEO. Marketing. Capitalism. I can understand why penis pill spam emails are sent by the billions. It doesn't make it a good practice. I have uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, and I forget what else and still browsing the web is obnoxious. I'm not going to be "shamed" into turning them off. It's even worse on my phone.

Christ, I'm glad Wikipedia editors don't make me read their life story before letting me see when Theodore Roosevelt's birthday was.
posted by AlSweigart at 9:25 PM on February 11 [16 favorites]


My biggest bugbear is with sites that are clearly crafted to look like the 'blog' is some folksy mid-Western soccer mom whose 'journey' to cooking a meal they would never in a million years eat in the first place just happens to include photos of a multitude of different place settings with different countertops and flatware that no-one on a typical income would have cupboard space to store them. And none of the pans/plates/flatware has ever been used before.

A typical 'journey' story goes "Hi, my name is [insert folksy name here] and I am the mom to two beautiful kids...." etc. What then ensues is a series of bloopers which make it truly apparent the site is simple an SEO cash machine with misuse of 'our' when it should be 'I' along with clearly different writing styles which should have been corrected by utilizing a professional editor to ensure consistent style. Other indicators are where ingredients are specified with weights yet the photo shows amounts laid out in cutesy little portion bowls (available if you click here!) with no relation to reality. All lit up with professional lighting which makes the Super Bowl look dull in comparison. Yes, give me the 'story' but make it about that specific food or recipe. I care not one jot about some hilarious happening your darling husband experienced when he trod on a sea urchin (or whatever) unless it relates to something presented like this here.

As an Asian food lover with a specific addiction to Indian recipes (and Thai/Korean/Vietnamese/etc) I simply love recipe sites written by REAL people who have utensils and pans that are clearly used regularly and the person knows the limits of them. Wooden spatulas which are dark brown to black, counter tops/ chopping boards (ONLY wooden ones!) with knife cuts in them, woks/cast iron with a shine to it, plates with chips or cracks in them, dented pans, and a smoke alarm in the background with the batteries removed. One example here. Another here.

On a side issue... I love it when someone comments in this sort of fashion; "Wow! I loved your Brie Chicken recipe. When I made it I did not have chicken or brie so I used ground beef and hamburger helper". You get the idea. Zero wrong with those ingredients but 'Why?'. Seriously... why?
posted by IndelibleUnderpants at 10:09 PM on February 11 [8 favorites]


Personally I'm ok with someone who writes a food blog... wanting their food blog to appear high enough in search engine results that people will see and read it, and thus for there to be some point to the entire endeavour? I mean, sure, yes! Part of the point of someone making a food blog is to get money and ad clicks. But people also want to write and share and be read.

There's a lot of energy in this thread like 'if your food blog is not a set of perfect recipes you've spent months testing for no reward, rendered in plain text and sat in monkly obscurity on the eighth page of search results then your motivations must be disgusting, grasping and you are an an exploiter of your fellow man who is assaulting humanity's common decency" when the exploitation in question is one second of irritated scrolling. This does not seem like a proportionate reaction to me!

Also sorry but if you are trying to access a recipe on an ipad in the middle of a hectic cook with too many pans on the go and greasy hands, that will be a stressful experience whether you or not there is a paragraph of homespun guff on the page or not! Wipe your hands! Position and charge your device before you start! Mise en place!
posted by ominous_paws at 11:20 PM on February 11 [12 favorites]


Here's my guess about how this is all going to turn out.

Google has been busy trying to serve as much information to the user ON GOOGLE instead of sending people to other sites to find that information. Google will serve featured snippets that it thinks answers a user's question, which does link to the source article but look, the answer's already on the page, you don't actually have to go there. Google will show you shopping links for products, which links directly to the store and largely bypasses review sites. Business details? Google had that all wrapped up a long time ago. You see where this is heading.

Google will probably, at some point, decide that it would be best to serve customer needs by displaying the recipe part of an article alone, on a Google search results page. That's great because you get to read the recipe upfront without the story you don't want to read. But then no one bothers going to the related blog anymore because there's no longer any need, Google's showing me what I need already. Over time, this will probably mean a lot of smaller blogs dropping out because they can't survive the drop in traffic, leaving only big magazines and recipe sites that can afford to take the hit or are already go-to destinations for people who don't immediately Google whatever they want to make.

That's maybe a little pessimistic, but it doesn't feel ridiculous to me either.
posted by chrominance at 12:05 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Part of the point of someone making a food blog is to get money and ad clicks.

Which, I repeat, you are getting by serving up people content that they are actually not interested in reading.

If that's how you get your money, fine; there are many worse ways. But then your interests and your readers' are in conflict. You're putting your interests above your readers'--and your readers are perfectly entitled to do the reverse. It's not a question of whether your motives are sufficiently pure. It's a question of whether, when you're openly selling something, people have the right to decide whether they like the way you're packaging it.
posted by praemunire at 12:28 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


I immediately go to BBC goodfoods now, entirely to avoid having to scroll through guff to find the actual recipe on other sites. Honestly, the harder it is to find the recipe on the page (let's separate the ingredients from the method! In fact, let's list ingredients twice in separate places, once without units!), the less I trust it is actually good.

So am I allowed to complain when the scrolling is irritating enough that I am rejecting their product entirely, because that is what has happened.
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:25 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


how this is all going to turn out

I imagine it'll turn out the same way it always turns out when it comes to people trying to rely on Google, or any tech giant, for any sort of income/traffic stream. At some point, Google will alter their algorithm to fine tune it in some arcane way that allows them to generate a fraction of a fraction of a penny more, which, since they're as big as they are, will generate billions of revenue. They won't announce the change, but one day, people will wake up, check their traffic, and see that it cratered overnight. They'll try to figure out what's happened, they'll try to contact Google for help, and Google will not respond in any meaningful way. There will be panic, people will try to find a way to continue what they were doing until they come to finally understand that the system that worked for the last algorithm will no longer work for the new one. Some will figure this out while they still have a chance to switch to something else, others will lose everything, and Google won't give a damn.

After a while, people will start to figure out what it is that the new algorithm favors, and adopt it as quickly as possible. After a while, when it's the standard, people will start to point out the absurdity of every website using the same style, and how annoying it is, in vaguely Seinfeld "what is it with these SEO schemes" sort of attempts at observational humor that really only serves to highlight how little they were paying attention in the first place.

I mean, no one here should be shocked by this, or caught unaware, given what happened to Metafilter (and most of the rest of the internet) when Google decided to kill advertising. Hell, I went through it myself on a much smaller scale when Facebook decided business pages had to essentially be pay to play, and views on my page went from over 1,000 per post to ten or twenty overnight.

It's one of those things that we try to ignore because it's gotten too big to really pay attention to anymore, because if we really do start to pay attention, it will fill us with frustration and rage at the ease and callousness with which these incredibly large and powerful corporations can, with no public accountability, make sweeping changes in the lives of millions of people and thousands of businesses who rely on them, to the point that they can behave like they're the only game in town (and in many cases, they are). And all of that frustration and rage will just bounce around and make us miserable, because there is literally nothing any of us can really, meaningfully do except try to forget about just how much the rhythms of our daily lives are in the hands of engineers utterly insulated against any fallout from the tweaks they make.

And yes, Paprika is a fantastic app, grabs the recipe, formats the instructions, and lays everything right out for you. Can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:25 AM on February 12 [15 favorites]


It's so interesting how different our approaches to food and cooking sites are. Good thing that there are enough for all. But I agree that it can be a bother to find good recipes without scrolling through endless bad sites.

Above I mentioned a few of the sites I go to, and forgot David Lebovitz, how could I? I don't even much like desserts or cocktails, but his writing is so good, and so are the pictures. I appreciate good writing and photography.

The Guardian has some good food writers, I like Rachel Roddy, Felicity Cloake and to some extent Yotam Ottolenghi. But there are many more and often guest writers, and there are tons of vegetarian and vegan recipes. The recipes are very reliable and it is free, though they do start asking you for donations if you go there more than once. They are so reliable that if I have an idea or some ingredients but no recipe, I will google *idea* *ingredients* *guardian*, which will save me from all the chunky sites.
posted by mumimor at 2:06 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


If someone writes a blog, it’s their blog. Not yours. There may be expectations about writing a blog, but there are no rules, excepting agreements with third parties.

Personally, I usually find the intro text annoying at best, but I’m also free to skip to the MacGuffin Muffins. No one is holding a gun to my head, forcing me to read how their Grammy snuggled the recipe out of the Iron Curtain (if this is happening to you, you have a different problem).

If you don’t like how an author is doing things, DON’T READ THAT AUTHOR. How hard is that?
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 2:21 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I have been lurking this site for years, (mostly) enjoying the excellent discussions, but this content has annoyed me enough to finally make me create an account and start commenting. The underlying sense of entitlement underlining most comments was just too much for my taste.

As someone who runs a small recipe blog, some facts which I would have expected to be self-evident:

- It's FREE content. Available around the clock in the comfort of your home. The correct reaction should be gratefulness
- All you need to do is scroll a little. That. Is. All. As opposed to wait until the shops are open, go to the bookshop, hope they have a decent book covering your needs, browse a few, pay for it, go back home. Is scrolling for a few microseconds really that much of an in inconvenience?
- A few people complain about the loss of the early internet's sense of wonder, yet they are unwilling to read a couple of introductory paragraphs... Try them. Some of them are well written and interesting. And even if they aren't, they tell you something about the author and how likely the recipe is any good
- the complaint about the intro text being "all about money" seems a very lazy way to label anything we don't agree with. First, I would like to see some data proving that is indeed the case. Second, if someone is able to leave their dead end job and earn a living sharing recipes online - power to them. I don't see what exactly the problem is. You do realise that it takes effort to test, type out, and photograph recipes, I hope
- i would say SEO is not necessarily about "making money", but something you need in order to be found. If you put all that effort in writing or recipes you hope someone will actually read them. In the early days of the internet SEO didn't exist, simply because the internet was much smaller, that is all.

I was hoping my first comment here to be more memorable, but this post really made sizzle. I have come to expect more from MeFi
posted by fritzthecat at 3:00 AM on February 12 [32 favorites]


Welcome fritzthecat!
posted by mumimor at 3:09 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


If you don’t like how an author is doing things, DON’T READ THAT AUTHOR. How hard is that?

Nobody is choosing to read any authors. They're asking Alexa to tell them how to make turkey tetrazini and then getting mad that Alexa doesn't know how to make turkey tetrazini; the best it can do is show them a blog post about the year somebody's kids refused to eat anything but turkey tetrazini because it happens to have a recipe in it.

It's just like the video game fanbois who get mad at Tom Chick for giving The Last of Us a 3/5-star review. "There's no way this masterpiece deserves a 60%! How dare you drag down the Metacritic average with this clickbait review to get traffic to your site?" As if Tom Chick is actually writing for Metacritic rather than writing for his own audience and getting his review slurped up by an aggregator that wants to treat all reviews as fungible votes.
posted by straight at 3:18 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Thanks @munimor! I hope to contribute more than just complaining in the future
posted by fritzthecat at 4:13 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


As someone else who came of age in web 1.0, I also miss the pre-SEO internet. But we're all trapped by the fact that we need to use Google to find a recipe that uses the fish that we bought yesterday, the nice herbs that we just picked up, and whatever grains we have in the pantry. And Google, by it's very design, will only serve us the results that are best at that SEO game. The folks who are trying to keep the fluff moderate and not add a ton of ads? They're maybe 3 or 4 pages back in the search results. But sometimes Google doesn't bother to serve it up at all.

For me, I am a pretty heavy Paprika user and there are weekends where I will just go trawling for recipes and rip them right off to Paprika and use that app for my "what do I do with these ingredients" needs.

I also like borrowing cookbooks from my library, finding the recipes that work and then searching on the web for blogs that are posting copies of that recipe and just extract them right to Paprika. That works for me and also gets around my main annoyance with using Google as a recipe index: that moment when you looked up and found a great recipe and then three months pass and you need to look for it again and can't because the algorithm has changed.

Which is all to say: don't hate the players, hate the game. Find a way to play the game differently.

Also if you're really jonesing for Web 1.0 content - friendly reminder that Dreamwidth is still humming away in the shadows and still has blogging challenge roundups that links to different recipes that people are trying and posting on their neo LJ's with no fluff, little ads, and in utter obscurity.
posted by bl1nk at 5:12 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


If you don’t like how an author is doing things, DON’T READ THAT AUTHOR.

I didn't want to read that author in the first place. I didn't want to READ in the first place. I wanted a recipe.

It's like I'm at a library and I'm looking for a recipe for chili, and when I ask the librarian I am directed into a room full of stacks of index cards - but when I go to pick up each of these index cards I keep finding stories written on them. SOMETIMES the recipe part is written on the back, SOMETIMES it's on a second card attached to the first card, sometimes it's on a third card. So I'm stuck having to read when all I wanted was a recipe. I didn't even pay attention to who wrote that first card because I just wanted a damn recipe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:13 AM on February 12 [18 favorites]


I wouldn't mind the pages of preamble if I wasn't often using mobile and that ad loading makes the page jump around wildly and cover screen real estate with video ads. I don't love huge text scrolls but they're not the real issue in my experience, it's the layer of sludge that jamming as many ads possible into that text creates.
posted by Ferreous at 5:13 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


This is probably why I buy cookbooks.

Oh, man. I was reading along with corb's comment, nodding more and more fervently in agreement, and then this line smacked me in the face. The absolute pitch perfect definition of irony. If it was intentional, kudos!

So, yeah... I've changed my mind. If someone struggling to get by in this aggressively capitalist society can manage to earn a few meager dollars while also sharing something they love, at minor inconvenience to me, more power to them. Whether that inconvenience is financial (by buying their book... which only a few would be able to get published), or only costs me a few extra twitches of the scroll-finger (a publishing option available to many, many more folks).
posted by Roommate at 5:21 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I'm reading Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You, and he writes about people who quit their day jobs to be lifestyle bloggers. A lot of them end up failing, and what seems pertinent to me here is that he points out that they often get tied up in metrics and general advice and don't pay enough attention to what matters the most for a successful blog: providing content that readers find valuable. Recipe bloggers have a bit of an edge because people want good recipes even if the accompanying text is poorly written or not interesting or flat-out annoying. I don't mind scrolling through drivel if the recipes are good. And it's OK with me if a blogger who provides good recipes also has some advertising — they need to be paid for their work just like I do — though I don't bother looking at the recipe if I'm immediately hit with a wall of ads and pop-ups.

I'm vegan, so I always use that as a search term, which means there are a lot of blogs I never see. I've noticed that when recipes come up, I go first to the blogs that I know have good recipes: Chocolate-Covered Katie, Minimalist Baker, Food52. Occasionally I glance through the text to see if there's some useful information. Also, I always print out recipes I'm trying so I don't have to worry about my screen going dark, but I'm old. I also love and buy cookbooks.

I think that a post of the word shame would also be fitting.

I totally agree with this. This isn't like criticizing someone for being fat on the internet or feeding a child Cheetos. Food bloggers are providing a product, and it's OK to criticize that product just as it's OK for me to say I couldn't get past the second season of Curb Your Enthusiasm without being told I'm "shaming" Larry David. I agree that it would be shitty to send a "your blog sucks" email to the blogger, but this isn't even criticizing any particular blog - it's a general criticism of a trend. If that is too much for you, maybe you should make your writing only available to family and friends. If you want to make money off of your writing - any writing - criticism is part of the deal.

It was made with a ton of dates and I'm not fond of dates. I was worried it would be date-y and it really wasn't.

Medjool dates are often used for caramel or toffee as well as a general sweetener in vegan/plant-based recipes. I just made a bunch of date butter to put in smoothies because my BlendTec blender was mostly leaving dates at the bottom under the blades.
posted by FencingGal at 5:33 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


The correct reaction should be gratefulness

Yeah, nah. I don't have to be grateful that ___ (anything) exists. Most of the sites I have gone to, even my favorites, have SO many ads and pop up and videos on them to be incredibly frustrating to try to read too.

I agree with others that if you're not a reader/follower of a recipe blog, which most of us are not, the format that the Google prefers is not what we wanted. This is unfortunate for all involved.

And like, for whom isn't it tough to make money as a sole creator on the internet? It's a big world. If that's what you want try to do, more power to you. But criticism from users of these sites is as valid as any other consumer criticism.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:34 AM on February 12 [15 favorites]


The trouble isn't the paragraphs - after all, I routinely scroll through far more text to get to the comment box on metafilter. The problem is the ads, and it's not even the ads per se since they could in theory be just more scrolling. It's the way the ads make the page work - the page is slow to load, it's jerky when you scroll, things pop up and reload all the time, it slows the whole browser especially if you're comparing several recipes at once. In particular, if you've scrolled down to the instructions there's usually a big block of ads between them and the ingredients, and then if you need to scroll back up, the scrolling is jerky and things are always reloading.

Also, of course, a page with in-text ads, three or four little pop-up videoes on the side plus multiple footer ads, all of which have to be closed out and keep reappearing, is really ugly, and for me it makes concentration difficult. Very often I give up before I get to the recipe because the ads are so frustrating.

For me, this tends to send me to a smaller number of recipe blogs with fewer ads, and I know that means I'm going to the bigger sites rather than searching out smaller ones. But I just can't handle the part where I'm at a tricky place in the recipe, need to scroll up to double check an ingredient and the whole page reloads all the little videos and footers and stuff.

If anything, I am much less likely to read the "me and my kids and my neo-country style pan collection" text, to which I have no real objection, if it's broken up by blinking ads every paragraph.

And I do miss the old sensawunda internet, frankly, and I miss the somewhat less precarious and less hard-hit by climate change world that went along with it.
posted by Frowner at 5:38 AM on February 12 [21 favorites]


If a recipe is at all complex I write it out on paper and bring it to the kitchen with me. This is good because then I have a physical copy to keep and formatted in the way that makes sense to me but also because lots of online recipes are missing steps/have vague instructions and I can catch them before I start cooking.
posted by Ferreous at 5:46 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


One of the reasons I didn't get going again with writing books and maintaining a blog until the last couple of years is that I had to wait until I was retired. Until I had enough money saved that I didn't have to make SEO and self-promotion the center of my life. (Yes, I'm terribly shy in a bizarre way, and I suppose if I wasn't it would be easier.) It seems to me that marketing ourselves (and harvesting eyeballs) has become a sort of scam churn, where everybody colludes in isolated piecework trying to make a living off fairly awful advertisements, like those "make money in your free times" that used to be in the backs of magazines. That it is supposed to replace the secure jobs that were sold as the norm, and that turned out to be a lie, doesn't make it wonderful.

I am impatient, I admit, and like the children I used to teach I have become over-reliant on search engines to get my answers, but I agree that my time and attention is worth something. That's why I would pay for a decent cookbook or app if I had the mental space to actually care enough about cooking to make it a project, which is not ironic at all. It's comparing one cost to another, and realizing that my time is worth every penny that can get harvested from it.

So I just keep making the same things my husband will consent to eat, the same things I have been making for decades, because if I decided to care about cooking the way I do about writing books, taking care of the grandkid during COVID, supporting my husband with stage 4 cancer, helping my friends, and taking long walks, I would probably be patient enough to winnow through recipes instead of throwing up my hands and saying "mac and cheese again" when I am thrown down the long-format intro hole half an hour before dinner.
posted by Peach at 5:47 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


tiny frying pan and frowner: are you using ad blockers at all?

I have, like, a dozen notes on the comments for this thread, but they are not quite coherent yet. I am almost positive I interact with recipe blogs in a different way than most, so would like more feedback before I comment. (I almost never see ads in recipe blogs and even when I do, they get stripped out when I send to my meal plan app.)
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 5:50 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Yeah, nah. I don't have to be grateful that ___ (anything) exist

I guess we have different levels of entitlement - if someone gives me free information on, say, how to make a yakitori marinade, how to fix a washing machine, or which ice skating rink in my area tends to be less busy, I cannot help but being grateful. To each their own

If we are now switching the conversation from "too much intro text" to "too many adverts" then it's a difference issue, which goes beyond recipe sites. I find that using Firefox with a good selection of ad-blocking extensions handles that problem well enough for me. And when it doesn't, I just hit the "back" button and go somewhere else.
posted by fritzthecat at 5:59 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Well calling me entitled because I'm not grateful for "free" content (it is NOT free, if there are ads I have to navigate) is a choice, for sure.

If you provide information for people to consume, that's your choice. We don't need to see it as some sort of selfless act. It's only a recipe, after all.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:09 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Anytime I find a recipe online that I like, I print it to PDF and save it to a recipes' folder on Dropbox. I don't trust any online content to be there when I want it in the future. But half that folder is Budget Bytes anyway, and she is pretty sparse on the storytelling.
posted by COD at 6:17 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


(Budget Bytes is my absolute favorite, her recipes are easy to follow and everything I've made from her has been added to our regular cooking rotation).
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:21 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Yeah, most food bloggers aren’t really writing any content at all, they’re just adding filler text for SEO.

When it works: When people nerd about food, write about the ingredients and actually making the food, then it keeps you reading, and maybe that ties into their lifestyle choices or whatever, which in turn gets an audience that joins in the discussion and the recipe becomes more than just a list or a manual.

When reading bad recipes I often had the thought that recipes should be written like a piece of software. How do I produce the same result?
But then again all the bad code I read, I’m not so sure about that either…
posted by beesbees at 6:23 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I think the parallel thing here is well is that search engines in general prioritize recipes with good SEO and that skill in SEO isn't the same as good recipes. It's not just that there's a ton of stuff and ad sludge before the recipe but it also tends to very often lifestyle blog content which a lot of people find off-putting.
posted by Ferreous at 6:24 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Well calling me entitled because I'm not grateful for "free" content (it is NOT free, if there are ads I have to navigate)

It's free to you. It's the company paying for those ads who fork out the money...
posted by fritzthecat at 6:38 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


No, my point is it isn't free to me if I have to navigate ads. That is a cost I do not enjoy.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:40 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


But those ads pay based on eyeballs viewing them. The entire ad economy comes down to the actual unit of work being end users grinding through ads.
posted by Ferreous at 6:41 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


I basically never search for a recipe on Google without the words serious eats at the end of my search string. I will check out things that look interesting when reading the Washington Post (previously NYT, but whatever major paper). I also am always in the mood to watch Jacques Pépin cook something for four minutes. Basically, I think Google is useless and I am back to depending on curated sources of quality information.

Google’s whole we-can’t-be-a-monopoly argument, that if their results suck, a competitor is just a click away, has so far proven untrue. Their results do suck. Advertising has completely undermined the quality of their search product to the point that it is driving people to generate garbage so that garbage can be promoted by Google. It is total insanity. I am optimistic that there could be a solution soon. Delivering results better than google’s is getting easier by the day.
posted by snofoam at 6:45 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


I spend a lot of my time thinking about or preparing food (I'm a trained chef, no longer practicing professionally but still passionate about the subject, and also run a food blog for a while. I stopped because I didn't have enough time to craft those long introductory texts anymore). I guess I don't see the whole issue as a problem because I am prepared to invest the time into finding and curating content.

My #1 source of information is cookbooks, which I have been collecting for years. Also, my local libraries have tons of them. #2, and my top digital one, is actually youtube - there seems to be an endless supply of grannies cooking traditional food (I contribute my own 90 years old great aunt to the set) as well as young catering school graduates or chefs trying to escape the hell professional kitchens are and setting themselves up as private chefs. It takes time, but not as long as wading through endless blogs, and x1.75 speed is your friend. #3 is a list of goto sites for different cuisine / languages: seriouseats for en/world, bbc for boring but solid british, chefsimon for french, cucchiaio for italian, etc (deepl does an excellent job with them). #4 is a longer list of all the food blogs which I have found useful in the past. #5 Only when all of those fail, I will search random sites - starting with instagram, twitter, reddit, and only last google. So yes, I have invested time to make it work - but isn't that true of everything, online or not?

It seems to me that the whole issue is one of expectations - everyone expects to click on a button and immediately be presented with a perfectly formatted, delicious recipe with all the difficult steps explained clearly. And all that for free. And if it doesn't happen, "damn capitalism". Odd.
posted by fritzthecat at 6:52 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


Um, no...again, I am allowed to not like ads and say so. And use Google as I wish, as we all do. This is a weird line in the sand to assert.

As I said, I love Budget Bytes and other sites that do what they do well. Not so much a lifestyle blog with 10 pop up ads and video before the recipe.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:52 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


It seems to me that the whole issue is one of expectations - everyone expects to click on a button and immediately be presented with a perfectly formatted, delicious recipe with all the difficult steps explained clearly.

Definitely don't expect this. As stated, it's hard to find, with all the money making bloat. Which us why I stick to blogs that don't have excess ads or narratives.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:57 AM on February 12


It's funny, Budget Bytes is probably the popular site I like the least. Even though cooking on a tight budget is something I have always found extremely satisfying, even in those periods of my life where budget hasn't been an issue. Which just goes to show we all have different tastes and are looking for different content. And it is all out there!

They're asking Alexa to tell them how to make turkey tetrazini and then getting mad that Alexa doesn't know how to make turkey tetrazini; the best it can do is show them a blog post about the year somebody's kids refused to eat anything but turkey tetrazini because it happens to have a recipe in it.

Thanks, I didn't think of it that way, but it makes a lot of sense.

Because I enjoy cooking on a budget, I do think about meals a bit ahead. Usually, I look at what is cheap at the stores and then look for recipes to fit that if I feel we need variation from our usual favorites, or perhaps a supplement. Like, now I have a perfect cauliflower in my fridge, because it cost the equivalent of a US dollar. It's probably going to become a cauliflower gratin, because nothing beats that. But to avoid an all beige dinner, I've been looking for something colorful, and found an okra stew on a new (to me) blog that many of you will probably hate: Turkey's for Life. They are chatty and very life-style-conscious, but their recipes are legit and I can scroll if I want to.
I looked for okra stew because I found frozen okra at our local "save the food" store some time ago, and obviously canned tomatoes and onions are always cheap.

I rarely know who will turn up for dinner, but there will be delicious food for at least four tonight, for 4-5 dollars in all. Thanks to the lifestyle-bloggers in Turkey somewhere.
posted by mumimor at 6:57 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Unlike looking up the definition of synedoche or the year the manga Carta was signed recipes are one of the things you're going to have to grind through a whole bunch of variations to find one that meets your particular needs. All the bullshit SEO is compounded and it's why recipes pages are such a object of disdain. It's not one shitty page of golden hour lit earthenware bowls holding each individual spice, it's however many it takes to find a recipe that is what you actually want.
posted by Ferreous at 6:59 AM on February 12 [9 favorites]


I'm sure this is an interesting thread, but I just immediately scrolled down to the end so I could post this comment.
posted by gwint at 7:02 AM on February 12 [15 favorites]


Ok, but for real, this thread is great and why I love Metafilter. Impassioned arguments, loving call outs to the early days of the web, weird and useful links to other websites and apps...
posted by gwint at 7:04 AM on February 12 [9 favorites]


it's however many it takes to find a recipe that is what your actually want

That's partly what I meant when I wrote about expectations - it's the nature of the beast. It was the same before the internet. Except that now if you want to learn how to make Aloo Palak you can go on youtube and watch an actual Punjabi person cooking it in front of you. And even then, I want to watch 4 or 5 and then average their efforts into my version of the recipe.

In the past you would have to wade through cookbook after cookbook, most of them rubbish, and perhaps ask your friend who was traveling there to buy you a cookbook with a decent version of the recipe. The free, comprehensive, instantly accessible knowledge base of all culinary knowledge has never existed. Good food takes an investment in time. Right now I think we have it as good as we ever did.
posted by fritzthecat at 7:06 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


This all seems strange to me. If what you want is a place on the internet to source just the recipe and nothing (or very little) more, those places exist. Just go to allrecipes.com. Or click on the “just the recipe” page on seriouseats.com. Or whatever.

But are people really complaining about how bloggers structure their blogs? I mean, doesn’t it seem possible that the creators of these blogs want to do more than simply posting recipes and nothing else? That’s not a blog, that’s a recipe database of sorts. And if the creators of these blogs want to do more than simply posting recipes and nothing else, doesn’t it seem reasonable that they’d want people on the internet to find their writing, photography,, whatever? It seems like there should be room for A Serious Bunburyist to write about how to make focaccia alongside a recipe-only site like AllRecipes. I would certainly much rather read (or write) the former than the latter.
posted by slkinsey at 7:06 AM on February 12 [11 favorites]


A Serious Bunburyist
Goodness! That is a rabbit hole if I ever saw one. Thanks.
posted by mumimor at 7:11 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I just talked to somebody in their 50s (I'm older) who has no idea how to find content on the web other than fb and youtube.

Hell, I know young people (30-somethings +) who, when going to a website they frequent, will type the url into the Google search field and then click the top result. I shit you not. They type “amazon.com” and do a search. My brain freezes when I see them do it.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:13 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Admittedly I am a haphazard cook and my preferred method of sustenance is pointing to the two or three toppings that I want on my rice but the pandemic has put the kibosh on that. So I search online (with Duck Duck Go and AdGuard) for whatever strikes my fancy. As long as it doesn’t have too many obscure ingredients, take too many pots, pans, or mixing bowls, require appliances that I do not possess, etc etc. Cooking is stressful.

Cooking while following the recipe on my tablet? Not gonna happen. I transcribe it to an index card, rearranging the steps to be more convenient, adding notes, revising quantities if necessary (the comments are helpful for that). Sometimes I have to rewrite it if I’ve learned a more efficient way to make the dish. I know there’s an app for that but this is just quicker. Besides since I bought a fountain pen I look for excuses to write (and now I have four fountain pens). When I’m cooking (listening to a podcast on said tablet because cooking and washing up is so boring), the recipe card is in a snack-size baggie, taped to the cupboard door right in front of my nose so I don’t need to wear my glasses. Is this the type of meandering commentary we are complaining about, maybe I should get a blog.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:17 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


I come to Metafilter specifically for the meandering commentary. 🙂
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:21 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


The other thing for me is that I read food blogs for the content. I’ve never made that focaccia recipe at A Serious Bunbuyrist, or probably any of the recipes there, but I do read the site. Meanwhile, if I’m looking for a recipe on how to make something I don’t already know how to make, I would never in a million years just go to the top search result and make that because the chances are that it will suck. I have go-to places on the internet I seek out for information on certain kinds of cookery because I know they’re good. And if you don’t have time or interest for that sort of thing—which I totally get—or worry about burning your fingers while scrolling to the next instruction on some rando’s blog, just spend the damn 20 bucks for the Kindle edition of Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” (which is actually really very good!) and avoid all of those pitfalls. At least you’d know you were getting tested recipes from a reputable cookbook author, and his recipes offer plenty of possibilities for variation.
posted by slkinsey at 7:26 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


TWinbrooks: I bought a fountain pen I look for excuses to write (and now I have four fountain pens)

Welcome, friend…
posted by slkinsey at 7:28 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Boy howdy, there's a lot of people confusing "wrong for me" with "wrong" in this conversation.

So, here's where I think the the disconnect happens. People want cooking blogs to be formally laid out like cookbooks. Which I agree would be super useful in a lot of cases. There's a reason cookbooks have the formal structure they do. It evolved to help people be able to cook while using the book. That formatting would be a great thing to have when using recipes on a tablet or phone or whatever when cooking. Like, I really really understand that. That's why I use Paprika to pull recipes I like off the web and get them in that formatting.

The thing is, as a genera, food blogs aren't descended from cookbooks, they're blogs. They're not written to be instructions for how do something, while you're doing it. They're written to be people talking about their life and posting it online (now how honest people are being is a whole different conversation, and one that ranges WAY beyond food blogs). They often contain recipes, because yeah, that formally is something we expect, but they also contain pictures and stories, because THAT TOO is something that's part of the formal expectations of the genre. I'm sorry, you're just looking for a different genre with a different history than where most food blogs are coming from.

Like, you should absolutely look for stuff that meets your needs, and hell even complain about how you'd love it if food blogs did things differently, that's how stuff changes. I bet we'll see a surge in cookbook websites (vs food blogs) as the number of people that cook from their tablets and phones increases. But like, it'd be nice if you'd also remember that your experiences and expectations are relatively new, not what the format was designed for, and also not even a little universal.

I LOVE reading about people's relationship to food, I love reading about the history of a dish, and why people choose the ingredients they did, or whatever. It's why I read food blogs. It's also why I'm super picky about which ones I read, and why I'm much more likely to just search my cookbooks when looking for a specific dish, then the online sources whose recipes I trust, and then if I still haven't found a recipe, I google it. Because I realize that random food blogs aren't about giving me recipes quickly, they're about selling me on the story of the recipe, because that's what blogs are for, personal stories.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:29 AM on February 12 [13 favorites]


But are people really complaining about how bloggers structure their blogs? I mean, doesn’t it seem possible that the creators of these blogs want to do more than simply posting recipes and nothing else? That’s not a blog, that’s a recipe database of sorts.

It's not how the blogs are structured per se but that what the content around the recipe is and how ads are integrated into that experience. There are recipe sites with context that are well executed and informative. Most of them aren't though, the ones that get forefronted tend to be the most bloated and lifestyle focused ones.

Honestly going through this thread has me thinking about why lifestyle type recipe pages seem to annoy people (myself included) in a way lots of other forms don't. At least for me part of it is the sense that by showing a quaint and clean version of cooking they tend to obfuscate the very real and tiring labor of working in a kitchen.
posted by Ferreous at 7:31 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


At least for me part of it is the sense that by showing a quaint and clean version of cooking they tend to obfuscate the very real and tiring labor of working in a kitchen.

And if you feel that way, that is completely fair. But I am guessing that the people who make food blogs or enjoy reading them don't see working in their home kitchens as tiring labor. Many of them state right in their intros that they are trying to make a living out of their passion.

I'm not a blogger, but to me, cooking is soothing and relaxing. After a tough day of being an academic, mostly all up in my head, shopping and chopping and braising are all sensuous and happy activities. I've felt that way since I was in my teens, so now some of the things that I will acknowledge were tedious once are just routines.
posted by mumimor at 7:37 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


how ads are integrated into that experience

This I get 100%. In my experience it tends to be more the case with lifestyle sites and faux blogs such as Simply Recipes than it is for actual single author or small group blogs. I just don’t go to those sites, and if I click on one I click away and don’t go back.

So, here’s something I don’t get: How can someone who sources and uses so many recipes from the internet as to get worked up about this sort of thing not have a collection of go-to sites they like and trust? For example, I don’t understand why Serious Eats wouldn’t be in all their bookmarks.
posted by slkinsey at 7:41 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


(Because all my favorite recipe sites don't necessarily have a recipe for a thing I want to try, making me have to source a recipe from somewhere)
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:43 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Another site that has tons and tons of legit recipes and no ads is Splendidtable.org
Just saying because all of this has inspired me to go out and make a pie, and listen to The Splendid Table while I do it
posted by mumimor at 7:49 AM on February 12


just spend the damn 20 bucks for the Kindke edition of Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”

Oh man, I did not like this cookbook. The format was really overwhelming, and I didn't like what I cooked from it. It gets recommended on MetaFilter all the time, and I gave mine away. To state the obvious, cookbooks aren't for everyone either.

Now I always check cookbooks out from the library first before buying them. Or at least I did before I was an immunocompromised person during a global pandemic.

(Is it OK to ask for the name of that site that indexes your cookbooks? I saw that mentioned on here once, and I can't find it.)
posted by FencingGal at 7:51 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that no more than a dozen high quality websites would cover 90% of what could be made in a western kitchen without needing a significant larder of specialty ingredients. And someone who is into Indian or Sichuan or Thai (etc.) enough to have built up that larder is likely to have sought out relevant sources of quality instruction and recipes. Meanwhile, if someone wants to just dip their toes into, for example, Sichuan cooking by making twice cooked pork, a site without any narrative won’t be very helpful.

As for Bittman, I get that too. But he is hardly the only game in town for wide-reaching comprehensive cookbooks.
posted by slkinsey at 7:51 AM on February 12


So, here’s something I don’t get: How can someone who sources and uses so many recipes from the internet as to get worked up about this sort of thing not have a collection of go-to sites they like and trust?

I don't know, at this point in my life I just kind of assume that if people do things differently than me they have a reason that makes sense to their context. Like that's the thing here right? Food bloggers HAVE reasons to do things the way they do, and other people have good reasons to want them to do it differently.

One thing I'm really curious about, as someone who occasionally has problems parsing written words and other times has problems parsing spoken stuff, is the accessibility angle of the whole thing. Like I imagine that most food blogs could just be kind of hellish on screenreaders, but I really don't know.
posted by Gygesringtone at 7:52 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


If I find a recipe that I want to use, I cut and paste the recipe part into an email to myself, then print off the email; and use the print out when I'm cooking. Bonus is that I am now putting together all the printed out emails into a 'recipe book' (well, a binder); and they are there for whenever I need them.
Yes, I am old.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 8:06 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


One thing I'm really curious about, as someone who occasionally has problems parsing written words and other times has problems parsing spoken stuff, is the accessibility angle of the whole thing. Like I imagine that most food blogs could just be kind of hellish on screenreaders, but I really don't know.

One of my daughters has always struggled with reading, though it is getting better. She gets most of her recipes from videos, on YouTube, or Instagram. I look at cooking videos, and learn a lot from them, but I don't cook directly from them.

if you read old cookbooks, it is clear that they assumed that you already knew a lot about cooking, and perhaps just needed a list of ingredients or a special technique. This is completely different today.
posted by mumimor at 8:15 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I print out recipes, put them in sheet protectors, and put them in a notebook if they're good. I have tabs in the notebook, so it's kind of a cookbook for me. I am also old.

My point wasn't to trash Bittman or people who love that book. Obviously, it really works for a lot of people. The cookbook I find myself using the most is the Forks Over Knives cookbook, which is vegan and oil free and very clearly not for everyone. I've also been cooking long enough that I feel like I have the basics down, though I also learn stuff from YouTube when I'm thinking things like "surely there's a better way to cut up a cantaloupe" (There was). But even with YouTube, I look for videos that are short or I skip through the part where the speaker is just waxing eloquent about cantaloupes and look for the place where actual prep work begins.
posted by FencingGal at 8:20 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I have never once encountered a recipe site where the thousand words (liberally studded with ads, videos, and popups) you had to (sometimes successfully, but as often as not crashing the browser) scroll through to get to the information I wanted were coherent enough to suggest they might have been written by an adult human being. It’s usually the same paragraph repeated over and over with slightly different (and increasingly bizarre) wording. I wouldn’t mind it so much if it was an actual, readable story.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:29 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


. Is scrolling for a few microseconds really that much of an in inconvenience?

A sincere and serious question: have you ever tried to go to food/recipe blogs on a smartphone, and scroll to the recipe?

Because it seems like there’s a major disconnect in how a lot of us experience this, and how you and perhaps others are thinking of it, and I think that may be causing some of the tension in the conversation.

For me personally, trying to scroll past multiple ads and several pages, not several paragraphs, of text, in order to be able to cook a recipe, is lengthy and difficult enough to be actually frustrating.

First of all, there’s no scroll bar, which means you’re putting a finger on the screen to scroll. Whoops, accidentally misclicked an ad! Now it’s navigating off and difficult for me to get back. Or it’s scrolling for so long that it makes it hard to keep it centered on the recipe. Or worse - some sites make it actually more difficult to scroll to the recipe by not placing a differentiation between the recipe and the text. And of course, it’s difficult to print from a phone, if you have a printer in the first place.

And as some have noted above, there’s a strong difference between someone writing a few paragraphs of interesting history or context to the food, and someone deliberately making sure to create enough content that the ad payouts will be happy you’ve remained on the page long enough, or that Google’s algorithm will be happy. Because the latter is often going to involve filler.

And it often seems entirely counterproductive. How many people are going to the big recipe sites that would have been excited to read recipes written with context, but can’t deal with all the SEO stuff when they’re just trying to cook a recipe?
posted by corb at 8:46 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


tiny frying pan:

Well calling me entitled because I'm not grateful for "free" content (it is NOT free, if there are ads I have to navigate) is a choice, for sure.

If you provide information for people to consume, that's your choice. We don't need to see it as some sort of selfless act. It's only a recipe, after all.


I asked just a while ago... do you use an ad blocker? That would solve many of your ad problems.
It's only a recipe, after all.
Well, then, fine. Fucking do it yourself. That is astonishingly reductive and demeaning of a "how-to" guide of one of the literal essential needs of life.

Since it's "only a recipe, after all", certainly you can do it yourself and then have a completely ad free recipe right?
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 8:49 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Well, there is the important point that we all have different googles. I won't say that I never ever get the thousand words (liberally studded with ads, videos, and popups), but I probably get them less than someone who is less of a foodie. Because I mainly focus on the sites that have been linked above by others and myself. If you google *serious eats* *Kung Pao Chicken* and *guardian* *celery* etc. enough times, you will train the algorithm to direct you to better options, and not only the ones mentioned here.

I realize that training google is perhaps a bit much to ask of most people, but on the other hand, I also do that as part of my day job, teaching students to search information better. Yes, there are academic sources, but I would be kidding myself and everyone else if I were to presume that my students would only search for academic articles when they are looking for a standard roof construction.
posted by mumimor at 8:52 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Smartphones in general are not super amenable to ad blocking in the way non mobile platforms are. I wish it wasn't the case but I do perform the bulk of my browsing on a phone because of time and access issues. A user on a desktop with full AdBlock is going to have a much easier time than I am but that doesn't invalidate how shitty my experience is.
posted by Ferreous at 8:57 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


If I find a recipe that I want to use, I cut and paste the recipe part into an email to myself, then print off the email; and use the print out when I'm cooking. Bonus is that I am now putting together all the printed out emails into a 'recipe book' (well, a binder); and they are there for whenever I need them.

There's an even easier approach I use: Copy Me That, an online database of recipes you've found at other sites. I use it online, and use the browser extension to copy and save a recipe from any blog to my account; if you're reading a food blog and there's a recipe in it, just click the extension button, and it will scan the page you're reading for JUST the recipe and save it as an entry in your account. You are prompted to go check that over real quick (once in a blue moon it misses a step or mis-interprets some of the "notes" as recipe content), categorize it if you like (categories you define, like "soups" or "serves one" or whatever) and then save it.

And maybe this is the happy medium: if I want to read, I read the original link. If I just want the recipe so I can cook, I have the copy of the recipe in my files on Copy Me That.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:59 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I asked just a while ago... do you use an ad blocker? That would solve many of your ad problems.

It's only a recipe, after all.

Well, then, fine. Fucking do it yourself. That is astonishingly reductive and demeaning of a "how-to" guide of one of the literal essential needs of life


I use an ad blocker. It doesn't catch everything. Nor does it solve long goopy non-food-related stories. Please don't swear at me. I still need recipes, I'm not a chef.
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:04 AM on February 12 [9 favorites]


Just throwing in a mention of an accessibility issue. If you have a problem with your hands, e.g., any repetitive stress disorder, scrolling and clicking are literally painful, not just in the moment, but later on too. This is a problem for a LOT of people. I brought this up long ago, and a lot of people seemed to get it, though at least one person thought that linking in a non-accessible way allowed for more creativity. I personally never click on MetaFilter mystery links.
posted by FencingGal at 9:04 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


Thank you for the search engine suggestion of Million Short, Gerald Bostock! I'm so excited to use a search engine that omits content farms. Sometimes I am looking for household advice, say, how to defur all my laundry, and I don't want the same damn wikihow article with near identical text on every other result for the first page.

Oh right, we're talking about cooking blogs? I like(d?) epicurious as a recipe database and did deeply enjoy the substitutions of the main ingredients comments/complaints, per the Brie chicken comment.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:10 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Tangential, but on iOS I find the Ghostery Dawn browser does a good job with ads.

ETA: Aren’t all the ads and crap copy signifiers that the recipe is likely to suck? Why bother scrolling in the first place? I always move on if I click on a site that looks like that.
posted by slkinsey at 9:19 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


did deeply enjoy the substitutions of the main ingredients comments/complaints, per the Brie chicken comment.

Yeah, when I began following cooking blogs, I thought the substitution comments were hilarious, and they are obviously an internet joke. But eventually, I became one of those people, mostly on Serious Eats. And I really learnt from some other similar comments. The thing is, you are talking about how the method in the recipe works across different ingredients and it makes a lot of sense.
Also, though most of lockdown, I lived out in the boondocks, and the ingredients I could find were nowhere near what writers in NYC had available. I know, we can buy stuff online, but I'm still waiting for a book I ordered before Christmas.
posted by mumimor at 9:20 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


I think we are mixing up a couple of different conversations here. One is about intro text in recipes; the other is about ads; and another about mobile phones vs desktop.

If you visit one those dreadful sites with lots of ads and popups everywhere, then I suggest you stop right now. They are never worth it. And on a mobile, they drain your battery (as well as the potential security risk of these unvetted ad networks). But that would be true whether the recipes have long intro texts or not... I don't see the relevance to the OP to be honest. And I thought most MeFites were seasoned internet users and aware of that

As for mobiles - we all know the browsing experience is much worse than on desktop machines. You can't really do serious research on a mobile phone. In those cases, better limit yourself to sites you know your device can handle. I find seriouseats and a couple of others are all I need on mobile. If I need to go deeper, I'll wait until I am near a cookbook or a desktop machine

As for using the mobile while cooking - I find it helps writing down the recipe on a piece of paper and following the steps. That way you are less likely to have to touch the phone with your panko covered hands, and the act of writing it allows you to learn the steps a little. Further iterations of the recipe will be based on that piece of paper, until i have any own version, tailored to my taste.
posted by fritzthecat at 9:23 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Don't use mobile isn't very helpful advice these days. Most people I know do a large portion of their internet interaction via phones. Having a phone but not a computer isn't uncommon at all these days, especially in lower income households.
posted by Ferreous at 9:25 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Don't use mobile isn't very helpful advice these days.

If that's a response to my comment - that's not what I said. I said "limit yourself to a few trusty mobile friendly websites when on mobile"
posted by fritzthecat at 9:29 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


So, I found this awesome site for beanplating, but Jeesus Sharklauncher Christ, I had to scroll through a ton of comments …
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 9:38 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


There's still a fair critique in how SEO encourages content that performs badly on mobile and a user experience that's detrimental to getting the information they came there for. A huge portion of browsing is done on mobile platforms and if that forcibly limits you to only a few sources something is wrong with the scenario.
posted by Ferreous at 9:38 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


It would be interesting if there was a business model that paid independent creators, but wasn’t ad-based. Like a music streaming service, or Apple News, where you pay a subscription fee for a library of recipes, including individual “channels” produced by people or companies. Then creators could be paid by some metric that approximates usage. I suppose the problem is that the payouts would be minuscule.
posted by snofoam at 9:43 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Please don't swear at me. I still need recipes, I'm not a chef.

I am not a chef either. I used a profanity out of frustration (and not directed at you) in the way you have shown how you interact with recipe websites. You are given this information for free, in the sense that you are not paying for it. (This is not the thread to have the Free as in Beer vs. Free as in Speech argument).

Ads bother you? You have your ad blocker on. "Long goopy non food related stories"? Click jump to recipe. No Jump to recipe button? Buy a cookbook or do the long scroll.

I reacted pretty strongly because you said "it's just a recipe" as if recipes have no value and now your reply is "I need recipes" as if they are essential.

Please ponder that dichotomy.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 9:44 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


There is no free lunch recipe.
posted by snofoam at 9:45 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Free, as in, the person decided to put their recipe on the internet for free, as in, not behind a paywall. I am allowed to read it, and critique it, as we are with any content we come across. Excessive ads bother me, yes.

Long goopy non-food related stories are annoying, yes. And I will jump to recipe sometimes - other times I'm so turned off I find another site. That's normal web browsing behavior?

It IS just a recipe - some people's comments seem to imply that it is a selfless act to provide a recipe on the internet for free. I don't see it that way - it's content someone shared, that's it. There is no saintly impulse behind it for me. Recipes have value, of course they do - but if you provide it for anyone to look at, the WAY you do so is absolutely fair game for criticism, like any other website.

I need recipes sometimes, like all of us do. I have the right to decide that the way some are presented is annoying to me personally - too many ads, long flowery stories not about food, strange preparation methods, an ingredient I wouldn't include, anything.

I see no dichotomy. It's bizarre to be told if you don't like how a particular website does something, that you shouldn't be looking for content from a website.
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:50 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


I don't understand your point - if those sites are detrimental, surely being rid of them is a positive, not "being forcibly limited"... You can't have it both ways.

A search engine is not a scraper that only fetches the information that "you came for", they provide a link to content created and managed by someone else. Someone who doesn't owe you anything. If you don't like how they structure their information then don't use them. We are back at expecting volunteers to tailor free content to your wishes and needs, regardless of theirs. Screw that.
posted by fritzthecat at 9:54 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


SEO incentivizes bad content. Things are actively made worse to stay in results. There can be useful recipes underneath SEO garbage but without the garbage they don't show up. It's a bigger problem than just "I don't want to read anything" It's a structural problem that creates an arms race of worse user experience to remain relevant.

Also even if the creators of these pages don't owe me anything in a direct sense they do get paid for my looking at their content. There's nothing saying you can't critique something "free". It's the reason going back to the main original post that framing it as shaming creators is absurd.
posted by Ferreous at 10:11 AM on February 12 [13 favorites]


[Sounds of shop keepers bells and door closing]

"Oh hi and welcome to Meela's Cloud! What can i do for you?"
"A Carbonara recipe"
"Oh yes Carbonara..! The old classic, there are so many variations aren't there? I have..."
"Shut up! Just the recipe!"

[Meela holds a placard advertising incontinence nappies as she speaks]
"Gosh that's a bit extreme isn't it? Don't you want to know how I..."
"I am only here for the recipe goddammit!"

[The placard falls to the ground, and is replaced by one advertising life insurance]
"Well it took me a while to type out the whole .."
[Grabs Meela by the throat and pins her to the wall. The placard falls to the ground and is replaced by one about self defence classes]
"I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOU! Where. Is. The. Recipe"
"There... Just scroll to the backroom, it's near the rear door..."
[Storms to the where the recipe is, grabs it, kicks three back door and leaves]

".... Thanks for your call..."
"... Fuck you..."
[The placard is dropped and replaced by one advertising anti-depressants]

That's pretty much how these complaints about intro text feel to a good blogger
posted by fritzthecat at 10:11 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Several unrelated thoughts:

First, to avoid conflating different issues, maybe it would be helpful if people were to provide example links of the sort of recipes they're talking about.

Second, to avoid conflating issues, it seems as though having the right to be annoyed, being socially appropriate to express annoyance in various ways and having the right to demand changes are all different things.

Third, the most viable alternative to SEO crud is probably paywalling of content, which seems also to lead to general annoyance and people demanding ways to access the content for free.
posted by eponym at 10:13 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Ah yes the brutal violent assault of people complaining about bad user experience.
posted by Ferreous at 10:14 AM on February 12 [16 favorites]


That's pretty much how these complaints about intro text feel to a good blogger

That should have been "food" blogger... Now the SEO is all screwed up
posted by fritzthecat at 10:19 AM on February 12


just spend the damn 20 bucks for the Kindle edition of Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” (which is actually really very good!)

I have literally a wall of cook books available to me (my spouse has been collecting for a while). It is a small wall but still several hundred cook books. But all the general books suffer from having one maybe two variants of any particular dish. Which means none of them can be the end all be all of cooking. If Im Jonesing for fried rice or peirogi or something it can be fun to find new variants by whipping through a bunch of websites.
posted by Mitheral at 10:27 AM on February 12


And for what its worth the idea that because the bulk of recipe sites are mediocre that one should limit their resources to a few larger trusted sites hurts smaller recipe blogs that are doing well formatted good work. I like to up look for recipes from multiple sources because you get different angles and perspectives. It's just a shame that there's so much more chaff than wheat.
posted by Ferreous at 10:37 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


If that's a response to my comment - that's not what I said. I said "limit yourself to a few trusty mobile friendly websites when on mobile"

And if none of those few trusty sites have a recipe for the particular dish I want to make?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:38 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


And for what its worth the idea that because the bulk of recipe sites are mediocre

It seems to me that a lot of your comments are based on unproven blank statements like the above or "SEO incentivizes bad content" and so forth. I personally find most recipe sites to be OK. It's been years since I have been taken to a site with lots of popup ads (AFAIK Google is beginning to penalise them, and it shows) And I like the intro text, as have a few others who commented here. So I guess we are discussing opinions, and yeah, we'll have to agree to disagree.

And if none of those few trusty sites have a recipe for the particular dish I want to make?

Then I guess you need a better selection of trusty sites...
posted by fritzthecat at 10:56 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I have a crap ton of recipe blogs in my feed reader. If something looks good, I open it in a new tab. I use the jump to recipe link, if it's there. If not, I scroll down. I (as a general rule) don't read the blogger's life recipe story. If the recipe looks good, I save it to Pocket. I print the recipes I want to cook. I mark it up as I make it. If I think it's a keeper, I type it out. I have 1 volume of a family cookbook spiral bound. I have volume 2 in progress, and I have a personal baking cookbook in progress as well.

The only time I even attempt to use a recipe site on mobile is when I'm at the store and see something on sale that I might want to buy. It's nearly impossible (as others above have noted) to use these sites on mobile.

I totally get the hate on food bloggers. I used to read their stories. But as the SEO started to favor that strategy, the writing quality dropped. There's so much good content on the web, I don't need to read the bad stuff. Hell, I don't have time to read all the good stuff I find.

The only food blogs I never go back to are the ones who don't put the full recipe in one place. The whole thing is a series of sentences and pictures. I don't want to work that hard.
posted by kathrynm at 11:07 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I see no dichotomy. It's bizarre to be told if you don't like how a particular website does something, that you shouldn't be looking for content from a website.

What is bizarre is that the website one is complaining about actually HAS the content someone is looking for (for free) and is just more upset that there is MORE CONTENT than what they want. The long flowery stories, strange preparation methods, etc. Just not in the format they prefer.

tiny frying pan: I still think you are missing my point:"It's JUST a recipe" vs "I need recipes".

Saying it is just a recipe completely minimizes the work behind it. As if it is just words on an index card. If it is that easy, you shouldn't need a recipe. You can just do it on the fly, right? Therein lies the dichotomy. "Just a recipe" implies it is so easy that it's just words on an index card to help remind someone of next steps vs. "I don't know how to do this" (which you mentioned).

Bowing out for a bit, while I meal plan (something I would have never done 4 years ago!).
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 11:08 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


And if none of those few trusty sites have a recipe for the particular dish I want to make?

I say this as someone who loves trying new and unusual things: it sucks that it's a ton of work to find a recipe sometimes, but I mean the flip side of that is that everything that's easy to discovery is that way because someone did a bunch of work to make it discoverable and readable, and not every dish has a person willing to do that for it. And that sucks, but like... that's kind of just life ya know?

I really don't have a good solution to this, and like I said earlier, I don't think anyone's particularly wrong about anything here, it's just people want different things. I think this conversation is actually way more fraught than it needs to be because so few of the people involved seem to be willing to say "I see where you're coming from".
posted by Gygesringtone at 11:10 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


If you can't locate the content you want because it's buried under a lot of non-content-you-want, it's not helpful.

"It's just a recipe" - I said this because some comments implied a recipe was a gift to the world and we should be grateful that it exists at all - I don't see it that way. I see it as any other content on the web that someone put on there. Sure, there was work behind it - that's great. It's great someone did the work to come up with a recipe and put it out there. And if it's DONE WELL, the way that I like, I will come back! That's how content works. If I don't like it, if it's not done well by my estimation, I might complain about it and not come back. I don't have to be grateful for sites I don't like!

We are all allowed to like some recipe sites and not others. I have my favorites.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:12 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Just to reiterate my previous comment with a warning not to follow the dubious cooking on my future blog, i decided to make a vat of Mulligatawny Soup for which I’ve cobbled together an excellent recipe and amazingly had all, well most of the ingredients on hand (cannellini beans can be substituted for chickpeas, right?). It’s usually a several hour ordeal as all the vegetables need to be processed and my food chopper holds about a cup at a time. But! last month I got a Nutribullet blender. (since then, the store has been out of kale). I peel and roughly chopped a large onion, the first ingredient that needs to be sautéed, and then I remembered that you need to use liquid to use the blender. No problem, the recipe calls for chicken stock. Added an inch or so. Came out looking like Cream of Wheat. So I’m sautéing cream of wheat and so on. The frozen cauliflower wasn’t quite thawed so that’s gonna stay lumpy. The rest blended up pretty well. It’s simmering for a half hour until I add chicken towards the end. Gotta say, this is the smoothest soup I’ve ever made. If it doesn’t turn out as good, I can always blame the low-fat coconut milk which was all the supermarket had last week.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:13 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


It's just wild to me that the response to the lived experience of many people in the thread having bad interactions with recipe sites is basically "you're wrong and also entitled babies who don't know how to use the internet right"
posted by Ferreous at 11:14 AM on February 12 [26 favorites]


(Also, I don't always need a recipe! So...yeah. It's not like my entire cooking life depends on the internet. So I go to sites I like, and bounce off the ones that annoy me. Like...every other type of website I have ever encountered).
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:14 AM on February 12


During this conversation, I have been thinking of something. Maybe there is a limit to what online recipes can do for us.
I am a Northern European woman, and my main food genealogy is assimilated Jewish, French, Danish and Italian Cuisine. I lived in England for a part of my childhood, so I have a great affection for British food and I think the knowledge of taste is important, but my family has no British food history.
Within these cultures, I can read a recipe and see if it is valid.
But everything beyond that is something I need to study and learn to understand.
And I don't feel I have been able to learn enough about Asian foods through online media, I have needed the support of friends and not least good cookbooks.
Part of my family is Mexican, and from them, I have a completely different impression of Mexican food from what I could learn online. As in, I felt completely unable to find good Mexican recipes before my family helped me.
So searching the web is a different thing when you know what you are looking for.
posted by mumimor at 11:16 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Haven't read the whole thread yet, but in a quick "find in page" search I'm surprised no one has mentioned the Recipe Filter chrome extension. Works like a charm to isolate just the recipe on almost every recipe blog I've visited since installing. Found via reddit, I think.
posted by msbrauer at 11:23 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


It's just wild to me that the response to the lived experience of many people in the thread having bad interactions with recipe sites is basically "you're wrong and also entitled babies who don't know how to use the internet right"

I don't know, you and tiny frying pan have stated several times that you feel you are entitled to criticise food bloggers, so why shouldn't the same apply to the "many people in the thread"? I don't feel the criticism you summarised so well is any worse than your "they are wrong and also evil SEO capitalists who refuse to give me for free what I want how I want it when I want it". But I think we have both made our positions entirely clear, we are just going in circles now. I'll bail out, have a good rest of the day
posted by fritzthecat at 11:33 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


👋
posted by Ferreous at 11:40 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Of COURSE we are entitled to criticize food blogs, or any blog or website we wish! Why wouldn't that be true?

No one said the things we don't like are evil. I *would* go so far as to say Google makes the game of trying to be visible in the internet fairly impossible, but that doesn't mean an individual blogger who operates a blog I find stupid or distasteful isn't well within their rights to make any kind of blog they want.

Calling us entitled for having preferences? Then every single person who ever lived is entitled, I guess.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:40 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Recipes get hidden under piles of gunk because algorithms don’t need recipes. They are made of code and they don’t even need food. Fix that and I think the situation will improve.
posted by snofoam at 12:08 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Let's not get all caught up in this. We all have different needs and preferences. The MetaFilter foodies are bringing in some reccomandations for blogs and other sites that work and have no or few ads. The non-foodies are asking for more transparency and less noise.
Since we know some food bloggers are also MeFites, let's hope the message is forwarded.
posted by mumimor at 12:09 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Recipes get hidden under piles of gunk because algorithms don’t need recipes. They are made of code and they don’t even need food. Fix that and I think the situation will improve.

So we're agreed, the natural solution is to build new algorithms that enjoy snacking. Web 4.0!
posted by eponym at 12:15 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


I get almost all of my recipes lately from the vegan food bloggers rainbowplantlife and Pick Up Limes. I’m not vegan, but the quality of their recipes + the simplicity of their websites + their excellent YouTube video content is better than anything I’ve seen elsewhere from individual food bloggers (i.e. excluding sites like Serious Eats or NYT Cooking). In particular (and the part that’s relevant to this thread), I really appreciate how while rainbowplantlife’s recipes are preceded by tons of text (which I usually can’t stand), it’s full of information about the type of ingredients she used for the recipe, some interesting food science tidbits about why a particular ingredient is needed, or flavor notes, rather than unrelated stories. If folks know of more food bloggers/recipe sites like this, I’d love to hear them!
posted by chaiyai at 12:53 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


But the stories make the food taste more. Sincerely
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 1:14 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


But that would be true whether the recipes have long intro texts or not... I don't see the relevance to the OP to be honest.

I think the issue is that people trying to increase the monetization of their website often don’t stick to just one way. So it’s not /just/ walls of text, it’s walls of texts /and/ ads. And often, especially on mobile, the ads are midway in the text, so you actually can’t just keep idly scrolling to what you want without accidentally clicking on things.
posted by corb at 1:21 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I suppose this is correct, but I just want to make a Weird Al food parody of that guy's song now.
posted by anhedonic at 2:53 PM on February 12


"It was a bright cold day in April, and the ovens were striking 350."
posted by credulous at 2:54 PM on February 12 [7 favorites]


The "entitled" aspect comes in, I think, because regardless of which blogger or blog post the reader may be snarking at, it probably took many hours of cooking and tasting, photographing the result, and writing it up to make it to the post that the reader is complaining about.
posted by Lexica at 4:15 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


And a terrible piece of art may have taken a long time and a lot of effort too. Same for a TV show or movie, etc. All are still OK to critique. Nothing entitled about a review based on opinion.

(TV and movies also come to mind as pieces of art that can be utterly ruined as an experience by advertising within their confines!)
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:21 PM on February 12 [12 favorites]


(Or a sloppy narrative that doesn't help the plot)
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:27 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Meta to discuss specific stuff that works for people vs the general "food blog narrative good/bad?" in here.

I am sincerely interested in everyone's opinions over there. I'll drop another ~30 links from my RSS if there is any traction in that thread. (I really hope so. I am always looking for more cooking sites.)
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 4:38 PM on February 12


I came in via the Meta wondering if ⌘F would find someone mentioning/discounting the h-recipe microformat, because I realize it's egregious techno-optimism to assume this solves the problem--plus I haven't heard anyone talking about microformats in yeaaaars--but if there's a well-known reason this has already failed besides obscurity/complexity, I'm curious, because at one point it seemed to offer a path to letting at least some users discover and style recipes systematically without impacting SEO and maybe improving it? If it's just that it's obscure and unhelpful to most users, I get it.
posted by Wobbuffet at 9:35 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Answering my own question just slightly, Google seems to recommend using the Schema.org Recipe format--like, put the story or narrative or ads or whatnot wherever you like, but add the Schema markup around the recipe part so it's readily discovered.
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:24 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, the Recipe Filter extension that msbrauer recommended seems to be finding the Schema.org Recipe markup to display it cleanly. There are more details in a Reddit thread about it--maybe the one msbrauer recalled. I haven't tried running it, but the code in its repo seems pretty straightforward.
posted by Wobbuffet at 10:49 PM on February 12


if someone gives me free information on, say, how to make a yakitori marinade, how to fix a washing machine, or which ice skating rink in my area tends to be less busy, I cannot help but being grateful. To each their own

This is...disingenuous. You are not providing the recipe, and in particular the meandering intro to the recipe, for altruistic reasons. You are providing it so you can make money off your readers. Just because the reader is not paying you directly does not mean you are not consciously and directly making money off them. Which is fine, but if you are unable to distinguish between genuine gifts and fuel for the hustle, and thus the differing sets of expectations for response, capitalism has eaten your brain. I'm serious. Maybe these days many of us can't help having to monetize aspects of our private life that in previous times we wouldn't have, but if you've internalized the way capitalism tries to blur the profit-making and the humane motives together, to confuse the different sets of commercial and personal values, you are very lost.
posted by praemunire at 11:17 PM on February 12 [11 favorites]


Anyhow! Inspired by this thread I decided to do some cooking this weekend. I have several "recipe books" in my home. Despite the fact that these books were not free to access and I have already paid money for them, I found that the informational content I sought was wrapped in some sort of "cover" - just an image, and moreover, one not of the recipe I intended to make! Clearly this was just an exploitative marketing scam intended to attract potential buyers while providing no useful information to me at all. I hurled this "cookbook" through the window in a rage and wept awhile thinking of the precious seconds i might have wasted "opening" this cover to glean the information I justly deserve.

Hopefully some band of travelling hermits will soon pass by and sing to me the recipe I desire,in a concise and well-organised manner as to not invoke my wrath. I am starving to death
posted by ominous_paws at 11:43 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


This is...disingenuous. You are not providing the recipe, and in particular the meandering intro to the recipe, for altruistic reasons. You are providing it so you can make money off your readers.

This is... quite childish. You have no idea what they motivation of food bloggers are. And you can't assume it is the same form everyone. I am pretty sure a lot do it simply because they enjoy it. Our they want to make new friends.

capitalism has eaten your brain. I'm serious. ... if you've internalized the way capitalism tries to blur the profit-making ... you are very lost.

Capitalist monsters. They are verywhere! But they won't fool you! You got it all figured out...!

This kind of conspiratorial drivel is not that far from Qanon. I am serious.
posted by fritzthecat at 1:29 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Hang in there ominous_paws! The hermits are not doubt on their way!
posted by fritzthecat at 1:46 AM on February 13


...if you are unable to distinguish between genuine gifts and fuel for the hustle, and thus the differing sets of expectations for response, capitalism has eaten your brain.

"Capitalism Has Eaten Your Brain" is going to be the name for my new ad-free food blog.
posted by jeremias at 3:25 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


You have no idea what they motivation of food bloggers are. And you can't assume it is the same form everyone. I am pretty sure a lot do it simply because they enjoy it. Our they want to make new friends.

When you are making money off of people who read your blog, it is not just joy or friendship anymore.

If a friend invited me for dinner, but spent the entire evening trying to sell me on her MLM, the dinner is no longer free, I am no longer grateful, and I'm seriously re-evaluating if not ending that friendship. I would feel used. This is true regardless of how fancy the dinner is or how much effort she put into preparing it. My not paying her in money for the dinner would be irrelevant. I paid with my time.

I don't mind paying for good content - I've been a Patreon donor for podcasts I like that don't have commercial sponsors. If there were a convenient way to "subscribe" to blogs that didn't use ads so that I wasn't having a bunch of $5 transactions every month, I'd be in. I don't even mind ads on the blogs - except for the kind that start videos that you have to look for and shut down. Those are evil. What bothers me in this thread is the pretense that these blogs aren't commercial transactions and that the content is some kind of free gift. If people are making money from their transactions with you, whatever they are doing is not free. They would not be getting paid by advertisers if the advertising did not work. And what I'm paying with are my time and attention - which are not without value.

Using a pretense of friendship to sell things is a very old strategy. I'm thinking Avon and Tupperware, but I'm sure it's older than that. It's not better just because it's moved online.
posted by FencingGal at 5:59 AM on February 13 [13 favorites]


Just to be clear, I absolutely do not object to people making money from recipe blogs. The "they're just doing it for money" argument is in fact a pet peeve of mine - I don't work for free, and I don't expect anyone else to either. What I'm objecting to is the idea that the blog is some kind of free gift and that I'm "entitled" if I complain about it. It's a commercial transaction. If I don't like the product, there's nothing entitled about saying so.
posted by FencingGal at 6:09 AM on February 13 [11 favorites]


What I'm objecting to is the idea that the blog is some kind of free gift and that I'm "entitled" if I complain about it. It's a commercial transaction. If I don't like the product, there's nothing entitled about saying so.

That is wrong on many levels. First, it implies that all food blogs use ads. Not true, but convenient to say they do as a good excuse to vent.

Second, it implies that your time is precious and you are giving it to them as a sort of "commercial transaction". While their time is obviously worthless, and somehow the same rules do not apply. If that is not entitlement.... In reality you are not giving them time. You are using the time to find something that you need (a recipe). That would be invested, ads or not ads. What you are giving them, is to trigger a counter on some tracking server somewhere. Which happens without you having to do a thing. If anything you are paying, indirectly, with a bit of extra bandwidth and battery usage.

And third, the assumption is that if they do use ads, they earn money. They might, if high traffic, they might not if low traffic and the few cents they get from the ads don't come anywhere near offsetting their costs

It seems to me a lot of people are trying to paint food bloggers as some sort of scheming, money hungry, evil corps who will stop at nothing in order to trick poor, unwary users and earn millions of of them. While there are no doubt sites like that, by and large it sounds like a strawman set up to indulge in a bit of venting.
posted by fritzthecat at 7:12 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


It seems to me a lot of people are trying to paint food bloggers as some sort of scheming, money hungry, evil corps who will stop at nothing in order to trick poor, unwary users and earn millions of of them. While there are no doubt sites like that, by and large it sounds like a strawman set up to indulge in a bit of venting.

Oh man this is a master class in comedy, thank you for your time and effort in crafting this primo material.
posted by Ferreous at 7:33 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Food posts can lead to a lot of emotion on the blue (as I have personally experienced).
I have some some vague idea as to why that is, but not a grand theory. But I do think we should welcome fritzthecat here and let them have some time to navigate the danger zones of Metafilter before we put them down. But that's just me.
posted by mumimor at 7:53 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Thanks mumimor but don't worry, I have been on reddit and twitter, I think I can take it :-) ... my fault for sticking around this post, I think I made my point already, no need to flog a dead horse
posted by fritzthecat at 8:27 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Second, it implies that your time is precious and you are giving it to them as a sort of "commercial transaction". While their time is obviously worthless, and somehow the same rules do not apply.

If you go on to my follow-up post, I specifically said I think that food bloggers should be paid for their time.

Yes, my time is precious. I don't apologize for thinking so. And scrolling through ads and poorly written narratives takes time. And even if you didn't read the follow-up, there is nothing in my post that says food bloggers' time is worthless. They are providing a service and deserve to be paid for that. What I object to is the idea that they are acting in a completely altruistic way for the good of humanity and should therefore be above criticism.

I honestly can't believe how much you've misrepresented what I said, but I'm not going to respond to all of it.
posted by FencingGal at 8:47 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


> [Meela holds a placard advertising incontinence nappies as she speaks]

I read this as an indictment of both participants: why is the shopkeeper impeding the customer with ads instead of selling a product, as shopkeepers do? So i don't understand why you are also quick to reject blaming the system. Maybe all of capitalism is a big target, but it's a stupid game the players have little say in.
posted by Horselover Fat at 8:56 AM on February 13


Oh wait - you don't even have to go to my follow-up. It's right before the part you quoted:

I don't mind paying for good content - I've been a Patreon donor for podcasts I like that don't have commercial sponsors. If there were a convenient way to "subscribe" to blogs that didn't use ads so that I wasn't having a bunch of $5 transactions every month, I'd be in. I don't even mind ads on the blogs.

And somehow this led to you claiming that I'm saying food bloggers' time is worthless? And you accuse me of strawman arguments? Ferreous is right to call this comic.
posted by FencingGal at 9:33 AM on February 13


Horselover why is the shopkeeper impeding the customer with ads instead of selling a product

I admit having spent all of 47 secs. thinking up that comment. Rather than a shopkeeper I should have probably used a busker, which seems to be the closest to a blogger in the real world. Would that have worked better?

FencingGal What I object to is the idea that they are acting in a completely altruistic way for the good of humanity and should therefore be above criticism

Good, because I nobody has claimed that. All I'm claiming is that if they are giving you something you don't have to pay for (and sorry, ads don't count, but you seem to have skipped that part) so complaining about it feels out of place to me. Anyway criticise away, I am not saying you shouldn't - but just equally, I'm free to criticise you, Ferreous et al. Which I have, so I think we are done, right?

(I'll repeat why I think ads don't count as payment: 1/ you don't pay for them, the companies advertising do 2/ You are on the site because you are looking for something you need, you are not clicking on a link out of the goodness of your heart, and you are not staying longer because you want to reward the blogger. There is zero effort on your side 3/ a lot of food blogs don't have ads)
posted by fritzthecat at 10:03 AM on February 13


Oh you're more than free to criticize me all you like! It's a great comedy routine from this side. Tell me more about these strawmen I'm building!
posted by Ferreous at 10:23 AM on February 13


All I'm claiming is that if they are giving you something you don't have to pay for (and sorry, ads don't count, but you seem to have skipped that part)

They count for me. Ads often waste my time and are annoying. That is a cost.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:26 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


And obviously, many, many people feel this way. I go out of my way to avoid advertising. I was an early adopter of TiVo and use streaming services now to avoid ads. I put branded products out of sight in my home or put them inside label-less containers. I use ad blockers and avoid websites with ads. They waste my time, have annoying sounds and music, and make me sad, honestly. They are absolutely a cost, a drain on my mental and emotional resources.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:31 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I am sorry ads are cause you so much distress, tiny pan. And the worst thing is that we haven't found a way to monetize all that suffering, man. Yet.

But again, why are people so fixated on ads when the OP is about long intro texts? And for the nth time: Not. All. Sites. Have. Ads. And you yourself admit to using as blockers, so... What are we even arguing about?
posted by fritzthecat at 10:39 AM on February 13


I'll repeat why I think ads don't count as payment

Then why does Hulu give me the choice of paying money or seeing ads?

You can repeat why you think ads don't count as much as you like. I think they do, and I'm not alone.

And literally no one is saying that all sites have ads, so I'm not sure why you keep harping on that. Ads are a topic of discussion that's come up in this thread. NOT ALL SITES HAVE ADS. Is that enough, or do we have to add it as a parenthetical every time we talk about ads?
posted by FencingGal at 10:44 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I'm free to criticise you

Absolutely. Just please quit making up stuff I never said and claiming I said it.
posted by FencingGal at 10:47 AM on February 13


They don't cause me "distress." They are a drain, however. I don't "suffer." Luckily I do my best to avoid ads so they won't bother me - including not going to blogs that are full of them. It's a shame that Budget Bytes turned to ads - I will really not want to go there unless those come down.

We don't have to talk about ads! Also hate the long intro texts, as I said earlier, especially when they're not about food.

Sites. I. Want. To. Like. Have. Ads.

(I DON'T know why you're arguing about this so much)

And yes, FencingGal - I pay MORE for "no ads" on sites like Hulu. I'd probably pay my favorite recipe bloggers to have no ads. They ruin a good thing.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:47 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Here is a kind of blog post that is not my cup of tea at all - a personal blog, which happens to have a recipe but also the link is strange - I guess we missed some sort of branded give-away? The ads on this page skipped over my new ad-blocker.https://iowagirleats.com/honey-and-balsamic-onions-chicken-skillet-calphalon-elite-fry-pan-giveaway/ This one is even a mild example and I'll still skip off of things like this SO fast. I don't know you, I don't know your baby, and the angle is personal blog - which would be totally cool, but something about personal blog style paired with aggressive monetization gives me the icks.

And get a load of this, which, I swear to god, has this as an intro:

Oh so you know what’s one of my favorite feelings in the world? My ass burning when I get in the shower. No, it’s not what you may be thinking…actually I have no idea what your thoughts are on that statement, but I did sit ups the other day and am now saddened by the skin that has gone missing over my tailbone. When I was thinner, I used to get it BAD, I mean I-have-scars-that-may-never-go-away bad, but now it’s a bit better since I have more of a donk. But as soon as I thought I was going to get through a wod with skin still intact, I felt the burn. So you know how I said it was one of my favorite feelings in the world? I was lying. Showering with an open wound on your butt crack is by far one of the most uncomfortable feelings around. Try it. You’re missing out if you haven’t experienced it at least once.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:13 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Maybe instead of arguing about things that we are literally seeing different versions of…fritzthecat, do you want to give a few examples of recipe blogs you think are doing it well, and those of us who have stated issues could answer whether or not that type of thing is what we are talking about?
posted by corb at 11:15 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


tiny frying pan, those examples are insane. I understand that you want to avoid them. Avoid them!!
But there are at least dozens of good food sites and blogs where you can find good recipes and not have to deal with people musing about their butt cracks.

I can't speak for others here, but I mainly search sites I trust, and then venture out into new stuff when I have a very specific question. Like Turkish okra recipes. Then the specificity of the question seems to somewhat protect me from the worst TMI stuff.
posted by mumimor at 11:48 AM on February 13


Of course there are good blogs. I have my favorites. The worst is when you are looking for something new and find a story about butt crack injuries. 😆

I mean, that one is extreme, but the milder one above is also not what I want. And they sometimes seem like the ones you keep landing on when you're searching for a new recipe.
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:49 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the milder one is horrible too.
posted by mumimor at 12:16 PM on February 13


FencingGal: Is it OK to ask for the name of that site that indexes your cookbooks? I saw that mentioned on here once, and I can't find it.

I was going to mention eatyourbooks as a good resource if you have lots of cookbooks. I may have heard about it here.
posted by Surely This at 12:43 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Chiming in after literally 12 years away from the blue, mostly focusing on IP, to say that chefs/cooks who create recipes, somewhat like fashion designers and choreographers, are in a tough spot in terms of protecting their work or even just receiving credit/attribution. Because copyright does not protect the idea (i.e., the recipe)--only the original expression of it (i.e., writing that is not "merged" with the idea)--to the extent these creators seek to secure some recognition for or compensation from their effort, they are essentially compelled to embellish the creative expression of the recipe with a backstory. Some recipe bloggers undoubtedly write expansive intros for a variety reasons, but any who are inclined to protect their creative effort in developing a recipe would be foolish to post it without additional expressive content.
posted by NRB at 12:56 PM on February 13 [11 favorites]


If the writing is about the recipe, I have no issue with it.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:18 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Skip to recipe

corb that's the thing, I look at both the links tin frying pan posted, I don't see what the big deal is. One has a lot of intro, but a fully functional skip to recipe link. She goes on a bit, and if it was me I would have probably clicked the back button, but no hard feelings - it's her blog. That's what blogs are for, rambling on. I didn't see any ads on Brave on my mobile, and there were some barely noticeable ads on FF on the desktop.

The other link from tin pan had literally 2 paragraphs of text - shorter than tin's comments, in fact - and no ads on the mobile version. And yes, also a fully functional skip to recipe link. Yes, the text is about burning ass - but I assume that's paleo for you (as a veggie I never touch the stuff).

That's my point, I really don't see what the big deal is and why it has become such a thing to whinge about something so minor and unimportant. It's hard not to think "self-entitled so and so"

Yesterday I was looking for a recipe for the glaze for chicken yakitori, I did a web search as I don't have many good japenese sources, the first link I clicked was from a site called RecipeTin Japan - perfectly fine. Actually, now that I am looking at it on a desktop it looks very similar to the Iowa one tin pan posted - meaning it must be a generic template. [checks if it has a /wp-admin page] Yep, it's WordPress, and a quick look at the source reveals it's built with something called WPRecipeMaker. So we are literally arguing over a WP Template some tech-unsavy food bloggers use 🙄

The second link seems to be more information for tourists, I scrolled a bit then went back to my search results

The third one is from a site called Japanese Cooking 101, it has a YT video at the top, some ads I scrolled past in 0.45ms, some intro text which I found informative, and the recipe.

The fourh one is from Chopstick Chronicles. Same WP template again (their SEO game must be top notch), a few ads, a lot of (to me) useful intro text, and, again a fully functional jump to recipe link. The recipe itself has a lot of pictures for those who struggle with cooking. Must have taken the author a while to put it together...

So in 2m 53s I had managed to find three useful version of the same recipe, a video, and some background info. What's wrong with me, I guess capitalism must have really eaten my brain... 🙄

Recipe

* Mix 120ml soy sauce, 40g sugar, 60ml sake, 60ml mirin, and the green part of 2 spring onions in a pot, and boil on medium for 8 mins.
* Debone about 450g of chicken thigh, and cut into 2cm cubes. Skewer, alternating with sections of the white part of the spring onions
* You can either cook in a pan on high, about 5 mins per side
* Sprinkle the meat with salt, dip in the sauce, and serve
posted by fritzthecat at 1:31 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I reserve the right to think writing that annoys me is annoying! That's basically it. I haven't mastered skipping something without starting to read it. Because not all blogs are annoying to me and I might as well read and see! Shrug.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:41 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


My name is tiny frying pan, not tin frying pan. I have no idea what the rest of that was, but if you want to waste your time writing non relevant comments to the discussion, that's your perogative.
posted by tiny frying pan at 2:13 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


That's my point, I really don't see what the big deal is and why it has become such a thing to whinge about something so minor and unimportant.

I think that people are continuing to complain and it's become a thing because you're telling us again and again and again that we shouldn't complain and that we're entitled if we do. It's hard not to respond to continuous, unfair insults, sarcasm, and repeated statements that it's not OK to express annoyance at something because we aren't paying actual cash for it. I mean, I think it's generally understood that it's OK for people to have feelings about things even if you personally do not share those feelings. But you keep telling us and telling us and telling us that it's not. And that's how it becomes a big deal.
posted by FencingGal at 2:46 PM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Mod note: fritzthecat, you've had a couple of comments deleted now, and it would probably be better to step out of this thread.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:42 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Mod note: fritzthecat, you have wildly miscalibrated opinions on what constitutes a personal attack, and you need to review our guidelines.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:52 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's because I'm not a cooking person and I would just go to allrecipes if I want one anyway, but it seems like the facts are that (a) people put long blurbs before recipes, which annoys some, but (b) they gotta do that for the SEO/clicks/money, so (c) I guess we'll all just have to suck it up and scroll down the page (or go to allrecipes) if we don't like it, because there's good/money related reasons to be doing that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:23 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I really don't see what the big deal is and why it has become such a thing to whinge about something so minor and unimportant.

Hello, welcome to the internet, may I show you around?
posted by cooker girl at 8:10 PM on February 13 [9 favorites]


One point I haven't seen mentioned here yet from the Mashable article is that at a systems-level point of view, by so many people kvetching about having to deal with text that is not the recipe before getting to the recipe, we are still saying "women [should] shut up and cook," to quote Deb Perelman/Smitten Kitchen; as she points out, it is "mostly women telling these stories, I just don't see the same pushback when male chefs write ... about basically anything." It's been pointed out elsewhere that POC food bloggers, vidders, restaurateurs have similar experiences re being told to shut up and cook while the general public fawns over white people making our food - having been gatekept out of getting credit in the food industry for so long, when we finally have a place we *can* tell our stories, now we still have the general public shouting that we should shut up and just give them the recipe. And while we're at it, recommend substitutes for unfamiliar ingredients they don't have and either can't or don't want to bother with finding, then blame us for their making the recipe poorly with more venom than they reserve for other recipe failures, where they'll just shrug and move on.

I'm not saying I have a practical resolution for the tensions between "if just getting a recipe as fast as possible is your top priority, go to a recipe database site instead of a food blog," and how many recipes from non-western countries don't even exist in those databases, or the versions of them that do aren't very good. Let alone the technical issues of ads and/or scrolling in the mobile experience affecting the ability to access a recipe in a workable/convenient manner in the kitchen, even when using my laptop instead of my phone to minimize ads screwing with screen position. But I did want to highlight that yes, the sociocultural impact is something you should consider, even if you just want the recipe, we all know, the meme goes around Twitter every week (and mosst, that Tiktok in your first link is brilliant, it addresses every argument in this thread, bookmarked for future jamming to that bop).
posted by Pandora Kouti at 12:05 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]


As a former art student, a lot of the complaints about people complaining about recipe blogs feel similar, to me, to the way my classmates complained about folks not appreciating their plays/student films/bands/webcomics.

And as someone who had a fairly popular tech blog while I was in art school—and while "the long tail" was still the popular mentality re: web content (gosh, what a simpler time)—my mentality now is the same as my mentality then. If you're in it for personal expression, wonderful! Just don't feel entitled to an audience. And if you're in it for the audience, guess what? You're responsible for that audience's feedback.

Maybe it's the former Silicon Valley hustler in me saying this, but: when I see an entire web site full of people complaining about recipe blog formats, I see room to create a brand-new audience. Drop the stories from your blog, reformat those recipes to look eye-catching and no-BS, pop back on here, and go "hey, if you don't like ads and prose, boy have I got the site for you!" Make a quick Patreon and put all the low-cal desserts on there or something. And lather, rinse, repeat, because there's no way these complaints are going anywhere anytime soon.

Need to preserve copyright or prevent plagiarism? Throw a dumb ingredient into every recipe. I hear Hylian shrooms are hot these days.

But for God's sake, don't use Google to get your main audience if Google makes you make bad content. Find inlets via Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, wherever you can funnel people in without making a bad product in the process. Besides—and I'm saying this as someone who has worked in SEO—playing dumb games to bewitch Google's algorithm will never do as much for you as finding ways to make content good enough that people will genuinely paste links to your site all over. It's not undoable, it just takes respect for the mediums you're working in.

I'm saying this as someone who started writing a column a few years back and built up a readership of tens of thousands of people on a relatively niche subject without playing games. Good content is so rare that the "luck" you need to succeed with it is a lot less than you'd think. But what you're offering has to be good—not just passable.

(The downside is that, if you have an audience, you'll get negative feedback. It's inevitable. My audience got big enough that now I get to weather the occasional death threat—hooray! But you can't let people's criticism matter beyond whether or not you personally get something valuable out of it. As a very smart man once wrote, people online just like to complain.)
posted by rorgy at 3:03 AM on February 14 [13 favorites]


Oh, and the flip side to this is that there is absolutely a way to build a recipe blog that incorporates storytelling into its design—but that requires people to actually design the web site they write for, instead of squeezing their content into it like they're grinding out sausages.

It also requires that writing to be genuinely compelling.

Pardon my cynicism, but it's wild to me that on MetaFilter, the site full of people who like reading stuff online enough that they've spent 20 years looking for something good to read, we're acting like a really well-written food write-up wouldn't immediately draw a million eyeballs. I just reread an old MetaFilter novella-length comment about a guy selling a car, so if that kind of thing can grab an audience, anything can.
posted by rorgy at 3:05 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


You are right in so many ways, rorgy, but there is one thing you say that maybe gets to the heart of the issue here:
when I see an entire web site full of people complaining about recipe blog formats, I see room to create a brand-new audience.

The thing is, there are lots of sites that cater for that audience, and they are good. Look at the MetaTalk post a non mouse, a cow herd created.
Every time I see people here, or on twitter or elsewhere complain about bad food blogs, I think -- why do you go there in the first place? There are so many alternatives, and they are mostly better!

Thinking about it, many of the good sites are by people who started early, and then invested their first income in improving their sites (and all the other accounts). They may have started out on blogger or something 15 years ago, but now they have professionally designed platforms that are regularly improved, a community of followers they care for, and a strategy for different media, including books on paper.
Some people try to just start up a blog using an unmodified existing platform and cash in the ad revenue with no investment other than following some stupid SEO advice. I'm guessing it isn't a good strategy unless you have some very special content, and a lot of these people are just reposting existing content.
posted by mumimor at 4:38 AM on February 14


"Need to preserve copyright or prevent plagiarism? Throw a dumb ingredient into every recipe. I hear Hylian shrooms are hot these days."

So, one of the problems that people haven't discussed in this thread (although they have in previous threads) is that recipes aren't copyrightable in US law. The ingredient list, the underlying process, etc. -- those are all facts, and anyone can reproduce them as much as they want to. (This is why companies like Coca-Cola and KFC have to protect their recipes as "trade secrets" -- the recipe itself has zero protection as intellectual property.) Putting in a bad ingredient or wrong instruction doesn't protect it -- anyone can copy the recipe, fix it, and post it, because recipes are lists of facts.

One significant reason food bloggers do tell those lengthy stories is that those are copyrightable, and those help protect your IP, and help you earn money. It's really hard to make money as a recipe site, because the "plain" recipes can be ripped off by anyone and reposted infinitely, with no protection. Food bloggers have to create an audience who is there for a) their personality and/or b) the trusted high quality of the recipes.

Personally I prefer food blogs where the chatty/copyrightable part of the pages is about the food -- pictures of the process, explanations, descriptions of flavors and alternatives. (I like Budget Bytes a lot; it's clear, to-the-point, and lots of stuff that's easy and healthy to make when you're cooking for three picky children.) But I 100% get why other food bloggers lean heavily into the personal stories, because you CAN'T "just run a plain recipe site." You can't "just do a plain cookbook" -- in fact, cookbooks "branded" a lot earlier than a lot of industries, because anyone can take and publish any recipes they want. So to sell cookbooks, you had to be known as a purveyor of high-quality cooking information -- like Good Housekeeping -- so people would trust that the recipes in your cookbook would be good ones that you had tested, and would be willing to pay for it. Or you had to be well known, either for cooking (Julia Child) or as in some way aspirational (Seventeen Magazine Cookbook).

People chose cookbooks back then, and choose recipe blogs now, for the same basic reasons:
1) This is a trusted purveyor of high-quality recipes (Serious Eats, Budget Bytes, America's Test Kitchen)
2) This person is famously good at cooking (celebrity chefs)
3) This person's lifestyle is aspirational (Pioneer Woman, whatever Gwyneth Paltrow is doing these days) and the stories are part of the aspirational package

Making money at #1 is hard, because building that kind of trust is hard work and it takes a long time. But becoming a "food influencer" and making money at #3 is ... totally achievable, thanks to the instragrammification of everything. I think a lot of annoying recipe blogs are annoying not so much because they're #3, but because they're #3 done poorly, by people who want to make a living at it, but don't want to treat it like a business. I also think that people who are deeply ensconced in influencer culture/instagram forget that there's an audience of people who aren't in that world, and that those are the people you actually want to influence to build a brand. Some of these recipe websites seem like a bunch of influencer-wannabes all pitching to each other and all trying to chase the same aesthetic and not remembering that if I like Pioneer Woman, it's because I like Pioneer Woman, not because I like the 5,000 knock-off versions of her mimicking her as closely as possible. The whole nature of succeeding at #3 is that you provide something specific that other people want, not that you recreate something people already have.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:43 AM on February 14 [9 favorites]


as she points out, it is "mostly women telling these stories, I just don't see the same pushback when male chefs write ... about basically anything."

I think this is an important thing to think about - but it's also really hard to tease out what's going on because almost all of these blogs are written by women. I do follow two male recipe bloggers - and I'm just as annoyed at their narratives (they both go in for long, long lists of adjectives for everything they cook and it's all "creamy, crunchy, salty, sweet" - and I find it extremely tiresome). But I don't doubt that some of this is fed by sexism.

Is there a male equivalent to the kind of narratives people are complaining about? I've read a few books by male chefs - but in those cases, I was seeking out the books for the narratives and not looking for recipes. I read one specifically because the chef was a cancer survivor. I don't think anyone complains about food-related narratives in books by M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child (more recent examples of women writing about food are welcome). Maybe part of the issue here is that people go to these blogs specifically for recipes - and so the narrative feels like something you have to get through to get to what you want. You end up at an unfamiliar blog because you searched "mushroom lentil loaf," not "tell me about your grandmother."

There is a female chef in the vegan world who was accidentally included on an email string about her speaking at a Vegfest, and the organizers literally said they thought the message would be better coming from a man. Sexism in the food world is totally real, but I think there are other complications.
posted by FencingGal at 6:59 AM on February 14 [8 favorites]


books by M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child (more recent examples of women writing about food are welcome).

Samin Nosrat is a storytelling chef who is also a women with an immigrant background, my impression is that almost everyone loves her. But she is not a blogger, and she is very much not into "lifestyle" stuff. Her podcast is genius, though.
Actually, I can think of quite a few women who are celebrated writers and excellent cooks or chefs, but not a lot of them none of them do blogs or vlogs. I think there might often be a clash between the type of person who can create a narrative about food culture and the type of person who will put their life on display.

There is a gender issue in there somewhere too, I mean Kenji kan put up videos of himself puttering around barefoot in a chaotic (but very clean) kitchen with dogs and have thousands of followers. I'm not sure the same set-up would work for a woman.
posted by mumimor at 7:21 AM on February 14 [5 favorites]


Is there a male equivalent to the kind of narratives people are complaining about?

Offhand I think you need to look at any blog focusing on wild game and fish or grilling/smoking. Hunting stuff in particular can REALLY become an aspirational lifestyle thing rather than being about the actual practical applications.

Maybe part of the issue here is that people go to these blogs specifically for recipes - and so the narrative feels like something you have to get through to get to what you want. You end up at an unfamiliar blog because you searched "mushroom lentil loaf," not "tell me about your grandmother."

And I mean, that's exactly the mismatch of expectations I was talking about earlier. People are using the blogs differently than the people making them had intended. For that matter some of my favorite food blogs predate tablets and smartphones popularity. They're formatted to be read at the computer and then if someone liked the recipe, the expectation was that they'd print it out, not that people would be cooking directly from the webpage.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:13 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Lol all of this kerfuffle about the narratives before the recipe and so little ire reserved for how fucking godawful most of the recipe writing is.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:16 AM on February 14 [7 favorites]


FencingGal: Is there a male equivalent to the kind of narratives people are complaining about?

I love me some David L., but his blog can go one and on and on before you get to the recipe.

Here's totally random example from 2020: https://www.davidlebovitz.com/amaro-recipe-chip-stracciatella-milk-chocolate-chip-ice-cream/

Now, I trust his ice cream advice implicitly because I have used his recipes (from the book and the web site), and I like his voice so I would happily read essays about living in Paris if that's what I am in the mood for -- but he doesn't have a "Skip to recipe" link and there are ads and he does have a "subscribe to my newsletter" pop-up, and the recipe follows several screens of chatty narrative, and all those gorgeous photos mean that on my phone my thumb will give out before I get to the damn recipe (and why doesn't he offer a stylesheet for mobile browsers that is sensitive to this?!), and....so I only read his site on a laptop with a big screen.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:20 AM on February 14


If they’re so confident that the story they’re writing is good and relevant and will enhance the reader’s enjoyment of the dish, why not place it after the recipe? Why make it like a timeshare sales pitch that you have to grin and bear before getting to the reward?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:01 AM on February 14 [9 favorites]


That's really interesting, The Underpants Monster! I think I'd probably attempt to read the narratives more often if they were after, which actually surprises me. 🤔
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:08 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


It's not just recipes; most videos have horrible introductions, I speed through them, and I hate the chatter, just show me how to do the thing*. Most instructional videos are twice as long as they could be, and some of them should be 20% of their length. The proliferation of the speed it up option is fantastic. Until they get to the shot where they show the actual widget being deployed, and then I'd like a closeup shot, but I have a pause option. A lot, really a lot of recipes have videos, and it's my least favorite way to get a recipe, I skip them.

Yeah, I don't do tiktok, or insta videos. text is so useful and easy to grasp. Pretty sure it's a geezer thing. Lots of people want to make youtube money. Get some decent lighting, a decent mic, write yourself a script, even if you stray form it. An outline would help you focus. Doesn't have to be professional production values, but respect your viewers' time.

signed, Ranty McRantyFace McDamnKids.
posted by theora55 at 2:39 PM on February 16 [1 favorite]


« Older Weird fishes   |   New Pentagons for old spaces Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments