When it comes to recipes, does more always mean better?

recipesIt can be difficult to imagine cooking before the internet, but it was not that terribly long ago when you had to rely on cookbooks or family members to find a recipe. The proliferation of easily available recipes for almost any food imaginable was only possible due to the the lightning-fast sharing we can do via social media and email. Now we are deluged with recipes, but is that necessarily a good thing? The Telegraph takes a look at whether more is better when it comes to recipes

Pre-internet, food writers had to travel extensively to find recipes from cultures outside their own. A few adventuresome sorts like Claudia Roden, Diana Kennedy, and Paula Wolfert brought the foods of the world into our homes for the first time. Now, even the most exotic recipe is only a click away. This paradigm shift has changed the ways restaurant chefs operate. The theme at a recent international conference explained the concept that now “food is an open source” rather than a mystery that should be closely guarded. Chefs, who were notoriously stingy with recipe sharing in the past, are no longer judged by their “secret recipes” but instead by how often their food is photographed and passed on through Instagram. 

The explosion of recipes can also make food writers more accountable, argues Fuchsia Dunlop. She says that today readers can “hold writers to account” as to the authenticity of their recipes. A few Google searches can verify if the ingredients or methods jibe with a particular culture. 

As much as the digital recipe revolution has added to our culinary experience, there are downsides to the overwhelming number of recipes that are just a click away. The quality varies widely, and if a novice cook tries a mediocre version of a dish and is disappointed in the results, he or she might be discouraged from trying again. Author Diana Henry voices another concern about food on the internet. She find that many digital recipes “lack personality”, because they don’t have any context. “I am not interested in recipes that don’t come from somewhere,” she says. Henry likens a good recipe to “the capturing of perfume”, an essence of a particular time and place or memory. 

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  • FrenchCreekBaker  on  June 27, 2017

    I value Internet access to recipes and home cooks from around the world. I have had the chance to explore cuisines around the globe. I admit I have had my share of culinary delights and disasters. But, each adventure teaches me more. I would hate to return to pre-online life.

    Facebook has introduced me to entire communities of people who share my same kitchen passions. Pinterest lets me easily search for categories of recipes and see photos.

    Instagram may aid in promoting a chef thanks to gorgeous visuals more than word of mouth about a secret recipe. But if I was living in a podunk town in the middle of nowhere without internet years ago would I have heard about that secret recipe?

    Now you can learn about chefs and restaurants in your county, state, country and beyond. And you can compare reviews from many who have visited personally.

    The quality of recipes in cookbooks varies widely just like on the web. But now we have access to groups like Food52. I can browse feedback from serious home cooks who are expertly testing recipes in current cookbooks. Before the Internet I did not have anyone in my small town to ask before buying about whether recipes worked or to learn about new cookbook authors not carried by our one small bookstore.

    I love Claudia Roden's cookbooks. I agree that insights into the cultural context of a recipe enhance the culinary experience. And that is also why I appreciate blogs online such as "Chef in Disguise" that have made me deeply appreciate both the food and culture of the Middle East.

    I do get the point that the sheer volume of recipes online is staggering. Sites like Eat Your Books and online groups such as Food52 and Cookbook Junkies expand our culinary awareness and help us successfully navigate through the vast seas of pea soup!

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