The difference between food media and home cooking

 Broccoli wild rice casserole

When Gourmet magazine folded in 2009, Christopher Kimball of America's Test Kitchen wrote about its demise, lamenting what he felt was the dumbing-down of cooking that happened because of the internet. "Google 'broccoli casserole' and make the first recipe you find," he wrote. "I guarantee it will be disappointing."

Yet if you do Google 'broccoli casserole' and follow the top links, you'll see many homey recipes that get rave reviews. Slate investigated the differences between what you seen on gourmet sites like Epicurious versus the king of home cooking, Author Nicholas Hune-Brown believes the recipes from the latter paint a more accurate picture of how Americans really cook.

Hune-Brown notes that the first Google result for 'broccoli casserole' is a dish from Allrecipes that has hundreds of five-star reviews, despite the fact that it calls for many processed ingredients (like cream of mushroom soup) that so-called "foodie" websites studiously avoid. The descriptions on Allrecipes are also very straightforward, eschewing terms like 'sauté' in favor of 'cook' or 'stir'.

Of course Allrecipes and Epicurious are built on two different models. The latter culls from magazines and contains recipes developed by chefs and/or in test kitchens. Allrecipes, on the other hand, features recipes submitted by home cooks of varying skill levels. What Hune-Brown finds even more interesting than Allrecipes dominance (it's the most popular English-language cooking website) is the fact that the recipes seem so far removed from what is reported in food media. He notes that "to be alive in 2016 is to be assailed by food trends (goodbye, bone broth; hello, Hawaiian poke!). It means reading a Bon Appétit article that admonishes you to "stop roasting your veg in a screaming-hot oven" less than a month after reading a Bon Appétit article that told you to do exactly that.

So what explains the gap betwen what's circulating on Instagram and what people are really cooking at home? Hune-Brown has a few guesses. First, he says, most people who cook at home "are far more concerned with convenience and affordability than authenticity or novelty." Busy people generally don't want to slave over a hot stove for hours. Familiarity also plays a role. The unpretentious recipes found on Allrecipes serve as "a reminder that although the conversation about food moves at light speed, with new trends pinging across our social media accounts daily, our actual cooking habits change much more slowly."

Photo of Pioneer Woman's broccoli-wild rice casserole from Three Many Cooks by Pam Anderson and Ree Drummond

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