How much story do you want with that recipe?

We've all been there: after finding the perfect online recipe in the EYB Library, we click through to the website only to be confronted with what seems like a novel preceding the recipe. We scroll, scroll, and scroll further until we finally reach paydirt. When you are in a hurry this can be a minor inconvenience, but apparently some people are extremely vexed by long recipe introductions. 

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History professor Kevin M. Kruse recently created a firestorm when when he  tweeted on the subject: "Hey, cooking websites? I don't really need a thousand words about how you discovered the recipe or the feelings it evoked for you." Kruse is not the only one who feels this way: a recent New Yorker column poked fun at the lengthy intros to recipes as well.

However, others have come to the defense of those who narrate their recipes with long stories before getting to the meat of the matter. Boston Globe food writer and restaurant critic Devra First is one, defending those who choose to write missives before their recipes. First says that what really bothers most people is not long stories as much as poorly written ones. She points to the best bloggers like Deb Perelman (Smitten Kitchen) and David Lebovitz as examples of excellence in the genre. 

First also points out that unlike cookbooks, which eventually get yanked from store shelves if they don't deliver, food blogs live on in virtual perpetuity. No one is culling the bad writing or recipes and they lurk in the background, waiting for an unsuspecting person to click through from a Google search (yet another reason to use EYB; you can limit your search to only the blogs you like).

Another thing to consider is that most recipe bloggers and websites offer these recipes for free. Scrolling through a story to reach the ultimate content seems a small price to pay. I admit to occasionally grumbling as I scroll through a lengthy blog post to get to the recipe, but it isn't that much trouble. I find excessive photos to be more bothersome (there is no good reason for a shot of partially-filled muffin tins), as they can cause the page to load slowly. Even that is not a significant obstacle, however. As First recently tweeted, "Although I may not always long to read these wordy hors d'oeuvres, insisting on their right to exist - their importance - is a hill I will die on."

8 Comments

  • sir_ken_g  on  3/2/2019 at 10:02 AM

    I have a few cookbooks that I bought just for the stories.

  • lapsapchung  on  3/2/2019 at 10:06 AM

    We're in the age of instant gratification now, aren't we? And some people expect it in everything they do - they are no longer prepared to scroll through a wordy blog post. But there are plenty straightforward recipe sites out there for them - I pity them, they'll probably never understand the joy of reading about the pleasure food brings to other people. In earlier years, they probably wouldn't have dreamt of sitting down with an Elizabeth David book, or more recently a Nigel Slater one - and where would the world be without those two culinary masters of the written word?

  • camtncook  on  3/2/2019 at 10:23 AM

    I like to see a "jump to recipe" link near the top, but I generally read the post, too. I am not a fan of excessive pictures, though. They can take a while to load.

  • raowriter  on  3/2/2019 at 2:47 PM

    Many people love the personal touch of a long blog post and that’s fine. Personally, I have no interest in reading the entire history of the evolution of a recipe and the life history of the blogger: i just want the ingredients and method to see if it’s useable. And I don’t see the point of having 10 or 20 photos, most with little variation in the angle. As camtncook says, they can take a long time to load.

  • Rinshin  on  3/2/2019 at 4:01 PM

    What does history sensei know about cooking. I love stories and intro to recipies. It puts me into their world.

  • nicolepellegrini  on  3/3/2019 at 8:43 PM

    Actually most food bloggers are writing for ad revenue and potential commissions from amazon and other affiliate sales—I know because I was "there" in that world for a while myself. And writing the long/personal intros is part of trying to play the search engine game and SEO trickery to push oneself up to the first page in google search results. So I understand why most bloggers do it, but I am one to immediately attempt to skim ahead to a recipe myself. (In fact I even use a Chrome extension, Recipe Filter, that makes it even easier to do so.) There have only ever been one or two blogs I "follow" for recipes, mostly on very particular topics like game cookery, so for the most part if I land on a food blog recipe it's either through EYB or a simple google search. I'm not at all interested in those personal stories, I just want good recipes. Yet I also understand from a practical point of view why so many food bloggers feel the need to turn every recipe into a novella...

  • eliza  on  3/7/2019 at 11:20 AM

    I'm one of those that almost never reads the preamble on blogs. I go straight to the recipe, and if it looks interesting I will skim and find the parts that pertain directly to the recipe, and skip the parts that don't. Deb (Smitten Kitchen)has a "skip to recipe" button on her blog which is great. If I do make a recipe though from someone's blog, I always go back and review it. I figure that's probably worth more to the blogger anyways. The one exception is David Lebovitz. His writings are short, funny, and to the point, so I read them.

  • stigard  on  3/8/2019 at 3:09 PM

    I read good food blogs for years and love the stories and recipes, but these days most of them are click bait sites with really boring throw away content and a plethora of annoying ads. I feel like you can't trust recipes on the click bait sites anyway, though, so I continue searching. If I'm looking for something specific while away from home either Food Network or Epicurious will usually have a tested recipe to refer to. There's no need to rely on Google entirely. I love reading food related memoirs, too, and those have few (if any) recipes. The tweeting professor needs to learn how to use the internet more effectively.

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