Order up: one recipe, hold the narrative

This was a busy weekend, one in which I worked very late on both Saturday and Sunday. This morning I eased into my day by scrolling through my Facebook feed.

The following post from one of our favorite book stores, Kitchen Arts & Letters caught my attention.



My first thought was to question just which recipes Kathryn likes? Most recipes in cookbooks, magazines, blogs, or websites almost always begin with an introduction to the recipe. And, no matter the type of media there is usually a featured photograph or spread of the finished dish.

My second thought was to wonder when did we become so demanding? If a blogger shares a recipe without charging me for her time, ingredients and work, I am not going to criticize the way that content is delivered.

Yes, I will admit I am not a fan of dozens of photographs unless, of course, they illustrated a difficult technique. And while I understand the need for ads to fund websites and blogs, those moving pop-ups that race around the screen like the ghosts in a Pac-man game frustrate me. Then I take a second and I remember to suck it up buttercup: I am getting the recipe for free.

As writers, we feel the need to share details or stories in the hope that those who read what we offer, enjoy the ride. And if the amuse-bouche to a recipe isn’t something a person enjoys, why doesn’t that person just move along without having to declare their dislike?

When I write something I find particularly moving, I look at the comments to see if anyone has enjoyed my thoughts. I am sure Darcie does as well. (Darcie here: I do.) Comments take time and we all know time is a precious commodity, but to a writer hearing from a reader means a great deal. We often share negative thoughts but not so much the positive ones.

So which do you prefer – some background, history, and photographs or just the recipe and nothing but the recipe?

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15 Comments

  • Lem9579  on  February 17, 2020

    I like photos, background and history. I don’t use internet recipes. I have so many cookbooks, over 200. I am sure I can find in them what I am looking for.

  • lgroom  on  February 17, 2020

    I read cookbooks like novels and enjoy all the rambling. I’m more apt to read the details and descriptions than I am the recipe. My favorite genre to read is food memoirs and I lap this stuff up. I feel as though someone who is sharing a recipe for free can present it however they want to.

  • Jane  on  February 17, 2020

    In my cookbooks I like the little story at the top – how the recipe came about, any historical info, etc. Online, it depends on the blogger – some can go overboard with the background and the photos. But I can just move on if it’s not to my liking. As should Kathryn! Interestingly, she is the White House correspondent for CBS News. And her Tweet got a good number of likes (2,818) – though plenty of negative comments.

  • FrenchCreekBaker  on  February 18, 2020

    Give me the background, the photos, the personal tales of kitchen woes and victories. You can keep the strategy of breaking up all the writing with annoying ads that force you to scroll endlessly to get to the recipe. There are other less obtrusive yet effective ways to include ads in website designs. that include ads.

    That said, Bewitching Kitchen, Smitten Kitchen, Chef in Disguise and other blogs I religiously read give me content foremost and oftentimes with no ads at all.

  • veronicafrance  on  February 18, 2020

    I find it a bit odd that a journalist doesn’t want food writers to, well, write. When I think of my favourite cookbook authors, it’s as much the personality that comes through their writing as the recipes that attracts me. Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, Diana Henry …

  • lean1  on  February 18, 2020

    Some background to understand the process, and history is helpful, not many photos needed.

  • LeilaD  on  February 18, 2020

    I tend towards historical or cultural cookbooks anyway, where oftentimes I prefer the read to the recipe anyway.

  • annmartina  on  February 18, 2020

    I made recipe from one of my cookbooks last week titled Minnesota hot dish bowl. Being from Minnesota, I was sorry to see no backstory on what inspired the author to create this recipe or her connection to Minnesota hot dish.

  • sir_ken_g  on  February 18, 2020

    I do use internet recipes sometimes.
    Background and photos are OK.
    But give be a button that says “Print” that gives only the essentials.
    There is also a Chrome extension called “Print Friendly & PDF” which allows you to delete photos and unwanted text.
    Or you can always copy into Word and edit.

  • cookbookaddict2020  on  February 18, 2020

    some background is fine, I even like hearing it if there’s something fun to share, but mostly bloggers need to monetize their pages and they do that by padding the recipes with tons of slow-loading pics and ads and irrelevance. I get it, and I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but scrolling down down down down down down gets old. And a good page doesn’t need it — the top bloggers, like smittenkitchen, don’t use pages and pages of filler.

  • Jenny  on  February 18, 2020

    You must all remember that the top bloggers are cookbook authors, receive many sponsored posts and don’t need to rely on heavy pop-up type advertisements.

  • MarciK  on  February 19, 2020

    I don’t mind some background on the dish, but I do tend to avoid recipe blogs because it takes so long to scan through a story that I’m really not particularly interested in. I understand why they write it. They are bloggers, writers. This format of recipes is better suited to those who enjoy reading the blogs. That’s why I prefer cookbooks. I’ve seen many times in recipe blogs where there is a long story, followed by a copy of a recipe from a cookbook reformatted enough to get away with using it (with credit to the original source). In those cases, I’d rather just go to the cookbook. I do like the stories with recipes in cookbooks. They are short, to the point, and focus on the recipe.

  • brigitm  on  February 19, 2020

    I spend a lot more time with cookbooks and food magazines than with blogs, but I enjoy stories, descriptions, and history with my recipes no matter where I find them. I’ve always read cookbooks like novels. I used to read my grandmother’s copy of Joy of Cooking, and she’d comment that she didn’t care for it because it was always telling you to read some other note or section about an ingredient or technique, and she just wanted to know what the ingredients were and what to do with them. No accounting for taste!

  • lgroom  on  April 2, 2020

    Oh, man, my favorite genre of reading is cooking memoirs. Give me as much background and ruminate all you want. That said, I too could do with fewer pictures in some recipes. I don’t understand squawking about a free recipe though.

  • thewoobdog  on  August 11, 2020

    I do sometimes get frustrated with having to scroll through everyone’s life story just to get to the recipe – usually more with random blog-posts I am directed to from a search or another site, less so with blogger-cooks I follow on the regular. It’s a small price to pay, though, and I usually remember that and keep my perspective.

    The overabundance of staggeringly invasive ads on more and more of the sites is what really gets me – I am so happy that the bloggers are able to make money from ads on their sites, but when those ads blare at me, obscure the entire site, suck up bandwidth, or appear anew with every inch I scroll, I just want to throw my phone. It used to be I could go to Reader view on my tablet to avoid it, but the ad-bots are on to me now and it’s a rare site indeed that still gives me that option…

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