The life-changing magic of…nothing

Hyperbole in advertising and news reporting is almost as old as print itself, so it should not be surprising that hyperbole is common on the internet. The extent of it is breathtaking, however, as seemingly every other article or post touts “the life-changing magic” of a given technique, product, or method. Given the slant of my news feeds, most of these “life-changing” articles involve cooking, baking, cookbooks, or something adjacent. There are even 18 online recipes in the EYB Library with life-changing in their title. The more items I see with this phrase applied to them, the less convinced I am that any of them come close to a life-changing experience.

Perhaps this is because I have acquired some “wisdom streaks” in my hair – from my perspective, the more years you have behind you, the less likely one thing is going to come along and drastically change your life going forward. There’s a lot of inertia to overcome, plus few things seem that groundbreaking when you have considerable life experience. As the old saying goes, ‘there’s nothing new under the sun.’

However, just because I might be jaded about the phrase does not mean I don’t appreciate trying something new. I had been baking for some time before I tried the reverse creaming method for making cakes, and it worked so well that it became my go-to method for most butter-based cakes. Does that count as life-changing? After all, it did shift my baking in a new direction, but I still had the same job, same spouse, same income – a difference in one of those would qualify as life-changing, but adopting a new cake making method doesn’t rate that high for me.

There have been other moments where I learned a new kitchen skill, tasted a new flavor combination, or purchased a new gadget or appliance that made cooking easier, but I wouldn’t consider any of them truly life-changing. Maybe for some people an Instant Pot did change the way they cooked dramatically, but not for me. I use it, I like it, I shifted a few recipes over to it, but my life did not appreciably change because of it. The curmudgeon in me would love to see this phrase disappear entirely, but I suppose there are probably many people who do find a technique, product, or method to be life-changing. Who knows, maybe one day something will click for me and I will become an evangelist for the process or product. Has something touted as “life-changing” actually been life-changing for you?

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  • Jane  on  April 14, 2024

    Not “life-changing” but a few recent innovations that have improved my cooking life a bit in recent years.
    Sheet pan meals where the complete dinner gets roasted on the same pan.
    Kenji’s method of straining an egg for a minute or two before poaching gives a nice rounded egg.
    Discovering that straining regular whole milk yogurt in a coffee filter for a while gives you Greek yogurt so I now only buy one kind.
    Jeni Britton Bauer’s method of chilling ice cream before churning is so much quicker than chilling in fridge – plunge ice cream mix in a plastic bag into an ice bath.

  • janecooksamiracle  on  April 14, 2024

    The only thing I expect to be life changing is to win the lotto.

  • KarenGlad  on  April 14, 2024

    I’m with janecooksamiracle 🤣.

  • eliza  on  April 14, 2024

    I agree with Darcie that the headline “life changing” is generally not, whether it’s applied to food, housework, or exercise. However, having an Eat Your Books membership has truly changed things for the better in my cooking world.

    • Jane  on  April 14, 2024

      Thanks eliza! I think that’s probably true for a lot of us who own a lot of cookbooks.

  • FuzzyChef  on  April 14, 2024

    No technique, practice, or device is going to be life-changing for most people, or even many people. However, some can be life-changing for a few people.

    For example: I have an Ooni pizza oven and am on the Ooni forums. Several folks there have parlayed their Ooni ovens and expertise into food businesses, quit their day jobs, and indeed changed their lives. But that’s like 0.25% of Ooni owners; most of us just make pizza on the weekends.

  • FuzzyChef  on  April 14, 2024

    However: like many superlatives, the more a thing talks about being life-changing, the less likely it is to be so.

  • goodfruit  on  April 18, 2024

    I agree, few things are life-changing. My pet peeve is seeing so many things, particularly TV shows titled “Secrets of…” or “Secret Recipes” also applies!
    Well, if you are telling the whole world, it ain’t a secret anymore, is it?

  • MidwesternerTT  on  April 19, 2024

    Weekly menu planning as a practice actually has been “life changing”, combined with a (gradually built-up) running inventory of what’s in the fridge and freezer. The results have been much lower daily stress for me and better use of produce and leftovers. But no fancy tools or apps are required – a simple text document works for me.

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