A big trend on the internet lately is food blogs. There are so many, in fact, that you can now find online meal planning services that, with the click of a button, will copy an entire recipe down to your collection at their site, including images and nutritional data.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Food Blogs
Okay, so my homage to a certain spaghetti western isn’t really going to work here. I hesitate to say that between good and ugly are bad food blogs. That’s not entirely true. There are really great ones, some that are just meh, and then the ugly.
One thing I really love about food blogs is the pictures. Yes, the pictures can be very enticing. But I’m such a visual creature that I find having pictures of how things look from step to step to be immensely helpful. I am also one of those creatures for whom a list of ingredients with more than eight or so items can become a tad much for my brain. Couple that with instructions to rival War and Peace and I’m not doing it. So all those pictures help break up the steps and make the recipe seem somehow less overwhelming. Occasionally the photos confirm my suspicions that this is going to be a huge production. I kind of like knowing that right off the bat.
I like it when the photos are accompanied by text that not only tell me what, exactly, is being done, they give me tips about doing it correctly. I recently read a food blog where the writer explained that she had added cucumbers to something she was making but didn’t advise doing that because her recipe got a little watery. I like that kind of honesty. It’s refreshing.
Also, the really good food blogs keep the chatter to a minimum. I don’t mind reading that this is your great-grandma Maisy’s cornbread recipe, but I don’t need to read all the stories she told when she shucked the corn. There’s a nice balance the good ones manage to maintain.
These are the food blogs that seem to make the most rounds on Pinterest. They have fabulous photos and “Pin It!” buttons all over the place. As with all things Pinterest-worthy, they are an attempt at knocking Martha Stewart off her perch (um… good luck with that!). The writing is less about the food and more about cutesy anecdotes with food info sprinkled in occasionally. You will usually find grated cheese or a can of cream-of-something or something created by Pilsbury being used in a way it was not intended. And muffin tins. Muffin tins by the truckload.
These recipes wind up all over Facebook. I once discovered a Facebook page started by a woman who lost over 100 pounds on a very strict diet, the kind where you don’t eat anything that might resemble a carbohydrate, but meatloaf and bacon were daily staples. Remember that episode of Portlandia where they kept running around yelling “Put a bird on it!” and smacking homemade felt birds on everything? This particular page made me wonder if the creator of these recipes had a voice inside her head yelling, “Put some cheese on it!” Pages like this tend to claim to just happen to run across these recipes, then they share them without any credit to the original site.
If this doesn’t tip you off about the nature of meh food blogs, then maybe this will: go read the comment sections. They’re loaded with people who love to give the recipe low ratings – right after explaining all the changes they made to the original recipe. I substituted fat-free sour cream for the regular sour cream, took out the mushrooms, used parsley instead of cilantro, and doubled up on the chili powder. It was a watery mess that was way too spicy. It was so disgusting even the dog turned his nose up at it. Ya think? Honestly, that’s my favorite thing about meh food blogs. I hit the comment sections first. Only once have I ever seen anyone call a complainer out on switching things up until it barely resembled the original recipe.
Disclaimer: it is my belief that you should have at least three examples before you can point out a trend, and I always do when I write. In this case, however, I can’t do it. I just can’t. Because I can’t stomach the thought of looking at another ugly food blog. So you’re only getting two examples and that’s my final answer, Regis.
Remember earlier when I said great food blogs keep the chatter to a minimum? What I really meant was they keep the chatter to a minimum and they keep it relevant. I saw a recipe on Facebook a few months ago (hint #1, right?) for something called Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake. It’s a gooey looking concoction that you cook in the microwave right in its own coffee mug. Wanna know what all the chatter was surrounding all those scrumptious-looking pictures? Stinky feet. Seriously. The blogger’s brother apparently wears rubber boots without socks and then sticks his feet in the sink and pours Listerine over them to make them stop smelling so bad. By the time I got to the recipe (with far too many ingredients for my taste, I should say) my stomach had all but twisted itself inside out. Know what’s crazier? Out of 73 comments, only one pointed out how unappetizing disgusting stinky feet were when paired with mug-o-chocolate. Seriously. Go Google Yammie’s Noshery chocolate peanut butter mug cake. I’m not leaving a link. Lord knows I don’t want a trackback there to start a food fight. Heck, I can’t even bring myself to post a picture because the thought makes me queasy.
I know what you’re thinking. Oh crap, she has more than one example! Yep. I sure do. It was the rancid icing on the putrid cake and is what made me want to write this post. I was looking at the healthy recipes on HuffPost today and ran across a recipe for… well, see if you can guess what this is:
Really beautiful, isn’t it? I think it actually looks quite lovely. Notice the three spears of asparagus for garnish on top? Remember how I said to keep it relevant, peeps? How about this article’s introductory paragraph (also its longest) was all about how asparagus affects the odor of urine. Bet your mouth is really watering now, eh? Actually, the very first sentence was, “Ever noticed how asparagus makes your pee smell funny?” How professional.
A full paragraph, people.
I’m not saying the picture doesn’t look delicious or that the recipe itself didn’t sound like it might be pretty tasty. I’m also not saying I don’t like healthier, lightened up versions of classics. But this article/picture wins honorable mention for food blogs that annoy the heck out of me by retooling a recipe to be healthier until it doesn’t even remotely resemble what it’s supposed to be replacing. That picture above? Here’s a link. See if you guessed right.
Now you know why I stopped at two.