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2012 Winter Issue 5 (February 10, 2012)

On internet cooking

February 10, 2012
By Zoe Suche

Last term, I had a one cookbook. My dad brought it down for me when he came to visit mid-term. It’s called “Quinoa 365”, a rather mystifying title in itself considering that it contains a total of 172 recipes. Discrepancy between recipe quantity and title aside, though, I must acknowledge that there is a ton that can be done with quinoa; that book contains everything from stir-fry to sandwiches to pumpkin pancakes. Some of them are kind of a cop-out where it’s just a regular recipe with quinoa flour in place of regular flour; some of them you would never have thought of, including a method of toasting raw quinoa to add to salad in place of croutons.

I’m bringing up my sole cookbook this week because I’ve only recently discovered another resource for recipes: the internet. Sad, right? I didn’t even consider it last term. I’d heard about “Epicurious” and other similar websites in passing, but had never investigated. This term, though, it seemed like the time.
Because obviously one of the first things I looked for was new quinoa recipes, I have more than 365 quinoa dishes to choose from. Not only that, but I can connect with all those other (surprisingly many) people around the world attempting to avoid gluten and lactose and be healthy and not die a slow food-boredom death. Food blogs have become my new biggest time waster, replacing a combination of Facebook and a weird default computer game that all PCs have called “Mahjong Titans.” Once you start playing it, it’s hard to stop.

 After perusing healthfulpursuits.com, one of my favourite new blogs, for a while, I found myself reflecting on print cookbooks compared to the Internet, and I wanted to share some of those reflections. This week, I baked stuffed eggplant off a recipe I found on the internet. It was all right. It didn’t really look much like the picture on the website. And as I got further into the recipe, it seemed like there were steps missing, like the writer had maybe left something out or assumed that the reader would know what to do.

That’s the first problem with a lot of recipe websites. For most of them, any member can submit a recipe. There’s no introduction to who the author is, or what kind of food they like to cook. Most of the time there’s just a list of ingredients and numbered steps; rarely is there nutrition information, substitutes listed for potential allergens, or even a number of portions expected. You can find recipes like these, but there’s a lot to dig through to get there, and once you do find something that looks good, you have no real way of knowing if the information is accurate.

I may have only one cookbook, but I appreciate its particular focus and theme, extensive introduction and chapter detailing the history and nutritional content of the grain around which the book is based. Similarly, there are cookbooks out there based around specific cooking styles or cuisines, and cookbooks that pair recipes with instruction on particular cooking techniques. As far as I’ve discovered yet this term, these things are few and far between on the internet. I’ve had better luck with blogs than full recipe web sites; once you get confident in the cooking abilities of a certain blogger, he or she becomes a great resource.

Overall, though, I’ll take cookbooks over the vast and unreliable resource that is the internet. Besides the clarity and work that goes into a good cookbook, there’s something rather nice about not having to bring your laptop into the kitchen with you. You can leave behind all the baggage that a computer brings with it while you’re cooking. It’s a nice break. But it also ultimately depends on what you’re looking for; if you just want some kind of food on the table, you can use whatever’s most convenient. But if you’d rather have a cooking experience and learn something, you still can’t beat a book.

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