An Ingredient List, A Menu, A Declaration!

BBQ Duck on a bed of rice in the with lychee black tea and gai lan and oyster sauce in the background.

I have to admit, I have a thing about food blogs. I love to cook. I like cookbooks. I don't like food blogs.

There are probably hundreds of cookbooks on my bookshelf. Despite recently downsizing all of my worldly goods, many, many cookbooks made it through the cull. Even many of the plastic-coil-bound church cookbooks made the grade. Why? I like to eat and I'd like to think that I'm like the characters in The Matrix who look at the screen of code and can see what's happening on the Matrix simulation. I can read ingredients and instructions and smell the flavours. I'm basically Keanu Reeves. It's true, I've heard this a lot. At any rate, cookbooks tell a story. Many of the cookbooks I own remind me of places I've been.

Cookbooks as Reminders

中國茶 | Chinese Cuisine by Huang Su-Huei reminds me of an amazing trip. David Thompson's Thai Street Food is as much an oversized photo essay as it is a cookbook and it reminds me of my time working out of Bangkok and all the food I didn't take pictures of. It's great because it's also a compendium of dishes most people will never make. Yeah, that snack you paid a couple of dollars for in Chiang Mai? The ingredients are going to set you back $40. You've got to love economies of scale.

Side note: I had resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to find the crazy intricate desserts I'd devour in Bangkok until I actually returned to SE Asia. So imagine my delight when I discovered the lovely Pathmon's Thai Desserts on my last trip to Toronto. That was 10 months ago. It better still be there. If it is and if you're in town you should go.

Cookbooks as Exploration

I bought The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the Present Day by Claudia Roden for a friend and then realized I needed it for myself. I've probably only made 1–2 recipes from it. It was a worthy purchase. On the other hand, my copy of Claudia Roden's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking serves up enough tomato stained pages to testify to the length of time it's been in the collection. It pushed me to buy more obscure collections like Ada Boni's Italian Regional Cooking, a tome I wish I'd had this evening when I was making lentil soup.

I mention this and share these books because what I'm going to say next could be perceived as contradictory by some, triggering to others. I really hate most cooking blogs.

Why Food Blogs Suck

Yes, I have lovingly lugged all those (very heavy) cookbooks from one city to another and I read them for fun. But if it's mid-week and I'm in a hurry I'll look in my fridge and see what I've got on hand. Then I'll do a quick search for recipe inspiration. Inevitably, this leads to food blogs. I will click on the link expecting a recipe and instead get a maudlin 2000 word essay about honeymoons, school bake sales, or grandmothers.

OMG this banana bread is so delish. It reminds me of neon shoelaces my Walkman and the Julys in the 80s that I spent at my Grandmothers house in Flin Flon. Let me tell you about gram gram. Back in 1907...

And so on. For another 1974 words.

So what gives? I'm drawn to cookbooks as much for their stories — forgetting for a moment those coil-bound church specials here, which are a diabetic's nightmare of nanaimo bars and sweets —  and context between the recipes as the instructions themselves. Aren't food blogs the same? No. They are not. Someone has spent time optimizing their site so that when I type "recipe for lentil soup with chorizo and celery" their page turns up. But I am hungry and I want to eat. I don't want a story about in-laws or 500 words lifted from Wikipedia about the genus of lentils.

Food Pages Structure

This puts me in a bind. Having decided to write about food means that I am going to write a recipe here and there. I've got stories! I could share them. What to do?

I've decided to follow the structure used on I think they have struck a nice balance. You find recipes. You will also find booklength entries as Kenji Alt-Lopez goes over the 37 ways he's tested a recipe. These parts are broken into different pages or posts. I like this sturcture.

So this is what I will do. Sometimes, like this page, it will take me 700 words to get to my point. Other times I'll post about something delicious I've come across in my travels. You'll find this under /Food. If there's a recipe that comes out of it, great. I'll link to it. You'll find those under /Recipes.

In this way I can share the touching story of my great Aunt Betty's experience making pancakes in a coal mine, a charcoal pancake recipe and not annoy you (or me) in the process.

Your welcome.

Click here for anecdotes about Aunt Betty.

Find recipes here.