Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thoughts on simplicity

Has anyone else noticed that very few of the free recipes available online are simple ones? And the supposedly thrifty ones often aren't (at least not for ordinary people)? I think some of them would add 3 or 4 extra ingredients to instructions for making a grilled cheese.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing at all wrong with options or variations on a recipe. But honestly, does tortilla soup really require 8 or 10 different spices, not to mention several other ingredients that I've never seen in tortilla soup? This may make a better version (or may not, more complex isn't always better), but it's certainly not necessary. I went to one Web site that's changed hands since I last looked, and the nicely practical, basic thrifty recipes have mostly been replaced with complicated or expensive recipes. The bulk cooking recipe Web sites used to be great too, but most of the recipes now seem to call for pricey ingredients.

I think there are several reasons for this. One is kind of like the change Mother Earth News underwent from the really genuine back to basics stuff when it began (fruit-loopy as some of it was) to the trendy stuff that only appeals to the upper middle class who have a lot more money than the poor; profit tends to push things to target them. Second is also an economic one---recipes are a great way to sell more of some item, and I suspect a lot of things online are directly or indirectly financed by the vendors. Third is also an economic one---people want to produce original versions of recipes and the "best" version so people will pay for their cookbook or classes or something. But last, I suspect a lot fewer of the working class and poor spend much time online, either from lack of computer and internet or from lack of time.

Search engines are also set up to push results of companies that pay for the favoritism up in your results. An example was when I searched for "basic bread recipe yeast". In the first 5 or 6 results there were several from prominent recipe sites that were anything but basic. None of those results was for a non-knead dough either, and while a batter bread recipe isn't great for sandwiches, it's perfectly delicious, and easier to make. Much less intimidating for someone experimenting with making bread for the first time.

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