The other day, someone tweeted out something that reawoke an age-old debate. A reporter from a Minnesota-based NPR affiliate tweeted out, in short, that “no one wants to read your life story before the recipe, just post the recipe.”
Naturally, every food writer I follow was quick to tell her to eat shit.
There were, of course, a few comments nodding in agreement re: not being bothered to just scroll past it. But the overwhelming majority of replies and quotetweets were united in telling her to get off her high horse. There’s almost something beautiful about the way the whole Internet can come together like that. But what even is the big deal, anyway?
In short: recipe blogs that put long, unwieldy chunks of text before actually getting to the recipe are usually doing it for ad revenue. The more you have to scroll, the more ads you’re scrolling past.
Do I, on a personal level, hate the fact that every space on the internet HAS to be commodified and commercialized? Do I hate that society places overwhelming pressure on people to turn their passion projects into revenue streams, killing the idea of creating art just for the sake of creation? Absolutely. But we’re drifting into a “‘this is the way the world should be’ vs ‘this is the way the world is’” argument. It’s their blogs, and they have the right to monetize them.
A lot of people were quick to point out that this is, more or less, the price you pay when you get a recipe from one of these blogs. Nothing on the Internet is free, and if you aren’t directly paying for something, you pay the price in the form of being advertised to (or getting datamined). Do you expect recipe writers to work for free? Do you value the products of their labor that little? Or, will you put your money where your mouth is and buy a cookbook? (Or take one out from the library, if you have no money to put where your mouth is.) Surely, the NPR reporter whose salary is paid by pledge drives understands the importance of wanting to get paid?
Furthermore, a lot of people noted that the blurb before the recipe can provide some important context for the recipe. For example, if you wanted to make chocolate chip cookies, wouldn’t you like to know going into it whether or not the end result would be the flat-and-crispy kind or the light-and-fluffy kind? Plus, many preambles include information on what kinds of ingredient substitutions will or won’t work, based on the chemistry of the recipe as a whole, which can be vital for niche bloggers writing recipes for specific dietary needs. A few other people raised the point that Google’s SEO algorithms require a certain number of words on a page in order to recognize it as not-spam, meaning that there’s probably plenty of bloggers out there not putting their life story before the recipe, but they get buried under pages with better optimization.
Or- and herein lies probably the only original point I can bring to the conversation- sometimes, dare I say it, people follow specific blogs because they enjoy the writer’s voice or personality. I would sure hope that’s the case for anyone reading my blog. Could you imagine if I had uploaded the Mocktail Monday pieces without context? If I had, out of the blue, told you to drink kimchi lemonade and hot dog water without laying out my deranged, ADHD-riddled trains of thought as to why I put those things together? And this blog is only, like, 5% recipes, I can only assume if you’re here you’re here for my oh-so-charming wit (read: occasional cuss word). Or, for example, as easy as it can be to make fun of mommy bloggers, you can’t deny that they have created a unique community through their shared, motherly experiences.
At the end of the day, we can only assume that the reporter who started this shitstorm (yay, the occasional cuss word!) hadn’t fully thought out the potential harm her words had implied. Or, more cynically, she knows exactly how to use Twitter, and knows the best way to create engagement is by throwing out awful takes for the sake of getting ratioed. The only thing we can know for certain is: if all you want is the recipe, just go to recipe dot com or something, and quit making it someone else’s problem.