The internet’s distaste for scrolling through stories before recipes reveals an uncomfortable truth about how we enjoy recipe writing and food-related storytelling in general, which is that we don’t. not.
One of the most annoying and repetitive complaints I’ve seen go viral on Twitter is that stories before recipes on food blogs are just too long. People hate these stories because they are seemingly useless or stuffy, to be littered with advertisements at times, or just to get in the way of the step-by-step cooking instructions they’re looking for.
Like most things on Twitter, this complaint divides people: while some want nothing more than a simple procedure, others have pointed out that it is unreasonable complain about free content. But the general distaste for scrolling through stories before recipes reveals a larger, more uncomfortable truth in how we treat recipe creation and food-related storytelling in general, that is, often carefree. or interest in the work devoted to it.
In 2020, the Washington Post reported on the “quick and overwhelming” negative response Mindy Kaling received from some food bloggers after she publicly complained about the stories that come with the recipes. This storytelling technique is a way food bloggers prepare their websites for SEO, which encourages more web traffic their way, which ultimately earns them money through ad revenue.
I personally don’t mind at all, and I don’t know why anyone else would – if I get a recipe for free, I don’t care if a creator runs an ad or has SEO-savvy copywriting. . It’s worth remembering that chefs, food bloggers, and recipe developers pursue a creative endeavor that is as much for them as it is for anyone else, and to support their work it sometimes needs to be monetized.
Pre-recipe stories are also more than just about money. If you take the time to read them, you can find cooking tips and techniques that will help you get the best version of your dish, as well as swaps for ingredients you don’t have or can’t. utilize. I often scan them for instructions on how to properly store leftovers, which I almost always end up doing as someone who cooks a lot but lives alone. If you’re trying a recipe for the first time, don’t skip the preamble, especially if you still consider yourself a novice cook.
Pre-recipe storytelling doesn’t just teach us how to cook: it keeps readers from separating people’s hard work from their recipes. When we search for a recipe, we are often looking for a list of ingredients and a set of easy-to-follow instructions, not the backstory of how that dish came about or who developed it. There’s nothing wrong with that – sometimes we just don’t have the time – but when we create such a transactional relationship between us and the food-related content we enjoy, we miss the fact that it are people who have spent hours testing, perfecting and sharing a recipe with the world.
Afia Amoako, the creator of the blog The Canadian African, says a single recipe can take him anywhere from three full working days to three weeks to develop. Amoako, who is also currently a full-time doctoral student, ensures that each of her recipes is backed by careful research, but that’s only the first step. “I am not just a researcher. I am also the person who tests [the recipe], the photographer, the designer, the editor,” says Amoako. “Changing from one hat to another is also a time to think about.” In a way, recipe creation can be considered a labor of love given how easily recipes can be misattributed or entirely reposted without credit by other social media accounts cultivating engagement. Enthusiastically engaging with the creators’ original recipes and acknowledging that their stories are the culmination of hours, if not days, of work is an easy way to support them and recognize the work that goes into recipe development.
Another reason storytelling is important when it comes to developing recipes is that stories attached to food-related content can help diversify food media, an area that is still notorious for racial inequality. . When we decouple all basic information about a dish from a recipe, we’re playing into an already unfairly stacked system that buries the hard work of racialized cooks, recipe developers, and content creators. Dishes made by people of color often don’t go viral in the same way as “feta pasta” the (frankly revolting) dish that took over social media in 2021, or the “green goddess salad” recipe that ended up on the Today’s show earlier this year. When dishes rooted in non-Western cuisines gain popularity, they are often unrelated to their origins, and white creators’ own interpretations of recipes tend to gain more views than the original video itself.
“A lot of people who follow my page have no idea what West African food is, so I always take this opportunity to introduce people to the culture,” says Amoako. People of color in food media should feel encouraged to take up space and, if they feel comfortable doing so, tell any personal or cultural stories they may have in relation to their recipes – we we must also hold ourselves accountable to engage, listen, and share these stories.
The speed of platforms such as Instagram and TikTok has enabled a new level of impatience with how we consume media online, and food videos have not been spared the demand for fast-paced content. . By slowing down to respect the work involved in creating recipes, we could find transformative voices in food-related storytelling and actually learn something in the process.
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