Food blogs are probably one of the best things about the internet. I mean, seriously. I can type “Chicken 375” into Google and it will tell me exactly how long to cook chicken at that temperature. If I run out of buttermilk I don’t have to remember that lemon juice or white vinegar in regular milk will work just fine, I can just type “substitute for buttermilk” into the search bar and the answer populates. Nearly all the guesswork is eliminated from my cooking.
But using the internet for cooking advice can be a little dangerous, too, because it’s hard to tell if the source of a recipe is actually the person who created and tested the recipe. Some bloggers swipe content from another blog, doctor it up a bit, and re-post the recipe as their own original work without letting you know that it was modified from another source.
There are two reasons I don’t like when this happens. First, I don’t want to make a recipe that is not actually great. Cookbook typos ruin a recipe, and the chances of typos popping up in modified online recipes are a bit higher. I’m not interested in wasting time and ingredients making something that was slightly tweaked if those tweaks have not been sufficiently tested and do not make the recipe more convenient or more delicious.
Secondly, I really LOVE the cookbook world and I want to build it up. If a cookbook author spends her entire day cooking and testing and tweaking a method, and a professional photographer captures the steps and the final product in a meaningful way, they’ve created something really beautiful. I don’t think it’s okay for other cooks to grab that info, make a few tiny changes, and take all the credit for the final product.
But this is also where it gets a little complicated. There’s no actual copyright of recipes* (as in ingredient lists), and who can really say they “own” a recipe? Don’t we all read recipes and watch our mothers and grandmothers and neighbors and Emeril make the same things differently, and then merge together those different techniques to create our own way of cooking?
Preparing and eating food isn’t just an individual art. Cooking is a community activity. Even though it’s just me and H here in Chicago, our cooking brings all the pieces of my family history and his family history and our culinary interests together. My Thanksgiving turkey is based on my mom’s recipe, but I switch out the apple in the turkey cavity for a sliced orange because that’s what Giada De Laurentiis does. Our roll recipe comes from H’s grandmother, but since I’m terrible at making gravy I throw together “fake gravy” using turkey drippings and a can of cream of chicken soup. This easy and delicious fake gravy recipe originated somewhere in Alabama and was passed to me by my mom’s sister. What comes out of our kitchen is tradition, technique, and trends all muddled together.
This week I’m sharing some of my favorite recipes that originated on the internet. I’ll link you to the source recipes but tell you how I make it my own. I never really use a recipe straight – I mix in my knowledge of certain techniques and my experience with different ingredients. As you get to know a recipe, it stops being that recipe and starts being something you do.
If you’re a newer cook, deviating from recipes may sound intimidating, but it isn’t as scary as it sounds. The best part of cooking is when you start making the recipes you’ve tried even better.
Here’s the plan for this week:
Tuesday: Turkey Meatballs are not Lame
Wednesday: Lazy Homemade Tomato Sauce
Thursday: Emergency Chocolate Pie
I’m excited to receive your own links for favorite recipes too, so be sure to leave them in the comments or share through Facebook or Twitter.
*The source of this information was diannej.com, blog of Diane Jacob, food writer and author of Will Write For Food. It is not legal advice.
This post is number 20 of my #write31days project 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen. You can follow along with the series each day in October. An archive of posts is available here, or just click on that big button on the right sidebar.