I have to confess I chose this week’s recipes, in part, because they were funny. Not the recipes themselves exactly, but the foodie-on-foodie conflicts they apparently inspired. These days you see, every consumer web site wants to be “interactive”. They want to be down with their peeps. Or at least want their peeps to believe that they’re down with them. You know…keeping it real and such. Which is why more and more consumer sites are offering review and/or star rating capability. As anyone who’s ever read any of these reviews knows though, the ratings the sites generate are mostly useless. Book-selling sites, for instance, contain reviews that are invariably five stars (friends and family of the author) or one star (jealous competitors who wish they’d thought to write the damned book first. What. Why’s everyone looking at me all of a sudden?). For the consumer these rants are of extremely little value. They do however serve the function of giving consumers a platform to say what they will, and that is valuable in itself.
So. As I usually do, I spent part of my Sunday morning skulking around food sites looking for recipes. For the hot cross buns, I was after something a little, oh I don’t know…flamboyant, since hot cross buns can be pretty bland things if you choose your recipe poorly. As it happened there were only two hot cross bun entries at the Food Network. One from Emeril and one from Gale Gand. The Emeril one I dismissed out of hand since, well…I don’t trust him. But the Gale Gand recipe had only three stars. Which was odd, since she’s a crack baker (oh, you know what I mean). Investigating, I found that as usual the recipe reviewers were split 50-50 between stellar and dismal rankings. The two five-star reviews were by bakers who’d tried the recipe and liked it. The one-stars, as it turned out, were by Jewish bakers enraged that the hot cross bun recipe had somehow found its way onto the Food Network’s Passover search string. Sure enough, I did a search for “Passover” and it popped right up. Some intern was asleep at the switch over at the Food Network. But more curious still was the content of the complaints. One reviewer was upset about the hot cross bun’s pagan origins, the other about the recipe’s overly long ingredient list. Neither brought up the fact that what might have made hot cross buns truly inappropriate for the Passover table was the fact that they have those, um, you know, what are those things…crosses on them. But maybe then they weren’t the really controversial bits.
Meanwhile over at Epicurious.com there was another argument going on, this one in extreme slow motion (judging by the dates, it took nearly six years to complete). Apparently it all started with a comment by a young fellow who was looking for a puff pastry recipe. Finding only brioche, he apparently became disconsolate over what seemed to him a watering down of a beloved foostuff. He lamented:
Where do I find a real French receipe (sic) for brioche, but one adapted to American ingredients (and I don’t mean one castrated to placate food phobias or the bitch goddess “Health.”)
I don’t know how you can fail to love someone who can work the words “brioche”, “castrated” and “bitch goddess” all into one sentence. I guess Epicurious.com, despite its gentile upper-middle-class edifice, is actually a pretty edgy place. Anyway, the whole thing devolves into a multi-year orgy of confusion and recrimination after that. That is, until a selfless “food professional” steps in to put things to rights. (That’s after all what “food professionals” do: travel the internet doing good, righting wrongs, defending the weak against the strong, that sort of thing. We’re sort of like Mounties in that way. Only with funnier hats.)
In any event, I encourage you to have a look-see for yourself if you’re at all interested in the day-to-day internecine warfare that is the food life. Nonstop action is what it is. Oh and…enjoy the recipes.