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Home / Articles / Food / Food Writing /  Computer Cooking
crab meat
Imitation crab isn’t even useful on the internet.

Computer Cooking

Internet food tips are no substitute for the real thing

December 23, 2009, 12:00 am

I’d rather be cooking and eating than, for example, working.

A lot of people probably feel that way.

Like many of them, I instead spend hours upon hours each day plopped in front of a screen, smearing my ass into the shape of a chair, while I could be harvesting ingredients, hunting down recipes, making proper stock and planning ridiculous meals.

Fortunately, the miracle of the internet allows me to do virtually all of this when I am, in fact, supposed to be working. Of course, the virtual bit means the only thing I can smell is the faint musk of aging office cubicle partition, and the only thing I can taste is the bitter certainty of impending deadlines.

The sadness of this makes me wonder: How come, in all of those movies about the virtual reality future, people are always having hot virtual sex, but nobody is ever virtually sucking on suckling pig or forking up some fugu? I would totally eat some casu marzu—the mildly toxic Sardinian cheese that is consumed while full of live maggots—if I didn’t actually have to eat it.

Despite the lack of physical titillation, my “iGoogle” page is a forest of little boxes that deliver daily recipes, the Twitter feeds of chefs both famous and obscure, luscious food photography (think National Geographic lion versus wildebeest but substitute apples versus pork loin) and other pleasant distractions that contribute to my generally low level of productivity. Some of them are persistently maddening, like the cheap wine recommendations that have never been under $30 per bottle. Others are vexing because they display recipes so ingenious I am forced to feel that I will never really comprehend food beyond, say, a fifth-grade level.

Speaking of fifth grade, one so-called “utility” that I recently added is a tool from supercook.com that is intended to suggest recipes based on the ingredients I enter. The idea is that one can scope the leftovers and the jars at the back of the fridge and discover some delightful use for these otherwise ignored ingredients. Great for the slower children, I figure, and for me. I always end up with a lot of odd and additional items lingering around the holidays, so I concluded the utility would be a fun way to force myself to try some new things.

Immediately, however, I was disappointed. The first ingredient I entered was “goat” because I have about 30 pounds of it in the freezer. “We’re sorry,” I was informed, “But we’ve never heard of the ingredient ‘goat.’” I eventually had better luck with the more literal “goat meat,” but I had become jaded by internet recipe matches by then. With, I think, good reason.

Entering “grape jelly,” “imitation crab” and “sour cream”—not that I have those ingredients or anything—netted a recipe for something called “eyeballs and poop.”

About what you’d expect, I suppose.

But in order to make eyeballs and poop, at least the “food” version, one actually needs red seedless grapes—not grape jelly—and if you don’t have 16 ounces of something called caramel apple dip, you’re out of luck. Can I steal the flavor packet from a microwavable caramel-flavored popcorn? Supercook.com does not say.

More to the point, it only culls the internet for recipes that might kind of match the keywords entered. It does nothing to explain why one might combine ingredients in certain ways or how one thing complements the next. In other words, supercook.com actually inhibits, rather than expands, anything resembling a practical culinary education.

When staring at a pile of ingredients that make no real sense together, the best thing one can do is start handling, sniffing, snorting, chopping and cooking.

Because supercook.com proves that virtual cooking is the same as virtual sex: It really sucks.

 

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