Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been cooking far more than I did before. I enjoy cooking as creative work that also has the practical side effect of providing sustenance for life. Trying new techniques, wanting to make specific dishes, and just being more interested in the process and results, I also spend a lot more time reading cooking material on the web.
One site that I keep coming back to is the indispensable Smitten Kitchen. Deb Perelman has been blogging recipes regularly for more than 16 years and written three cookbooks, all from a Manhattan apartment kitchen. but what makes Smitten Kitchen stand out in the world of recipe blogs fighting for SEO and food TikTok trends, are good taste and continuous improvement.
In many ways, reading recipes is a lot like reading film or theatre criticism. All critics have biases, preferences, and tastes. There is no empirically correct way to judge art. So, when reading reviews, it is important to know the critic, know where they are coming from, and understand whether a rave means that you are likely to love or hate a particular work. Without a critical read on criticism, it’s hard to get value out of them. Cooking is similar. Some people prefer sweeter, saltier, spicier, or blander food than you do. And there’s nothing wrong with different tastes. And even if there is objective good and bad, sometimes it’s not about the best, but about connecting with memories of a particular experience. While some things may be objectively better than others, sometimes best isn’t the goal. No one in their right mind would argue that a Budweiser is the best beer in the world, but for the right situation, there can be nothing better. So understanding the preferences of a critic or recipe writer are necessary to be an informed reader.
Simply, Perelman’s preferences tend to be similar to mine – or at least coming from the same frame of reference, so I find them very easy to place.
But what I find most impressive about Smitten Kitchen is Perelman’s consistent commitment to keeping the site up to date. The more that you cook a recipe, the more you will find how subtle tweaks can improve a recipe (or make it worse). When she revisits recipes and concepts, she also links old posts back to the new ones and keep the site coherent and consistently evolving.
Smitten Kitchen is an invaluable resource, so go buy Deb’s books so that she can continue to publish vast amounts of great recipes and ideas for free.
Previously: Appreciating the Indie Web Appreciating the Indie Web: DC Rainmaker Appreciating the Indie Web: ATP Appreciating the Indie Web: Kottke.org Appreciating the Indie Web: Lift Blog