Hi! I'm Jasmin, I really love cooking and in the last few years I've gotten super into cooking blogs. As well as learning the importance of chilling your cookie dough to stop it spreading, I found out a bunch of other stuff too.
1. There are readers out there who will completely change a recipe and then wonder why it doesn't taste the same.
Some people are really bold enough to type “I replaced the canola oil with margarine, the blueberries for raisins, the milk for quail eggs, and the baking soda with a single, unpeeled mango. Cooked for two hours instead of one. Came out burnt and disgusting. Will never try again!” And you soon discover that reading these is more fun than reading the recipe itself. As someone so overly keen on doing things just right and who almost screamed “IT’S RUINED! CHRISTMAS IS OVER!” because they didn’t have quite enough molasses for their cookies, I admire the ballsiness involved. And because food bloggers seem like the nicest people on the planet, their reply will always be really polite, like “Oh, I’m so sorry that didn’t work out for you this time! In future have you tried covering it with foil halfway through?”
2. You will inevitably be catfished by a five-star review nobody has tried.
You know the feeling. You’re scrolling through Pinterest having typed in a vague combination of words like “chicken dinner spicy healthy” when you land on something that looks promising. You click through – it’s so highly rated! Time to read some of these stellar reviews!
“Looks amazing – can’t wait to try it, five stars!”
“Five stars – I bet the combination of flavours taste amazing!”
“10/10 from me, the photos are incredible. I’m sure your family loved it!”
Much in the way I admire the boldness of people who just flat-out ignore the instructions and do things their own way, there's something to be said for the people who give a recipe five stars before even trying it. The recipe could taste of garbage! It could consistently be raw in the middle! It’s so prevalent that it’s best to use as an example of how unfailingly optimistic human beings can be, and move on.
3. You’ll get invested in recipe blogger’s family lives.
OK, at first we all think, I don’t CARE about Katie’s baseball game, Sarah – tell me how to make the salmon!, and reading 250 words about little Donnie getting a cold (which segues into a recipe about chicken noodle soup) can feel tiresome. Because you just want to know how to make food; you’re not interested in people’s life stories! But when you keep going back to the same blog over and over again, something kind of weird happens. You become...invested. They might as well be your family now. You find yourself thinking things like hahahah, CLASSIC Katie and worrying about how Sarah’s son’s science project turned out. Before you know it, you’re thinking, Whoa now, slow down! Before we get to the brownie recipe, how was the kid’s school play?
4. And their marriage.
At a certain point you might as well be best friends with their husband Derek because you know him so well. For example, did you know he hated avocados until he tried his husband’s “Dangerously Delicious Guac”? Much like with bloggers’ kids, you might think you don’t care, and you probably don’t. But somehow you end up 400 words deep into reading about what they did for their last wedding anniversary, and almost forget you’re there to find out how he recreated the beef bourguignon from their favourite restaurant at home.
5. The ONLY sign of a good dessert is if you catch a family member sneaking back for seconds.
Literally the only sign. If a recipe for brownies or cake does not have something along the lines of “and then when I turned round, I saw Auntie Jacqueline sneaking into the kitchen for a second slice of key lime pie!” or about how they had to make a second batch because it proved to be a big hit at the potluck, bin it. The recipe is garbage. This is now my only metric for success. In fact, if I make brownies and people don’t playfully sneak back into the kitchen for a second slice, I will see it as a personal attack on my cooking skills.
6. You will somehow develop an affinity with someone who is completely different from you.
I’m a British Asian woman living in England, but after reading blogs with names like “Southern Cooking Mama” I feel like I could relate to a soccer mom living in a state that I am most likely never going to see IRL. When I read something about how people just love their biscuits and gravy, I think, Don’t we all! – even though where I’m from that means cookies and meat juice. I know what a “skillet” is and what “broil” means now, despite these not being in the British lexicon at all. I nod enthusiastically at recountings of days at the beach with a family of three in tow, despite the closest thing I have to a child being my Labrador. I get the urge to say “Ugh, tell me about it – summer vacation when the kids are off school can be tough! How do you stop them being bored?” when I have literally never encountered this problem in my life. It turns out that sometimes all it takes to unite you and a random person on the other side of the globe is a lasagna recipe!
7. There is no recipe on god’s green earth that doesn’t have someone asking “can I freeze this?” in the comments.
“Does this freeze well?” “Might freeze it” “Can it be frozen?” “Froze it ahead of time, will that be OK?” From reading this question and variations of it over a hundred times I have come to a pretty unsurprising realisation: You can freeze just about anything! And people love freezing stuff! My freezer, once a den of oven chips and meat that was going to go off, is now a graveyard for things I tried from blogs that I may or may not ever defrost. As much as you might roll your eyes the first 30 times you see these questions and say, “Gee, I don’t know, Deborah. Do YOU think a pot of chilli can be frozen?”, soon you’re Ctrl+F searching the word “frozen” to check for yourself. Freeze everything. Freeze your sauces. Freeze your cookie dough. If someone says “wow, you’re taking this freezing thing kind of far”, freeze their bad attitude.
8. There are a lot of women out there trying to get their loved ones to try new food and they all, to be quite honest, deserve gold trophies.
Listen, I’m already aware that women are basically superheroes, and I know that recipe blogs and cooking are not gender-specific at all. But one thing I had completely underestimated is how hard it can be getting loved ones to eat new stuff. A recipe blog isn’t a recipe blog unless there’s a mention in the comments about how it made the reader’s husband, who normally HATES avocados/chickpeas/onions, LOVE avocados/chickpeas/onions thanks to a recipe that seamlessly incorporated them in a way nobody would notice. And on the flipside, suddenly you find yourself frustrated when their efforts to sneak more carrots into dinner aren’t well received. You almost leave a comment saying “Well, I bet your bolognese was superb and you need to be appreciated more, Claire” until you remember it’s a literal stranger.
9. Sometimes unphotogenic food is actually the best.
Yes, food from blogs with marble worktops and a smattering of rose petals over a galette with some flour tastefully dusted around the place is very beautiful and probably does taste pretty nice. But I’ve realised that, nine times out of ten, the very regular-looking chocolate chip muffins and the “chicken and spicy rice” that would at best get you seven likes on Instagram and a “looks yummy! X” comment from your mum are probably just as good, if not better! If you want to make a three-tiered naked cake with edible flowers, good for you – I bet it’ll come out amazing! But don’t overlook the standard-looking banana bread that doesn’t photograph well, you’ll inevitably end up having it for breakfast, lunch, and an after-dinner dessert every day because “bananas are fruit, therefore I’m eating fruit!”