They’re everywhere!

Are viral recipes ruining cooking, or another way of looking at it?

This morning I saw a piece from First We Feast bemoaning the ubiquity of the cooking video. They’re not sure they like them.

I’m not sure, either. Now, I’m an experienced cook, with a couple of cookbooks to my name, and for a while in the early 00’s, was a food blogger. I’ve also seen Julia Child and the Galloping Gourmet in their early incarnations in the 1960’s, so I’ve watched the topic of food/cooking evolve from hard copy to video, like so many other things.

The quick cooking videos found on Facebook and elsewhere are easy to hate. They rely heavily on canned and processed food products, often duplicating ingredients in different forms for reasons I’ve never fully understood. (For example, a dessert recipe may include canned condensed milk, frozen whipped topping AND packaged topping mix.) It’s either to add volume, or to make a simple thing, like fruit with cream, look like a “real recipe.” I dunno.

They also, like FWF says, “remove the personality” from the thing. You usually only see a pair of hands, and sometimes not even that much. There is no audio beyond some peppy background music. You know nothing about the person delivering the video clip, the place the recipe was prepared, or anything else. I often wonder if the pair of hands preparing the food is connected to a person who knows anything about cooking. Have the hands been chosen only for visual appeal? Who do you ask if you’ve got a question?

They’re also misleading in their level of difficulty, and the amount of time it actually takes to make the final product. The medium itself — the short video clip — suggests it’s going to be easy, and quick, and some recipes are neither.

On the other hand, they may encourage people to cook, if they don’t already, or try something new, if they’re stuck in a rut of cooking the same things all the time. I’ve always collected recipes, and have never been hesitant to try new things, but not everybody is like that. Video can make a recipe more approachable.

If the videos are a springboard for people to move on to more detailed information in other forms, great! I have seen a video spark some discussion among viewers, and while mostly they say, “I’ll have to try that!” I know from experience they probably won’t, but I’ve also seen people rate them, whether they’ve loved it or hated it, or found a significantly different result than the video indicates after following the sparse direction.

I’ve seen a lot of videos that are really nothing more than a crockpot full of 5 cans of stuff, with an envelope of some sort of mix that when combined, would only make a big, unappetizing mess. The more of these videos that show up, the less they are something new and original. I’d like to see a different approach.

I’m a traditional cook, who likes recipes with measured amounts, using fresh ingredients, starting from scratch. So I guess it’s like anything else new online; it’s sort of a good thing, but there are problems, and over time it’ll be something else. Right now it’s the latest thing, but in time it won’t be so new anymore and the faults will reveal themselves to a larger audience along with the novelty. I really hope it’s not just another step in removing the sense of humanity from daily life that has occurred so often as a result of internet communication.

Last year, with the help of my granddaughters and other family members, we produced a cookbook called, (More than) 77 MichiZona Recipes: a Family Cookbook. It’s available at Amazon.

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