January 18, 2012

re-focusing

Can I talk about the State of the Blog for a sec? Ugh. I was scrolling through the recipe index the other day and felt pretty discouraged. My original goal for this blog was to assemble a collection of favorite recipes that we make all the time. It hasn't happened, at least on the "she cooks" side. Mark's recipes are pretty spot on: tortillas, flax seed loaf, yep; we make those all the time. But on my side, the cooking side? When I looked at the index, all I could think was bleh. It doesn't reflect the kinds of things I cook on a normal basis at all. (Note: I've since updated it a bit, cutting the chaff so it's a bit closer to reality, but it's not quite there yet.)

Instead of turning to my recipe index for meal ideas and recipes, I turn to my very well-organized Google document keeping track of recipes I love, with my notes on what worked and what didn't work, and an ongoing list of foods I've cooked every week. So, to recap: Google document has hundreds of recipes/links and notes. Blog has a long list but, of those, we might cook less than a dozen of those recipes on a normal basis. What happened to my goal??

Here's the thing -- writing recipes is incredibly time consuming for me, because I am not a recipe person. I am a wing-it type cook. I follow recipes as written 10% of the time, maybe closer to 5%. That means that 90-95% of the time, I use recipes for inspiration and then cook things the way I think it should be cooked. Or I "follow" recipes based on the state of my pantry/refrigerator/spice rack. I love cooking this way; it keeps meals interesting, it minimizes waste, and most importantly it works for me.

So why does this conflict with blogging? I'm not organized enough to weigh/measure ingredients as I tip them in a pan. I cook the same dish differently every single time. And I don't want to be an unreliable blogger. How many times have I scanned someone else's slipshod recipe and been like, dude, you can't be vague about xyz! It is frustrating to follow a recipe that turns out badly. I don't want people to have recipes turn out badly on my account.

But lately, I'm coming to terms with the fact that I need to prioritize my goals. To be totally selfish, I should be blogging for myself, not an imaginary audience who might try to make my ma po tofu recipe and fail because I added a splash of soy sauce and am not sure whether it was 2 teaspoons or 3. And who's my audience here, anyway? Tell me if this is isn't the case, but I don't think I have many beginner cooks here. It seems like most of y'all are, like me, fairly experienced home cooks looking for inspiration. And if you're going to riff on my recipes anyway, why am I freaking out so much about infallible recipes?

So, this is me, re-focusing my goal for the cooking side of our blog. Blog more recipes that we make on a daily/weekly/bi-weekly basis. Worry less about writing fail-proof, perfect recipes. Find a balance. Mark will continue to blog here and there, but as the baker, his recipes will continue to be precise and detailed. It's just my recipe style that will change.

Hold me to this, you guys. (And I must include a special shout out to Julia, who talked through all this with me on her last visit. Thanks J!)

8 comments:

Liz in DC said...

The reasons you mentioned are EXACTLY why I never started a blog of my own. But I love reading other blogs for inspiration, and I'm a pretty experienced home cook, so you hit that exactly on the head! I'd really like to see more recipes and I would be totally fine if you veer away from very precise to less precise.

I'm actually pretty interested in your "well-organized" google doc organization system for recipes. I have an unwieldy collection of bookmarks basically. Would love to hear more.

Anonymous said...

Delurking to say that if you start including vague/haphazard recipes I probably won't continue reading. I don't mean that in a mean way, but I like to follow recipes exactly.

I understand your rationale, though. Unless your goal is to gain a huge audience and sponsorship and to write a book (I'm assuming that's NOT your goal since you didn't mention it), you should focus less on audience and more what works for you. Good luck.

Kim said...

Liz - Thanks for your input. That's good to hear. About the organization, I simply created a google documents spreadsheet. Column A is category (mine are beans/legumes, beef/lamb, breakfast, fish/seafood, pork, poultry, tofu, rice/grains/pasta, salads, soups, vegetables). Column B is a short description of the dish, i.e. Red Lentil Soup. Column C is a link to a recipe. Column D has my notes. Does that make sense? It takes a little time to set up and add links but it's pretty useful when I'm planning meals.

Anonymous -- Thanks for your input. I'm constantly unsubscribing from blogs that don't meet my needs, so that makes perfect sense. Your comment did prompt me to edit my post a bit, though -- Mark will never wing any recipes. That's not his style, and it's why he prefers baking to cooking. The baking part of the blog will stay exactly the same.

robin said...

You're basically describing the difference between cooking and baking. Baking is exact, cooking often is intuitive and changes moment-to-moment. I like baking because I have very little food intuition and baking gives me good structure and should turn out correctly if you follow the recipe. When Ilan cooks he changes things around all the time, tests, adds stuff, etc, and I bet he'd be in the same position about writing recipes.

Kim said...

Robin - Right! I do think baking requires *some* experience/intuition (for example, you might judge whether your pie dough needs more ice water based on how it looks or feels). But generally, you're right, people don't improvise when baking because it can be so tricky.

Jess in L.A. said...

This makes sense to me. I have high expectations of baking recipes -- those need to work AS WRITTEN -- but less so of cooking recipes (that sounds awkward but you know what I mean). I mostly follow the steps as written, but I switch ingredients/amounts around based on what I have in the fridge, or to make a dish gluten free if I'm cooking for my roommate, or whatever. I understand it's tricky to write a very detailed recipe after the fact, but I also think it's ok if you don't.

By the way, I can't tell you how many times I've followed a Mark Bittmann recipe to the letter and realized it wasn't to my taste. Odds are, someone will have an issue, no matter how precisely or how vaguely written your recipe is. Just a thought.

Laura said...

Just want to echo that I also cook the way you describe you cook. If I'm making something complicated, I will probably follow the recipe exactly, though. The last time I followed a recipe to the letter was Suzanne Goin's short ribs recipe. She's VERY detailed and you can tell that she does everything for a reason. But if a recipe says "add 2 TB oil and 1 cup onion" I'm not going to measure the oil or the onion. It has always worked for me ;)

JDog said...

happy I could be of service! :)