Monthly Archives: February 2010

I’d pay for the perfect recipe

I can hardly believe I’m going to say this — for fear people misinterpret me to therefore be a rogue supporter of pay walls (which I’m not).

But the other day, I would have paid someone to deliver a black forest cake recipe on to my laptop screen.

Not just any old recipe, obviously. One that worked, had the right amount of yum and beauty so everyone would ooh and ahh over it, since it was (and is) quite a lot of work.

I’ll give you a very short Nelsonian food history: My mother’s a chef, trained at Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris, no less.

Marilyn Sharp

My mother -- the chef

Yes — bona fide, big time chef. I can remember her spinning sugar when I was a kid. She’s also British, so Delia Smith to her was a bit like Julia Child to Americans. I have my Grandmother’s copy of Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course (it doesn’t have black forest cake), I have the more recent version of her cooking course — all three volumes (one has a black forest log — not the same, I decided). I scoured my recipe books — Julia, Delia, Nigella Lawson, Joy of Cooking… and on and on. No black forest cake. I suppose it’s old fashioned.

This is when indexes in cook books are so crucial. There’s a great scene in the movie Julie and Julia, when Julia Child is talking about working on their book’s index — and I thought, yes of course. Indexes. So important.

Probably, given my history and love for butter and cheese, it should be no surprise that … after much work … I have just lost 17 pounds (and counting). And while organizations like Weightwatchers (what I’m using) do great things, they just don’t understand the importance of indexes. Skinny people, I suppose. Not cookbook writers. Not indexers.

Which is good, right? They leave it to the real indexers.

Uh … well … wrong. Google is terrible for recipes. They don’t differentiate between Martha Stewart and Julia Child. Need I say more?

You get more than 800,000 hits for black forest cake. But would you make any of them? No. Would you use just anyone’s recipe? Well, of course not.

So … I went to where I always go: No luck. Tried Chowhound. No luck there either — just places to eat it in Toronto. Tried epicurious, obviously. But I wanted a recipe from someone I knew and trusted. My usual go-to women weren’t delivering and I didn’t know where else to look. Anyway, long story short — I chose this recipe. It’s on the Nigella Lawson site — but not by Nigella — by a reader. Forums on food sites are probably a whole other post — they’re popular and sort of middling to average in utility, I find.

With this recipe from Nigella Lawson’s site, I trusted the source, strangely, even though it wasn’t a Nigella recipe per se.

It clearly had some flaws at the outset — self raising flour (British), sour cherries (lots of work), no explanation for what TYPE of chocolate (I chose 70 per cent chocolate) and not particularly good instructions. The results were OK. The cake was good, the cherries great, the Ganache was terrible.

There’s this strange disconnect for me about food online. I often cook with my laptop in the kitchen, podcast playing, flipping between two or three recipes on different tabs. But there’s no one great aggregator for me. (I’d be interested to know if anyone else has found their perfect aggregator).

I still go to individuals — personalities — I know and trust. I have, in the past (when I wasn’t losing weight) paid for premium content on Delia Smith’s site. It’s up there with movies and music for me — things I’m actually willing to pay for online. I haven’t found the premium services on Delia’s recently revamped site, so obviously I wasn’t enough to keep her going on that front!

I think the problem when it comes to food is that there’s simply too much of it out there.

I need a food concierge service that will go and find me stuff, so I don’t have to wade through all the recipes, message board posts, and schlock to come up with what I’m looking for. I need to know who has the best free-range, organic turkeys that aren’t the weight of a middle school child. I need to know where to get odd ingredients and how to make black forest cake in a way that is yummy and awe inspiring.

If that existed out there, I’d probably pay.

Back to chicken roasting in the oven… (weightwatchers recipe, sigh, though I’d rather be doing this one).


Is TV dead? It will be with one piece of technology…

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how and why newspapers should move online. I haven’t really spent as much time thinking about television and its required transformation. And there’s one thing I need built… by some smarter-than-me engineer out there, who preferably doesn’t work for Apple of google… but let me explain.

Television, to me, has always been a bit like the forbidden fruit. I grew up on a farm with a mother who was adamant that my brother and I would only watch a half hour of television per day. My requests for Three’s Company were almost always beaten out of me, so we could watch what he wanted — Video Hits. Besides greatly reducing my ability to win pink pie in Trivial Pursuit, it meant when I got to university… I watched loads of television. First addiction was to Road to Avonlea. But there have been many more since — and even now, even though it’s too scarey for me to watch — I have an addiction to 24.

But I don’t actually turn on my television now, unless it’s to play Wii.

I can’t watch a certain show at a certain time. So if it’s not online — so I can watch it when I want to — I’m not watching it.

I could probably do an entire post on video players in Canada — let’s just say we’re not home to many good ones.  Nevertheless, I do believe that I’m not alone when I say in the last 18 months, I’ve stopped watching conventional TV. I actually think we’re on the cusp of TV making a full-scale shift to online and that’ll open up  TV production much like the printing press was no longer the required tool to publish.

So on to what I need: An easy, affordable, wireless way to get the movies, shows and music I download on to my laptop on to my LCD TV so I can watch it full screen. I don’t want to have to call in someone to install it, or require a PhD to figure it out… I don’t want to spend $500 for something that will only play one type of file, and I’m not going to wait an hour to transfer it from my computer to my screen.

And while this likely puts the fear of God into TV executives, it somehow gives me strange  touch of comfort.

We at newspapers aren’t alone. And our opportunities for online video may just have a breath of life in it.

Now back to Team Canada vs. Switzerland.