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: Deliaonline.com. 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).


5 responses to “I’d pay for the perfect recipe

  1. Next time, try recipezaar.com
    It’s my go-to site because other readers who have actually tried the recipes rate it and often comment on what they’d do differently, if anything.

  2. Marissa,
    If I had only known!!! I believe my mom has an excellent one as I made it once and need the recipe from her. next time. I totally relate to your blog and love it. Knowing your mom and having a mom that could taste something and tell you exactly what is in it and whose mistakes still tasted better than anything I still try to make.

  3. Oh yeah, and for when not on a diet I will send you the rebar chocolate cake recipe!!! 3 types of chocolate, butter, whipping cream and cream cheese, need I say more šŸ™‚
    XO Kat

  4. I hear you. I’ve been there many times, scouring the net for the perfect recipe and needing the trust factor. I use allrecipes.com for everyday stuff. There’s such a huge community on the site that you get more reliable ratings and comments. You end up recognizing some of the bigger contributors and the ability to follow them would be nice! The dishes are all very American though so it’s only useful in that capacity.

    For the more involved dishes I flip from epicurious and end up like you did – not always sure where to turn.

    For a really frustrating experience go to the barefoot contessa. You’ll find an index of recipes buried on the site and think you’ve found a few gems but they aren’t links! It’s just an index of what you’ll find in her cookbooks.

    There has to be a better way!

  5. http://www.nigella.com/recipe/recipe_detail.aspx?key=C&rid=105

    As requested!

    Very good, quick recipe for a simple tasty cheesecake…changed topping to raspberries then got adventurous…

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