Recipes without the life-story preamble taste better… or do they?

If you find yourself staring into your fridge, searching for meal inspiration, the solution can often be found online. Food blogs provide a seemingly endless source of recipes and ideas, most of which are free to access. And Recipeasly was a website designed to collate these recipes into one platform.

But it has been taken down just hours after it launched, in response to a severe backlash against its approach.

The problem? Its founders promised to “fix” online recipes by removing the “ads and life stories” that often precede recipes when users download the external link. For the thousands of bloggers to whom the ads and introductions are important for revenue and for giving context to their recipes, it felt like their passion and source of income was under attack. 

In a statement written on the website’s homepage, the creators wrote, “We have nothing but respect and admiration for the time, money and effort that goes into creating great recipes and websites. We realise we’re not demonstrating the huge respect we have for recipe creators. We missed the mark big time today and we’re sorry.” 

In response, many people have also came to the defence of Recipeasly on social media, arguing that it’s a useful tool for skipping lengthy recipe introductions. “We all hate shifting through lifestyle guru stuff to see if we need one egg or two,” argued one user. 

So, which side are you on? Are recipe intros and insistent adverts off-putting at best and a menace at worst? Or do they tempt you to dive into the dish? Two lifestyle writers and food blog enthusiasts battle it out below…

“By all means include a few lines to offer tips, but don’t give me your life story”

By Jack Rear

I don’t like recipe preambles for the same reason I don’t like slideshows of other people’s holiday snaps or hearing friends regale me about their dreams: it is fundamentally uninteresting. If I’ve clicked on a recipe it’s because I’d like to cook it, not because I want to know its creator’s life story. 

Sure, a dish served on the last night of your dream holiday takes on a wonderful, mystical quality. Likewise, if you’ve slaved over a hot stove for hours to craft the perfect goulash, the time and effort you’ve put into it will almost always elevate the taste – and when writing up your recipe to share with the world you want everyone to know.

But your memories of the dish will never become my memories of it, and to suggest that they might make me love the dish more is pure self-indulgence.

An essential part of any creative act is recognising that once you release it into the world, it is no longer solely yours; it’s vital to allow others to have their own encounters with it. That includes creating recipes. To try to impose your own experiences and memories onto the dish does your readers a disservice. 

But there’s another side to my aversion to recipe preambles: in some cases it’s not actually meant to educate, entertain, or illuminate the reader; it’s there to attract page views and make money. 

In general, web pages with fewer than 300 words won’t rank highly on a Google search so most recipes won’t attract viewers on their own. Equally, a longer post has more space for advertisements, generating more cash for the blogger. I’m all for people getting paid for their labour, but it feels dishonest to pretend you’re writing it for the love of food when the reasons are more cynical. 

By all means, include a few lines to offer tips or help readers avoid the sticking points, but please don’t try to justify giving a life story no one wanted or asked for. 

“I love it when an introduction explains the cultural significance of the dish I’m about to cook”

By Pip Sloan

Yes, on occasion, I do scroll through the preamble of a blog post to get to the recipe. But does that mean the preamble shouldn’t be there in the first place? Absolutely not. 

Introductions are often used to give cultural context to a recipe. When I read the introduction of, say, a recipe from Maunika Gowardhan’s blog, Cook in a Curry, I discover that the recipe I’m making is from the Parsi community; that the recipe I cook the next week has Indo-Chinese influences; that the dish I’m eyeing up for Friday night dinner is Gujarati.

Food is integral to our understanding of, and ability to engage with, the rest of the world. To say that an explanation behind it is boring and unnecessary suggests you don’t truly care about what you’re eating. 

Moreover, the preamble is a way for aspiring food writers to showcase their talent. Would Rachel Roddy be the multi-award winning cookbook author and doyenne of Italian cookery if it weren’t for the beautifully written, personable and informative introductions in her blog, Racheleats? Would Nik Sharma, Indian-American cookbook author and San Francisco Chronicle columnist, have got to where he is today without demonstrating his exhaustive knowledge of science in cooking through the introductions in his blog, A Brown Table

Recipe writing takes time, dedication and money. Many bloggers run their blogs alongside full-time jobs, carving out time in free evenings and weekends to test their recipes (sometimes several times). Can you blame them for wanting to give a little context to the recipe, or even for sticking in a small advert to pay for the ingredients and blog domain name? Bloggers don’t do what they do simply to satisfy your Google search for a risotto recipe. It’s their hobby, the thing that brings them joy – so who are you to tell them what or how long to write? 

Writing a good food blog is akin to building up a portfolio, and when it comes to securing book deals or a job in writing, the introduction is just as important as the recipe itself. 

I should know, I got my job based on my (now defunct) food blog. So if you don’t like it, just keep scrolling.