Depending on the day of the week—or even the time of day, the direction of the wind and the elevation of the sun—I hate the internet. I do. It’s a cesspool of information, misinformation, disinformation and unformed, uninformed opinions. I have deactivated and reactivated most forms of social media more times than I care to publicly admit.
However, there’s one facet of the entangled world wide web that I uniquely adore: the food blog. Specifically, the comment section of the food blog.
In the past few years, the internet has repeatedly been up in arms over several aspects of the food blog. First, there’s the difficulty of having to press the “jump to recipe” button, and second, there are the novellas that precede recipes themselves, often some combination of a journey through the recipe writer’s childhood and a more recent anecdote. I don’t have thoughts on these; admittedly, I am a “jump to recipe” button-pusher. But the more attentive critics among us have noted that there exists an element of sexism in all this anti-”jump to recipe” button-pushing and preamble-hating. After all, home cooking blogs are one of the few female-dominated spaces on the tasteless, beige patriarchal mush of the interweb, and much of this criticism comes from men.
The comment section doesn’t, as you probably know, have its own “jump to” button, but it should. The comment section is often like the personal ads in the London Review of Books or the Letters to the Editor at the New York Times—which is to say, you meet internet strangers with both interesting and overbearing personal anecdotes… and controversy!
That’s why I scroll to the comment section to see what people really think of the recipe (you cannot trust star reviews!). This is where people exchange notes on how they tweaked aspects of the recipe (almond flour to go gluten-free, sunflower seeds to go nut-free) while also sharing personal information about themselves and their lives with internet strangers. Who cooked what for whom—a man cooking for his girlfriend’s friends for the first time, a mother baking for her children, the quiet (I assume) colleague who wowed everyone at the office potluck—is all laid bare for everyone to read. But what most fascinates me about the people who exist in this culinary culture club is that the general rules of social decorum are upheld. There is disagreement without trolling and advice without condescension.
This is unique to these blogs—not to their accompanying YouTube or TikTok videos or to anything outside of the food blog genre. I know this because one of the first things I search for after jumping from prose to recipe to comments is the lack of angry Indians and Italians under their respective recipes, a group that exists in hoards in comments under reels. (Aside: as an Indian, I do want to point out that there are a billion of us, and the angry comments should be scaled as such.)
Perhaps I am biased. In my head, the people who leave comments on these blogs are largely the aunts, grandmothers and mothers who insist you eat something before you leave. If they weren’t dotted across the globe, separated by screens and keyboards, perhaps their relationships would be different. Perhaps they wouldn’t chime in and help each other with tweaks and techniques like they do under a Tongbaechu-kimchi recipe long after the blogger has tired of saying thank you and answering questions. Or perhaps they won’t have shared their first attempt at a vegan gingerbread recipe (which Suze, not vegan, now finds “sublime” since her vegan daughter convinced her to try it).
The food blog is one of the earliest forms of written content on the internet. So, given that the people you find in these comment sections are mostly what people should be (or what they’re capable of being), i.e., helpful, kind and seeking community, it’s interesting, if not somewhat of a puzzle, that the comment section is the antithesis of everything the internet seems to stand for.
So, sure, scroll past the preamble (which may or may not be included for recipe copyright or SEO purposes), or hit jump to recipe, but then scroll some more. It’s the comments you want read first.