The other day Cute W messaged me with a link to a recipe. They were cookies that looked decadent, labor-intensive, and utterly delicious.
I don’t know why he sends me these things. Seriously, I already make plenty of unhealthful yummy foods that I love to eat, and I don’t need to acquire more unbelievably tasty bad-for-me items that I will then know about, but feel like I shouldn’t eat. Also, we have many labor-intensive meals that my children love. That we all love. When I ask for requests, everyone wants something that’s a pain in the neck to make and isn’t such, as I put it diplomatically, “good fuel for our bodies.”
I, on the other hand, am always aspirational when it comes to hunting down new recipes. I aspire to cook more healthful food choices while spending very little time actually cooking. So when I looked at Cute W’s recipe, with its 14 mostly-terrible-for-you ingredients and two hour prep time, I may or may not have rolled my eyes, but I was promptly distracted by the link to another recipe, for a dessert with a five-minute prep time that incorporated chickpeas.
Chickpeas? I know what you’re thinking, on the face of it, this sounds like a stupid idea. But I truly, truly love chickpeas, especially roasted. And it incorporates dark chocolate chips, my favorite. Plus the pictures were gorgeous, the recipe-sharer effusive, the comments rapturous. Clearly, this is something that I’d have to try. Like, right away.
That night, before I started baking, I mentioned to Cute W that I’d had to pick up some chickpeas for a new recipe, and then a few minutes later I said that I was going to try making this dessert bar, and Cute W, being altogether too clever for my liking, connected the dots. “So it’s a dessert recipe with chick peas?” he asked, starting to laugh. He knows that I do this sort of thing, like throwing beets into chocolate cupcakes. “Wait,” I said, “Did I mention chickpeas?” Cute W nodded slowly. “Oh, crap!” I wailed. “I didn’t mean to mention that! I was going to see if I could just slide them in and fool you!” We were both laughing now, Cute W miming trying his very first chocolate-chickpea bar and me flailing about, irritated that I’d squandered my opportunity to trick him into liking something healthful.
So I made the bars. Fast, because they were very easy. And they smelled. . . okay. The timer went off as I was finishing reading to M, so Cute W pulled them out of the oven and set them down, nose slightly wrinkled in disdain. I shooed him away impatiently and hovered over the bars, which looked overdone to me. Deciding to cool them quickly on our chilly screened porch, I picked up the glass pan and promptly let it slide out of my grasp.
After the crash, Cute W called, “Do you need help?” Fiercely, I yelled back “NO!” He wisely remained in the living room. The clean-up, between dishes and the floor and walls, took considerably more than the original prep time. The bars themselves were passable: not bad, really, but not as delicious as the chocolate chips would have been by themselves. And now that the secret was out about the ingredients, no one else would be willing to try them without considerable prejudice.
Moments later I joined Cute W. “Well, the bad news is that the bars weren’t so good, but the good news is that most of them got splattered all over the kitchen, so I don’t have to feel guilty about wasting food and not eating them all.” I’d brought in a little tasting plate for myself, but Cute W politely declined.
I think what we need is a rating system of some kind for people who share or comment on recipes. Because obviously, one person’s delicious treat is another person’s gag-inducer. I’m imagining a sort of spectrum, so that people can place themselves and judge whether the random strangers’ opinions that they read are ones that they’re likely to share. How about a little sample quiz?
When my family and I want pick up a meal we haven’t cooked, we:
A. Drive through McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts (breakfast for dinner, baby!)
B. Order a pizza and wings
C. Order or pick up a variety of items, but always including at least one vegetable the kids will eat
D. We really prefer to cook together, but sometimes we’ll order from that new gluten-free vegan place
E. Go on a nature walk and forage for mushrooms and dandelion greens; we’re mostly raw eaters, anyway
At Halloween, I handed out:
A. Giant Pixie Sticks
B. The Tootsie Roll variety pack
C. Snickers and Reese’s
D. Fair Trade Chocolate and used books
E. Home-dried apple rings from our local organic apple orchard, tied up in re-purposed cloth bags
When my kids want to snack for movie night, they get:
A. Microwave popcorn, chips and Helluva dip, plenty of soda
B. That microwave popcorn that’s not supposed to have the crap in it, one soda when we’re feeling generous
C. Oil or air-popped popcorn, plenty of butter and salt, a fruit juice-seltzer mocktail
D. Organic popcorn with a delicious olive oil and rosemary blend the kids love, water
E. We don’t like to expose our children to movies, but they do love kale chips for snacking!
When I hear “agave nectar,” I think:
A. Huh? Is that a kind of schnapps?
B. Isn’t that one of those organic sweeteners in the expensive aisle at the supermarket?
C. We’ve tried that once; I think it’s still in our cabinet
D. We prefer maple syrup as a sweetener
E. It’s highly refined and unnatural–you may as well just use HFCS!
Based on their answers, folks could tell people where they stand on the food spectrum, and that would provide a little guidance about whether their opinions are relevant to the readers. I’ll bet that most of the folks who raved about the disappointing recipe I tried were Ds and Es. Which is wonderful for them, but if I’d had this rating system, I would have known: this is not a recipe for those of us in the C+ to B- camp. It just isn’t.
And okay, okay: I know. This ain’t gonna happen. I should just stick with a couple of trustworthy sources that I can commit to, form a sort of virtual relationship based on trust that we share the same (food) values, and only go out exploring when there’s enough of a back story that you know where the recipe-sharer stands (like Smitten Kitchen’s Kale Salad). Remind me of that next time Cute W sends me a random link. Because I totally blame him.