Restaurant News & Reviews

Cookbooks out, web in for meal planning

Karina Davidson, who teaches cooking at Whatcom Community College and the Community Food Co-op, finds herself turning to the web more often.
Karina Davidson, who teaches cooking at Whatcom Community College and the Community Food Co-op, finds herself turning to the web more often. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Technology has changed the way we live in countless ways, and nowhere is that more evident than in meal planning and preparation.

In June 2012, the webzine Slate.com predicted the “impending extinction” of cookbooks. Even so, cookbooks continue to sell well, especially “eye-catching” ones that fetch more than $20 a copy, according to a 2014 article in Entrepreneur magazine.

But in response to interviews and inquiries on social media, there’s no question people are turning to websites instead of traditional cookbooks to find recipes.

“I rarely use cookbooks for basic meal planning, but often will browse them when planning a meal for entertaining,” said Cindy McKinney, a local chef and cooking instructor who has been teaching for nearly 20 years at Whatcom Community College, the Community Food Co-op and other places around Bellingham. She’s also worked as a pastry chef and for several years she managed the bakery at Western Washington University

I have an absurdly large cookbook collection and I love cookbooks, but I have to admit that in the past few years ... I just jump online.

Karina Davidson

“I prefer recipes with a large number of reviewers’ comments and a high rating by those who have made them — Food.com, Allrecipes, and yes, even Food Network. But my biggest concern with Food Network is the recipes themselves — there often seems to be little regard for nutrition, lots of fatty foods, huge portion sizes.”

McKinney doesn’t follow food bloggers, but she reads foodie magazines, especially the revered Cook’s Illustrated, which also has a solid web presence.

Karina Davidson, another WCC and Food Co-op instructor who’s also managed local restaurants, finds herself turning to the web more often. She favors sites linked to magazines, such as Saveur, Food & Wine, and Bon Appétit with its Epicurious.com — incorporating the content from the former Gourmet magazine.

“I have an absurdly large cookbook collection and I love cookbooks, but I have to admit that in the past few years ... I just jump online,” Davidson said.

She sometimes does a general web search for a specific dish, using her knowledge about cuisine to be selective and dismissing recipes that won’t work. “It’s a little bit difficult to trust what you find on the internet,” she said. “I try some random sites and keep track of the results; you’ll find a site that syncs with your style of cooking, and that can be your go-to site.”

With that in mind, here are suggestions from readers who answered a social media request.

Pinterest

“Sometimes I just go to Pinterest. The recipes/photos there are totally endless,” said Susan Nicholls of Sudden Valley.

McKinney advises home cooks to be discerning with Pinterest, however: “My biggest pet peeve about websites like Pinterest is that many of the most popular recipes ... is that few people are actually cooking them, if you read the comments, they say ‘looks amazing’ but few are actually tried and true. I have made a few things that just didn’t turn out well or the recipes required quite a bit of tweaking.”

Web searches

“I just Google a list of ingredients that are in my fridge and pick a recipe from there,” said Wendy Wall of Sudden Valley.

YouTube

Megan Thygesen, third grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School, prefers video. “(I look for) specific cooks on YouTube. Laura in the Kitchen is one we use a lot,” she said.

altonbrown.com

“(Food Network icon) Alton Brown is my go-to guy,” said Beth Pelto-Fishbeck of Sudden Valley. “I Google him and the recipe I want to make. If he doesn’t have one, I usually fall back to Food Network and another of my trusted chefs — Paula Dean, Rachel Ray, Mario Batali, a few others.”

Mitty’s favorites

Often, I search for a specific dish online and sort through the recipes for one or two that seem like they’ll work. But I’ll also headstraight to TheNewYorkTimes.com, Epicurious.com and a recent favorite, ToriAvey.com, whose kosher recipe blog covers a range of Middle Eastern cuisines.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-715-2805, rmittendorf@bhamherald.com, @bhamMitty

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