About our “amateurism”

by Kate Steadman

So Ezra wrote a post about Per Se and obviously pushed some buttons.  But these comments ripping the blog about being amateurish just completely miss the point of this endeavor.

The IFA was started because a close group of friends were getting increasingly obsessed with cooking and food.  We thought it would be fun to work on a new blog — a place to write because “we are united by a shared recognition that all those things suck, and we’d much rather talk about food.”

Not a single contributor to this blog is a chef. This is the internet —  you know, that wonderful place where we don’t have to be a professional to talk about what we love.  I have an amazing day job — health policy is my proverbial bread and butter — but little compares to the creativity, satisfaction and generosity that’s part of being a home cook.

I’m young. I’ve only been cooking on my own for five years, and new disasters and revelations appear everyday.  But it’s absolutely ridiculous to say: “the IFA, while amusing, is all very amateurish.”  DUH.

The same commenter criticizes my post on ricotta, saying it wasn’t ricotta.  Actually, I loved that post and the comment exchange — the fucking New York Times said it was ricotta! I tend to believe what they say!  But our readers are smarter than them – that’s awesome.   And, I learned something!

This blog is about our love of food.  It’s our thoughts on restaurants, ingredients.  We never claimed to be chefs.

But that’s the point — most people aren’t chefs.  Most people have the same experiences — they went to that crazy expensive restaurant and felt underwhelmed.  They messed up meatballs.   Protests of “you’re amateurs” are entertaining at best.

Also, you’ve never tasted anything Amanda Mattos and Ben Miller have made.  They’re both amazing cooks, and more than that — they are each one of the most warm, kind, hilarious, creative and giving persons you could ever know.  So back off.

44 responses to “About our “amateurism”

  1. The problem, you see, is that you blame the recipe when your oven is broken, or when you fail to follow the directions. Sure, we all screw up now and then, it’s all part of the learning experience, but at least recognize that those times when we fail to make a recipe properly are our own fault, not the fault of whoever authored the dish.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Roundup: Internet Drama Edition « ModernDomestic

  3. The “amateur” thing strikes me as a ridiculous response to a review of a restaurant, anyway. The customer of a restaurant is there to cook, not to eat. I don’t care if a restaurant reviewer is a good (or professional) cook; I care if I trust their taste, which has nothing to do with amateur versus not.

  4. Ha, I mean eat, not cook. Clearly need more coffee.

  5. unionmaidn

    Love the blog, guys. Keep up the good…work

  6. steadwoman

    Meghan — I’m confused as to what you’re referring to. I’m more than happy to own up when I mess things up (or if my oven is broken)

  7. Great post. And I really enjoy reading this blog. I understood that none of you are professionals… I don’t think that’s something you’re trying to hide… and it’s actually a good thing. I love professional restaurant reviews, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something wonderful about knowing how the everyday person felt at a particular restaurant. I save up to go to fancy restaurants because I think they’ll be worthwhile. The disappointment is immense when they’re not. And I love hearing different perspectives.

  8. Chris Klein

    This post is back pedaling on the we-know-what-we-are-talking-about attitude belied by your posts. We know you are not chefs. You do not claim to be.

    But your About page says “we’ve come to help you cook.” You solicit review requests from Le Creuset. Are you being humorous? Partly, sure, in a cocky self-assure way. But people take you seriously. You can’t hide behind “oh but this is just for fun” or “this is the Internet!” or “then don’t read us.” All of that is crap and you know it. You are speaking to people, you have a duty to speak truth. You’ve earned a pedestal, a bigger one than I think you deserve, and now you have to use that pedestal correctly.

    If this is just a hangout for close friends, then make it private. But this isn’t just a hangout. You are here to help me cook.

    You don’t have to be a chef to know what you are talking about. But you need to know what you are talking about before you talk.

    Being a naive amateur is one thing. But you guys are often plain wrong. Wrong facts. Poor recipes. Bogus reviews.

    Are people like The Tops jealous? Maybe. You guys earned a lot of media attention very quickly. But that does not change the fact that when you speak, you don’t speak from behind the label of amateur. You speak with authority you don’t have. At worst you are disingenuous; at best you just look silly.

    Please, stop. Learn to cook. Eat more. Just enjoy food without taking it further than it should go.

  9. Yeah, you guys are amateurs. So what? I’d think that would be obvious and, if people were coming here, they wouldn’t care. I never understand why people come to a blog then complain that it’s not up to standard. If you don’t like it, don’t visit. Simple, really.

    I enjoy visiting every so often, seeing what’s up, maybe getting a good recipe or an insight to the bizarre food culture of DC.

    And the people who were criticizing Ezra’s review were the epitome of everything that’s wrong with pretentiousness (instead of what’s right). Ezra saying he didn’t like this, thought that was boring, and someone else saying NO, you’re wrong. What does that even mean? That Ezra didn’t not like something? Sheesh.

  10. Apparently, several contributers to the IFA are actually Raymond Shaw.

  11. To Meghan – with an H –

    Actually, it’s been documented that up to 30% of the recipes in professional cookbooks are incorrect in some way. So sometimes it *is* actually because of a badly-written recipe.

  12. I tend to agree. One of the reasons it too me so long to care about cooking is because of the snobby foodie types. I’m not a snob.

  13. armsmasher

    Or, Chris Klein, you could stop reading. Just a thought.

  14. steadwoman

    This whole idea that we’re doing something irresponsible completely baffles me. If you came to any of our kitchens you’d surely be fed something good, and if something has been wrong, we’ve certainly admitted this.

    And sure, our about is a bit snarky. But come on! You need to not take things so literally. Who wouldn’t want a free Le Creuset? (full disclosure: in our wildest dreams. we’re getting nothing of the sort.)

    Our pedestal is no different from any other popular blog that specializes in an activity, except some of us have prominent platforms elsewhere.

  15. wow – getting a lot of work done and i missed such an entertaining exchange…

    i’ll just offer my agreement with many that like the site as it is to the main posters to keep it up. like many i’m in the “food is a lot of fun” crowd (though i love it that you guys are policy wonks!! shout out to all the health policy nerds!), and would much rather a review from a non-professional because it is more real…

    anyone saying that someone isn’t entitled to review a restaurant because it is such a highly regarded chef or place needs get off their high horse before they fall off. realize that the consumers are what’s important in this business not opinions of the fellow elites…

  16. hey IFA kids—
    i’m a recent transplant to DC (here for grad school) as well as a recently lapsed vegetarian. i broke the “non-veg seal,” if you were, with some grilled sea bass, spinach, and mushrooms with a lemon aioli at Cafe Belga near Eastern Market last night, and, well, yum. a fantastic way to ease back into the omnivore world.

    i share this because reading the wonderful recipes and food descriptions on this blog made me regret all of the tastes, smells, and life experiences that i was missing out on because i cut out meat. six years without bacon couldn’t do it. reading IFA did. so good on you guys–you’re better than bacon.

  17. I hate amateurs; food blogging should be left to the professionals :)

  18. I feel really bad to know that I helped pull someone away from vegetarianism. This is the first comment that’s hurt my feelings!

  19. I am one of the people that posted on Ezra’s post on Per Se and criticized the general nature of the blog. Let me recap what I’ve said so far:

    1) The IFA isn’t just a blog for friends to joke about their food endeavors. It’s written by people with significant internet exposure. Ezra has even blogged about his tomato sauce on the Prospect’s blog.

    2) Though I’ve worked in kitchens, I’m also someone who believes that the food culture in this country will only be saved by people cooking well at home. That is the only way for children to learn how to eat well. Fine dining is a luxury, something for only the truly food-obsessed. It’s hardly what defines/should define the food world. I myself am a consumer outside of my own restaurant (or friends’ restaurants where I’m getting my meals comped…), and I appreciate all consumers’ perspective, as long as it is informed. I don’t expect the IFA to be a professional blog. I just expect the writers to understand why they may be granted more credence that most food bloggers because of their internet exposure. I also expect them to accept valid criticism (which I think Ezra did admirably).

    3) RE: my comments about Ben Miller/Amanda Mattos. You’re right, I’ve never tasted their food. However, I am trained enough to recognize bad recipes, bad cooking instructions, and pictures of poorly cooked food. And, based on my general experience with most home cooks in this country, I’m guessing they aren’t exempt from the usual criticism of home cooks by chefs which is that they underseason and overcook. Ben’s Mother’s Day pic, and Amanda’s casserole all fall prey to these criticisms. I’m sure they’re the loveliest of people. Amazing cooks they are not (that’s really unfair to the people who actually ARE amazing cooks). When I used the term ‘nonsense’, I was specifically referring to Amanda’s casserole, in which she says “We’re making something in between a bechamel and a roux here.” Culinarily, that’s nonsense. There isn’t a place between a roux and a bechamel. One is used to make the other. Also, she shouldn’t sweat her mushrooms (it makes them tough), and she should probably brown the ham first (if the pan is hot enough to brown the ham, the veggies won’t be sweating, they’ll be burning) then reduce the heat. As for Ben, the eggs in his ‘hollandaise’ on his mother’s day breakfast clearly had scrambled (there’s photographic evidence). It’s not hollandaise at that point, really. And I can tell his potatoes are underdone. Just a couple of examples for you (there are plenty of others). Again, I’m sure they’re great people. Just not great cooks. I’m glad they’re trying, but maybe they can keep their exploits to themselves.

    Look, I’m not just some grumpy internet troll (well, I am grumpy, but…). Whether or not I’ve worked in kitchens is also unimportant. What I’m trying to bring to light is that there needs to be some journalistic responsibility in blogging. Of course, I believe everyone can have their own blog where they put pictures of their culinary exploits. However, people with the kind of clout that Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein have should know better than to name their food blog “The Internet Food Association.” To you guys, I’m sure it’s a fun joke. To some random, beginner cook, they might see this and think it’s an authority.

    Back in the day, Julia Child and Marcella Hazan (and others) were the home cooking authorities. They weren’t trained chefs, but they had worked hard and studied food for a long time before they had a platform for their cookery. Nowadays, any schmoe with a blog can dilute the good information out with their culinary exploits. I don’t think it’s easy for most people to differentiate a good recipe from a bad one. Even filtered sites, like Epicurious, are full of horrendous recipes. I get that most people don’t really have the same standards as I do for the food they cook at home, but a generation is being raised on the ‘personalities’ of the Food Network. Several others are getting their gospel from Mark Bittman, who is really not a very good cook. I think it’s a problem for food culture in this country if only a tiny percentage of people care, and they’re being misguided in their quest for more knowledge.

    I know a bit about health policy. I have a college degree. Should I be writing a blog about health epidemics in the third world, or about Obama’s new healthcare plan? I could, but I choose to leave that the experts. It will leave me more time to educate myself about it, instead of writing underfounded opinions. If I wrote about health policy, and you stumbled upon my blog, you probably think “What is this guy talking about?”. I know how policy wonks can be: I lived in DC for a while. And you’d probably be pissed that I was diluting the quality of information out there. The problem with food is that because everyone eats, everyone has an opinion. However, some of us know a lot more than others, and have educated ourselves on the subject to make sure that what we write is well-informed. I can tell from your flickr streams that you guys are far from knowing anything about how to cook (chicken with burnt crust and weird dried-out eggplant, anyone?). Once you put something on the internet, you dilute the quality of the information on the subject. The internet isn’t a purely good thing. Sites like have wikipedia have quality control measures, but most don’t. If you really cared about food, you might concede that it’s not a great idea to put a recipe up that isn’t just perfect (if recipes ever are). Go to any other country with a vibrant food culture, where home cooks are actually good, and you will see that people don’t feel the need to pump up their every little home cooking efforts with a picture and a diary entry. Rather, it is something that people approach with humility, and that they see as a part of the good life, something that should be a given. In this country, we have a small group of so-called ‘foodies’ who have completely fetishized food, have flickr streams full of horrendous looking dishes, pay each other unqualified compliments on each others’ blogs, follow chefs like they are rock stars, but really haven’t understood the basic techniques, mastered the basic dishes, and learned how to properly use products. The idea that’s promoted in the “United States of Arugula” and other such tracts that there’s a food revolution in this country is so far from the truth. Very few people know who Alice Waters and Thomas Keller are, people are more likely to get tips from Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray, our obesity rates are through the roof, partially due to people eating crap. However, instead of taking baby steps, and realizing that it’s going to take years before we can have a food culture like France’s, Italy’s, China’s, or Japan’s, we have a lot of blowhards with blogs who feel the need to pump up every little chicken breast with panko crust dish they’ve made. There are no standards, and those with a genuine interest in cooking better are at a loss as to what to do.

    I’m not that fond of his blog, but I really like what the Amateur Gourmet’s been doing with his video segments where he asks chef the best way to make basic things like omelettes. Things like that are informational, factual, and interesting. He uses his internet fame in a positive way, and I applaud that. I think more bloggers should do things like that. I also enjoy the more political posts the IFA does.

  20. @ezraklein Don’t feel bad, Mr. Klein. I’m a big girl, and I made the non-veg decision all by myself. The last thing I wanted to was impinge on the feelings of one of my favorite bloggers!

    If it balms your conscience at all, I’m only planning on eating meat/fish when it is prepared for me in the homes of others and a vegetarian option is unavailable (a bit hypocritical, yes, but I had to find a compromise somewhere!). I’m not going to make meat-eating a regular thing if I can help it.

    Keep it real, guys

  21. Chris Klein

    Amen, The Tops.

    I wish I had the eloquence of Mr Tops. I wish his words were mine, as his thoughts certainly are.

    Please stop, IFA.

  22. RoboticGhost

    FWIW, I love this blog. I’m a person who gets really excited about food. Really excited. I dream about it. Seriously, I had a dream about beets the other night that I still remember. Anyways, I suppose what I love about this site is that you guys, while a bit younger than me, are demographically similar to a large degree and have similar interests when it comes to the world of food and its fun to see your excitement prosper. I like the diversity too. I’m in DC often enough that those posts are relevant. Sara’s candy Advent calendar of sorts last Christmas was something fun that I looked forward to and enjoyed as much as Matt and Ezra’s sometimes wonky, sometimes not posts. I like the food porn. In fact, I think you started all of this just for me. Aw. You shouldn’t have.

    Seriously, really sick kids, spam filters, virtual network tunnels, and the like are MY bread and butter and the IFA gives me a little bite now and then of something I’d rather think about than my fulfilling but sometimes difficult job. Keep up the good work! Any trolls get out of hand, let me know. I can track ’em down with my mighty IT prowess and friends at CERT. mwah-ha-ha.

    That last bit isn’t true. My friends at CERT have security clearances that would impress God and I’m not allowed anywhere near their offices. But still…

  23. I like the IFA.
    I like their food porn photos and their flickr group of home cooks.
    I like that they’re based out of DC, a city two hours from my town, which has a similar food personality disorder.
    I like that it comes up in my Reader as The Internet Food Ass.
    I am not much of a cook, I mostly bake, almost every day, and I find a site of amateurs to be encouraging and non-threatening. As home cooks/bakers, we all have issues, what’s the problem with sharing our successes and failures with others?

  24. The Tops– I don’t agree with everything you’re saying, but you’re certainly making a bunch of really interesting points. You should link to your own blog from here, I’m sure people would be interested in it.

    Chris Klein– “Please stop, IFA”, really? Really? You know that no one is forcing you to read this blog, right? You can stop reading it.

  25. Again – I quite enjoy your blog and have from the beginning. Thank you for not taking yourselves too seriously.

    Off to follow chefs like they are rock stars…

  26. RoboticGhost

    The Tops, methinks you don full armor to attack this hot fudge sundae. While, as an occasional pro myself, I’m sympathetic to your arguments in some ways, it’s Important to keep all things in context here. This blog is about enthusiasm and fun and stuff that matters to young brainy professionals as they explore food and cooking.

    Look, you and I have probably both made a hollandaise or two in our time that was maybe not up to our standards and, while tasting ok, we threw it away and made a new one. I cast a hairy eyeball on that picture as well. But I bet his mom loved it and that’s the point. He didn’t solicit advice so I didn’t offer any though I could have. I’m thrilled he made it in the first place. Given the passion and competetiveness of this bunch, betcha he’ll make a mean one in the not-too-distant future. Also keep in mind that food photography is an art unto itself. Those potatoes might have looked better in a different light. If you feel the desire to offer criticism why not make it positive?

    It’s pretty clear the IFA is a bunch of smartpants policy wonks doing something fun in their smartpants wonky way and not a be all end all destination for all matters epicurean. Watch it evolve and these folks will probably surprise you.

  27. RoboticGhost has taken the cake.

    Perspective is nice.

  28. we are all experts on things that give us sensory delight

    re: “you speak with authority you dont have”
    ~~~~~chris klein

    what is this?
    only certain people with silver palates can comment on food in a particular restaurant?
    people who enjoy food, who find eating to be a sensual and glorious experience have just as much “expertise” and license to comment on their pleasure or dissatisfaction with a meal, and we can all speak with authority over the sensual pleasures in our lives.
    eating, like lovemaking, gardening, making music, painting pictures, baking bread….is a sensual and beautiful human experience.
    the experience of any of these things is something that every person who delights in sensory things has the right and license to comment on in a deeply felt way.
    one doesnt need a refined palate to appreciate good , delicious and beautiful things.
    art comes in all sorts of forms and everyone should be able to appreciate it and savor their feelings in their own special way….whether it be a painting or a delectable, aromatic and exquisitely prepared food.
    i enjoy reading about the candygirl’s love of licorice jelly beans, the making of homemade bagels, photographs of lovely things that others take pleasure in making in their own kitchens and descriptions of opulent, fantasy dinners that i will never be able to enjoy myself….and i can do all of those things here at this blog.
    viva ifa!!!!!

  29. Pingback: Tannin Salon: The Wines of Trader Joe’s « The Internet Food Association

  30. I love this blog, ’cause it speaks about food in the same way I experience it. It doesn’t make it a special realm of its own, but makes it feel like part of normal life. I’ve always loved cooking, but reading IFA has made me far more confident in talking and writing about my kitchen endeavours in a way I’ve not before. So thanks, IFA-ers, I appreciate it.

  31. Keep it up! I love reading about food from a low-key and humorous side. And I love the mix with all of your professional experiences.

  32. There are probably a couple things to say on this. The first is that different subjects merit different levels of respect for expertise. I am not interested in what an eager amateur thinks about, say, new developments in quantum physics. Conversely, I am quite interested in what unschooled moviegoers thought of Wolverine. The question is where food falls on that continuum.

    My contention — indeed, the contention of this blog — is that it falls on the side of film rather than physics. That’s not to say there’s no room for expertise. There are such things as professional movie critics and I read them with delight. But I often find them less useful than amateurs.

    So too with food. It’s possible Miller’s eggs were imperfect. But I’m not in the business of perfect eggs. This blog is not in the business of perfect eggs. This blog is in the business of enjoying food. And that post conveyed it effectively.

    One thing no one has pointed out about Ben’s eggs: There was no recipe. Nor was there even an endorsement of the outcome. Indeed, Ben’s post said two things: First, that he had attempted a particular meal. And second, that he had done it for his mother, on Mother’s Day. That he had gone to his ancestral home, made fresh bagels and a Denver omelet and a home-fry bird’s nest, because that was a nice way to celebrate his mother.

    If you wanted a recipe, that post didn’t include one. But if you wanted an idea — that maybe you, am amateur cook prone to mistakes and imperfect eggs, could cook your mother a special Mother’s Day meal rather go to a fancy brunch — it had that. For the mission of this blog, it was damn near a perfect post.

    The implication of your argument here is that the IFA, and others blogs like the IFA, turn people off of cooking by providing suboptimal recipes. In the nightmare scenario, someone will make my tomato sauce, dislike it, and put down the spatula for good. That’s a viable hypothesis, I guess. But I think it’s overly informed by the perspective of a professional chef. It’s true that if someone ate imperfect tomato sauce in your restaurant, they might never return. But anyone interested enough in cooking to try an Asian-influenced tomato sauce is interested enough in cooking to endure the occasional failure. Indeed, for myself, and many of those I know, improving an imperfect recipe is more fun than making it right the first time. You learn a bit along the way. You feel accomplished.

    Indeed, the majority of the feedback I’ve gotten has suggested that the gleeful amateurism of the blog makes cooking seem more approachable rather than less. That it makes it seem like a hobby you can pick up rather than a skill you must master. That it makes it seem like fun. And that that encourages people to cook. The basic story of the IFA is a bunch of friends who have fun making food. That’s not the sort of example that discourages people from cooking.

    That’s not to say there’s no place for perfectionism. A perfectly cooked egg is a beautiful thing. But that place is not here. That place is where you graduate to after you begin here. You believe, I think, that blogs like the IFA harm your ultimate project — better cooking across the country. I think you’re wrong. I think they aid it more than you know.

  33. Don’t let people’s negative comments hurt your feelings. If they don’t like what you write, they should go read something else.

    That said, there is a troll lurking about several food blogs who has been trying to egg people into a confrontation. I’ve seen several posts from this individual (including on my own blog). When this happens, remind yourself that this is a sign that you must have hit the big time, that they think someone is taking you seriously. And they are right!

  34. Ezra,

    Let’s say I was unfairly harsh on Ben (though again, it wasn’t his eggs that were imperfect, but the eggs in his sauce that had scrambled, leading to a failure rather than an imperfection…). What about my comments on Amanda’s casserole? I’m not saying entirely baseless things here. These aren’t personal attacks, but reasoned criticisms. What does a post proclaiming that this will yield delicious results, and using misguiding culinary terms, do to help the culinary landscape? Would we not have been better off without it?

    As for my ‘ultimate project’ (a term which, you realize, makes me sound like a Nazi), I think we’ll have to agree to disagree, but I do think you mischaracterize my position a bit. I don’t come at this from a chef’s perspective. I was a home cook before I cooked professionally, and I think most chefs agree that it’s stupid to even attempt restaurant-level food at home. I rarely make complicated food at home, unless I’m entertaining. When chefs are asked what home cooks can do better, it’s usually two things: use more salt, and learn to use your heat sources better. I like nothing better than a good steak with some chive butter and a side salad for dinner. Nothing fancy. However, I’ve been to too many dinner parties with ill-conceived seven-bean salads with far too many ingredients and far too little salt. I’ve also been served too much dry chicken from self-professed ‘great cooks’ to say that all’s well in the American home kitchen. When Kate Steadman called her two friends ‘amazing cooks’, it’s a little annoying. And it goes beyond a simple food blog for amateurs. Like I’ve said before, both the tone of the posts, and more importantly, the exposure gained from your other internet endeavors make this a little different, so when I see a recipe like Amanda’s, or a proud picture of a scrambled hollandaise, I’m a little bit annoyed to see so much support. I’m all about positive reinforcement, but let’s be real with each other and hold ourselves to high standards.

    However, I’m not against amateur blogs. I actually find them more interesting and useful than idiosyncratic chef blogs (for example, I love http://www.smittenkitchen.com). Like I’ve said before, I don’t think people need to be cooking like chefs at home. However, I think that the idea that the internet has democratized information distribution in a beautiful way is a little naive (and I doubt you believe that yourself). At this point, I’m not really even arguing that IFA is a bad blog. In the sea of the terrible food blogs, the IFA is a standout (mostly its articles on food politics). I do know many home cooks (I had a life in the ‘real world’, outside of the kitchen, previously) who have no idea where to turn to for recipes, and who have been discouraged by the information out there. I think cookbooks (which are published in inordinately large numbers, with little careful editing, something which I think is a reflection of how the publishing world views the ability of home cooks to discern bad food from good) are just as much too blame for this. Yet, there are great amateur blogs, just like there are great cooking shows from both chefs (Mario Batali) and non-chefs (Julia Child). You can’t just defend your amateur status by saying that if I’m criticizing your blog, I’m criticizing all amateur blogs.

    To use your film vs. physics continuum, I think you missed an important qualifier. Though I like some artful films and indie flicks, I don’t get much from complicated and over-informed film reviews, and I’m just as interested in a layman blogger’s/popular press’s view of Wolverine as A. O. Scott’s. At the same time, I sure as hell won’t care what US Weekly or Seventeen magazine have to say about that movie. And if I read a review of Wolverine saying that it was ‘good, but not as good as “Love Actually”‘, I’m going to reject the author’s point of view out of hand. I’m guessing you’d probably agree with the idea that we can still differentiate amongst layman sources, even for things that don’t really matter.

    The mistake here is to think that chefs want home cooks to cook like them, or even that they want them to cook badly. We want home cooks to cook well, in order to raise the bar of what diners can expect from restaurants, and make our craft better. And like passionate amateur cooks, we believe that food at every level should be excellent. From a bowl of oatmeal the morning, a bag of microwave popcorn, or a fast-food fried chicken joint (Popeyes >>>> KFC), there are correct and better ways of doing everything. Give me a perfectly toasted piece of country bread with some good quality butter and a little salt over a nasty three-course meal any day. Americans like things to happen quickly, and I think that it’s translated in the food world by a kind of self-promotion that occurs at every level of the food world. I think we need to take a step back, and realize that we have a long ways to go before we’re at a level like the French, Italians, Chinese, Thai, Japanese…oh, pretty much the rest of the world. Personal food blogs are inherently masturbatory. Do we need so much public masturbation? Do we really get anything from it? Or is it just bad for food culture? A little modesty is always good.

  35. “A little modesty is always good.”

    And you would know that, how, Mr. The Tops?

  36. Is that really a question?

    I have no problem with people who know what they’re talking about being a little less modest. In this case, modesty is warranted.

  37. Mr. The Tops,

    In the many of your posts I’ve seen, I would venture to say that I’ve seen too little modesty, too little tolerance, and too little real knowledge. Mostly what I’ve seen is sarcasm, put-downs, and little-to-no regard for the feelings of the posters on this blog. If this is not the persona you want to project, you may wish to review your postings and evaluate how what you say may be perceived by people who have never met you. Electronic communication comes across inherently more curt than voice communications, in large part because people do not have enough familiarity with a writer’s mannerisms to read their words through that filter.

    One of my early writing teachers gave me a tip that I try hard as I can to use in my day-to-day live: Constructive criticism should not hurt. If you say something negative, provide a couple ideas on how to change it. In addition to telling someone what they do wrong, let them know what they are doing right.

    I will accept that you are trying to help people to improve. But I think the way you are doing it is counterproductive.

  38. No ‘real knowledge’? Really? I don’t think I need to defend that at this point.

    Also, I have provided plenty of ideas on what they could change, and what they do well (e.g. writing about food politics).

    Maybe there’s too little tolerance, but I only started posting on this blog after reading it for a long time and seeing countless errors.

    Thanks for the scolding, though. Are you an elementary school teacher?

  39. No, I’m not an elementary school teacher — I’m a professional writer.

    I’m sure you have the knowledge, but I’m not seeing it in your posts. Particularly when you say something can’t be done and I have done it. I have sautéed onions and mushrooms then browned meat in the pan with them. The onions and mushrooms did not burn because I managed the heat in the pan — moving the them to the outer edge of the pan and placing the meat in the center, making sure the meat was in small pieces so it would brown quickly, and not setting the heat too high.

    Likewise, sometimes I use a roux to thicken a sauce, sometimes I use flour/water, and sometimes I use corn starch/water. It all depends on the flavor profile I am trying to achieve.

    I would hope that you would try the recipes and techniques that are being discussed in this blog before dismissing them so out-of-hand as wrong. After all, those with less experience often find new ways to do things because they don’t know “it can’t be done that way.”

    If you choose not to take my advice, that is fine with me. I’ve said what I have to say.

  40. I don’t know why I’m still posting on here…but:

    First of all, you shouldn’t ‘sweat’ mushrooms. Period. Second, if you did get your pan hot enough after sweating onions to brown meat (to properly brown meat), the onions would burn (unless maybe your pan is three feet wide and conducts heat really poorly).

    As for the comment about the bechamel, you again need to read her instructions. She said ‘somewhere between a roux and a bechamel.’ Again, that makes no sense. It’s like saying ‘somewhere between a wheel and a car.’ I’m glad you know how to thicken your sauces. However, your comment had nothing to do with the instructions in the original recipe.

    I took a look at your blog. It’s cute, and I’m glad you’re enjoying cooking. But the arrogance with which you dismiss the knowledge of someone who has trained in professional kitchens, who has been paid to cater multi-course private dinners, and who knows the difference between a roux and a bechamel (look it up, if you don’t believe me) warrants me telling you that you don’t have the first clue what you’re doing.

    And you may be a professional writer, but you’re a terrible reader.

  41. The Tops – do you have a blog? And if so, can you provide a link?

    Your stance on the IFA doesn’t matter to me, but I really like all of the advice you’ve given in these posts and would love to read more from you.

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