By Ezra Klein
Cook’s Illustrated’s Christopher Kimball took to the New York Times this week to dump on the internet, and the internet is dumping right back. See this impassioned defense of the online meritocracy from Adam Roberts, and this strained analogy to Zombieland from Arron Kagan. But those are both defense of the internet. The Gurgling Cod, for his part, goes on the attack:
The problem with Kimball, and what makes him think in this way, is the fundamental joylessness that permeates every corner of his enterprise. I use and like some of his recipes, but they generally emanate from a presumption that eating is a burden, and food is nasty, and only relentless experimentation can prevent you from failing as a cook by revealing the least intolerable way to prepare a given dish. If you doubt my argument, conduct the thought experiment of imagining the America’s Test Kitchen Kama Sutra.
Precision is great, but when, say, Judy Rogers fusses at you, it’s with the idea that the results will be transcendent, not with the idea that you will fail if you do not do it her way. In real life, sometimes cooks are precise, sometimes not, and the joy of the meal is in the making and sharing, not the perfection of it. Pleasure and the joy of experimentation vs. fear and relying on a script, rather than print vs. pixels is what what makes it difficult for Christopher Kimball to understand the way food writing works in 2009.