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August 1998 Issue
How to Eat on the Net
by Rossana S. Tarantini
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Over the years, thanks to boomers, yuppies and the like, food has come into the spotlight in a big way. Like never before, people are talking about food, comparing recipes and even going so far as to keep their ingredient sources secret.

Because of this new direction, we have 'food trends' and food magazines abound to keep us abreast of them. We have 'food Meccas', the absolute best place to get . . . , you fill in the blank. We have 'food gurus', those that are decreed to have all the knowledge, know how and resources to guide us through new taste sensations.

The next time you cruise the Net, take some time to search 'food' or 'recipes' or 'cooking'. I think the results will astound you. There are sites that claim to catalog all the relevant food sites on the net (http://www.culinary.com). There are indices of recipes that go on for web pages (http://soar.berkeley.edu). There are message boards (look at Seasoned Cooking's own for a start), recipe exchanges and swaps (http://www.amescompany.com), news groups and newsletters too numerous to mention. There is even a site that lets you compile your own personal cookbook of 100 of your favorite recipes and be able to access it from anywhere in cyberspace (www.mycookbook.com).

In preparing for this article, I went far and wide to look into the 'classic' profile of your average, garden variety 'foodie'. There isn't one. As diverse as the people themselves, the configuration of the 'average' Net foodie is complex. There are those who will tell you that the real attraction of the Net and its vast resources, is to the collector. Not so.

While there are many who avidly collect and sometimes never try the numerous recipes and food ideas available, there are just as many who are genuinely in search of the ultimate way to prepare, present, and enjoy same old same old so that it isn't.

A few of the other sites I found in my travels include a web site for newbie cooks and foodies. Situated at http://www.azcentral.com, Cooking 101 is a comprehensive web site for the true beginner. From basics like why things work or not in the kitchen to an extensive recipe listing for whatever you might be looking for. It'll even help compile a shopping list.

Have a bread machine? Visit http://members.tripod.com/~wquinn/bread.html or http://home.earthlink.net/~isthisme/bread.html. Is grilling you passion? Go to http://www.straitscafe.com. Seafood? Http://www.seafoodsteward.com. Just cookies for you? Http://www.cookierecipe.com. Think British food is bland? Http://www.hwatson.force9.co.uk. Still attracted to French cuisine? Http://195.153.25.121/meilleurduchef.html.

There's even a site where you can find secret recipes for many of the brand name products out there. Big Mac special sauce, Kenny Rogers corn muffins and much more. Go to http://topsecretrecipes.com.

And, ultimately, if you've come across a term or ingredient you've never heard or seen before, go to http://www.epicurious.com/db/dictionary. Here is a comprehensive listing of all those obscure terms that you thought you'd never wade through. It's a good place to browse just for the fun of it too.

If you haven't ever tried it, a great place for a sense of community for foodies is in the news groups. At last count, there were over 29,000 individual news groups out there, at least that's what my news group server says. It can be a daunting task to narrow it down to just a few. I have my favorites and I'll list them for you with a brief description, but don't stop there. These are great troves of information and research. Whether you're looking for a recipe that you've lost, or a new way with hamburger. Whether you want slowcooker advice or tips for your bread machine; somebody out there has the answer you need. Just post and see what happens. Every time you read the postings on a news group, you'll find references to other groups, good websites, and mailing lists. I have to say, these places are a mine of information. And if it's not right out there at first glance, post a question and you'll be inundated with answers and links.

The protocol for news groups is pretty loose. It's a good idea to lurk for a while and get the feel of the place and the people. Lurking just means that you read posts but don't post yourself. Of course, if you're like me, you won't be able to do that. As soon as the first request was posted for an Italian recipe - I think it was Tiramisu - I just HAD to post mine. The reaction was great. Nothing like having people you've never met rave about your recipe. They ACTUALLY tried it. That was all the encouragement I needed. There's even a family in Australia using my recipes to expand their culinary horizons.

Some of the threads on the news groups have nothing to do with food. Reading them, you'll feel that you've stumbled on a group of friends. They're supportive, funny, irreverent and keep you level headed. No one is allowed to get too big in their own minds.

Here are some of my favourites:

  • alt.food :: here is a group where everything and anything to do with food is discussed.
  • alt.food.barbecue :: just as the name implies, grilling and bbq tips here.
  • alt.creative-cook & alt.cooking-chat ::- again, these are groups where any kind of cooking info and request pops up.
  • rec.food.baking :: all kinds of baking tips and recipes
  • rec.food.cooking :: general food and cooking tips as well as some OffTrack threads that are quite amusing
  • rec.food.preserving :: everything you've always wanted to know about preserving and pickling
  • rec.food.recipes :: this is the ultimate recipe exchange, if you have something you're dying to share or try, this is the place for you.
So, take your passion and go into the "final frontier". Explore, try and discover all that's out there.

And, by the way, don't forget to send your findings to me. I'm always looking for new sites and groups. Somebody once said; "You can never be too thin or too rich." My version of that would be; "You can never have too many recipes."



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