The New York Times, an East Coast newspaper known for writing a food trend story now and again, pulls off a rare triumph this week by putting together a piece that rings loud, clear, “I’ve totally been there!” bells among its readers. The story is about recipe deal breakers, or steps so labor-intensive or otherwise ridiculous that they make the home cook throw up his or her hands in disgust. (Chowhound is abuzz, although folks do seem needlessly obsessed with the “cook with raisins” deal breaker.)

The piece is chockablock with solid examples, but one paragraph in particular hits the nail squarely on the head:

Recipes that involve absurdly local or obscure ingredients are also problematic. Paula Wolfert, in one recipe, requires 48 tender young grapevine leaves, freshly picked. Diana Kennedy, in her recipe for the Mexican sausage moronga, calls for two quarts of pig’s blood. ‘If you do not kill your own pig,’ she advises, ‘order it through your butcher.’

The story looks at rational concerns (recipes that call for glove boning, “a way to turn a bird inside out to bone it without cutting into the skin”), borderline concerns (not ever wanting to “work quickly”), and concerns bred from bad personal experiences (“I won’t cook pies.”)

All in all, it seems that the recipe deal breaker is a gray and fuzzy line. One person’s “heat the onions until they caramelize” is another person’s “glove bone the ostrich making sure not to remove or damage the eyeballs,” after all…

See more articles