Al Gore Makes a Mean Meatloaf

July 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm 4 comments

Why buy a cookbook when you’ve got Al Gore, inventor of the ‘information superhighway’ that runs right into your house?  So the next time you want Turkey Tetrazzini, just type it into your search engine, print out a recipe and go.  But be careful. 

Here’s a little cautionary tale:  Looking for a Thai stir fry dish, my dear husband went online and found one that called for chili paste—a dangerous substance in the wrong hands.  The measurement indicated three “tbsp.”  And I vaguely remember him remarking, “Wow, that seems like a lot.”

Later that evening, heading back from the emergency room, he vowed never to use a recipe off the Web again; although he later recanted, promising merely to check for boo-boos that turn a “tsp” into a “tbsp.”

My mother, Peg Bracken, had similar gripes about shoddy online instructions.  So the recipe calls for a cup of rice.  Is that cooked or raw?   How often, too, did she read at t-minus 10, “Working quickly, stir in the…” only to find the critical component wasn’t mentioned in the ingredients list.   

The fact is, Al Gore’s brainchild has turned everyone into a publisher, or a published chef.  Back in the day—as my mom did for The I Hate to Cook Book, you compiled your recipes, tested and re-tested religiously, then submitted them for publication.  Thereafter , they went through a gauntlet of editors, the dishes were tried and vetted again in test kitchens until, finally, months later, the book found its way into your kitchen.  By contrast, today’s cooks are mere clicks away from unleashing indigestion on the entire world.

Now, I’m not saying printed recipes are better.  But maybe, just maybe, books are a bit more reliable.  Turn to a page that’s dog-eared and stained with soy sauce and you may have found yourself a fine dish.  Online?  Who knows?  Most of the major sites are good about scrutinizing their submissions.  (For example, my husband and I love  But weave off the main road and you might be whipping up Auntie Doreen’s dinner disaster from the night before.


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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sally Peterson Pauling  |  July 27, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Oh, Jo!!! I am avidly reading these stories and absolutely laughing myself sick, holding my sides and my stomach!!! Which leads me to wonder…..(?????) Are you going to be travelling this way on a book signing tour? I’m on the Monterey peninsula, and would LOVE to see you! My best to you, Fernan, Sally

  • 2. Elsie  |  August 4, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I agree! I have found more than one online recipe with flaws. I am usually very careful now about picking a site where people can review the recipe…. and reading those reviews first.

  • 3. ff  |  August 27, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I also hope you’ll do a book tour. I’m in San Jose — you could visit Monterey & us sort of at the same time. I love all of your mom’s books & would love to meet you — I sent her 2 fan letters & she answered both, which was a huge thrill for me. Do come see us!

    • 4. johannabracken  |  August 29, 2010 at 8:44 am

      Thank you so much for writing. I remember Mom was always good about returning fan letters. Oddly, or perhaps characteristically, she never considered herself a celebrity and genuinely enjoyed interacting with her readers. PR-wise, I am sort of the publisher’s go-fer. But if my travels take me northward I’ll be sure to stop by.


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