Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Internet Food Sites

By Mick Vann

MAY 17, 1999:  I'm an avid fan of ethnic foods of the world and a collector of cookbooks, the weirder and more obscure the better. While researching recipes for a cookbook project, I've stumbled across a widely varied assortment of sites on the Web that offer an incredible amount of free information, from recipes for just about anything imaginable to socio-cultural and historical information on cuisines from even the most remote corners of the globe. Many times the original site you search turns out to be a real dud, while its links lead you to much more interesting fodder. In this issue, I want to clue you in to two of my more helpful discoveries.

SOAR: The Searchable Online Archive of Recipes

SOAR is an amazing resource for anyone doing recipe research -- or any person who is just curious about a certain dish or food category, for that matter. The SOAR archive currently catalogs 52,238 recipes, accessed through a powerful and very well thought-out search engine. You can search for recipes containing a single ingredient or any combination of ingredients, as well as most of the major ethnic regions. Each topic you look at allows a search within that particular area and comes complete with its own set of related links. You can also register to join the "Recipe Ring" and enter your own favorite recipes or links to other sites.

Probably the best illustration of the depth of the SOAR site is the "Miscellaneous" category, comprised of topics like "Cat and Dog Treats and Food," "Hair and Skin Products," "Cooking for/ with Kids," "Food Humor," and "Extraterrestrial and Bizarre" (which oddly enough includes a recipe for Spam® Carbonara -- not that weird for Austin, what with the Spamarama upon us).

Under the "Appetizers" category, my main research topic of late, I found 1,624 different recipes ... it boggles the mind, as Peggy Hill would say. "Soups" revealed 2,391 options for a liquid course. Another great thing about the site is that the recipes all seem to be in either the Mealmaster or the Mastercook formats, both of which are very easy to follow and well-organized. This site is guaranteed to impress, while it opens your culinary gateways.

The Global Gastronomer

This is an award-winning site devoted solely to recipe links, food history, and food lore of all of the culinary regions of the world ... and I do mean all. Global Gastronomer opens with a map of the globe, divided into nine main regions. When you click on a region, G.G. opens a large, detailed list of all the countries in that region. Each country has numerous links to recipe sites from many different sources, including individuals. You're certain to also learn all sorts of oddball information about the culinary habits of said country in the process of jumping from link to link.

If you've already run the gamut of the global lists, there is a large list of some 34 link sites, with nine of those specifically related to international/ethnic sites. This secondary list links you to thousands of global-ethnic food sites, and tens of thousands of recipes.

Sites such as this one have a couple of inherent problems. First of all, since you're linking to so many different sites, there is no standard recipe format, and the quality of the different links can vary widely. The other problem is that with so many sites involved, you encounter a lot of dead-end sites -- you'll use your "back" button frequently.

Still, the beauty of GG is that you don't have to search all over the place for information on a certain country. It's all compiled for you, and it's just a click away.

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