Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Cybersnacking

Exploring sites for hungry eyes.

By A. LaBan

JULY 17, 2000:  In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't cooked a real meal since Thanksgiving 1998. So, it's a mystery why I'm still religiously clipping recipes every month from Bon Appetit.

The bigger question is, Why am I still ripping out anything? After all, the Internet may not have completely changed the world yet, but it sure serves as an ever-expanding depository of everything you might want to know--particularly about food.

Take food preparation, for example. Instead of trying to manage an ever growing pile of Bon Appetit recipes I'll probably never prepare, I can now simply wait until I'm ready to venture into my kitchen again, jump on epicurious.com, the gateway to Bon Appetit's archive of information, and pull off what I need when I'm good and ready to fire up the stove. But why limit myself to one magazine's particular content? There are Websites galore that will let me browse an intergalactic-size library of recipes for free, and without any particular editorial slant.

The Searchable Online Archives of Recipes (soar.berkeley.edu/recipes/), for example, allows free foraging through, at last count, 67,784 recipes, including baked camel, elephant stew and french-fried skunk. Managed by a Berkeley, California-based group of volunteers who compile recipes from all over the Web, SOAR is organized by type of dish, region, ethnicity and other miscellaneous categories, including restricted and special diets, camping, pet food and treats, hair and skin products, medieval and "extraterrestrial and bizarre," featuring a heavy emphasis on Klingon and Vulcan cuisine. The site's search engine allows keyword searches, increasing the chances of finding the maximum number of recipes possible that include Spam (SOAR actually has a link to a Spam site on its Weird page).

SOAR is a slow moving, bare bones site. Just recipes--no editorial, no nutritional updates and, thankfully, no animated advertising to clog up your computer. Users frequently get a message that SOAR is too overloaded to complete their search, but give it time. The recipe for cockentrice, an "extraordinary" medieval beast created by sewing together the back half of a chicken with the front of a pig--which, we're told, was part of the "flamboyant art forms of the medieval feast"--is worth the wait.

Looking for the more familiar or commercial? Check out Favorite Brand Name Recipes, (www.fbnr.com), for seemingly everything that's ever been published on the back of the box. Those of us who have fond memories of Rice Krispie Treats and Cool Whip's Cool 'n' Easy Pie will glory in the nostalgia and be amazed at the continued applications resourceful cooks find for Crisco, Mrs. Dash and Philly Cream Cheese. The search engine allows you to select by food type, or cut right to the chase and search by brand name to find sixty-six different recipes that use Velveeta. A What's Hot section gives a daily update on the site's top ten most popular recipes--Chipwiches lead the hit parade last time I looked--and those who want to stay up to date can subscribe to a monthly newsletter for recipes, food news and much more.

Ever have a disastrous foray into the culinary kingdom? You'll find you're not alone at the Gallery of Regrettable Food (www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/index.html), an illustrated history of food don'ts compiled from food magazines and ads from the 1940s, '50s and '60s by James Lileks, an opinion columnist at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune and a frequent Washington Post contributor. Punctuated by Lileks' ongoing cynical commentary, the site offers endless color graphics of the preparations some of us indulged in regularly as we were growing up Brady (pre-spa and lite food). I'm pleased my mother never brought home Oscar Mayer's Sack O' Sauce in a Can O' Meat, but I distinctly remember her bending the spine of the Better Homes & Gardens Meat Cookbook, which Lileks labels "the best pro-PETA brochure PETA never made," a claim he then proceeds to back-up with enough visual ammo to make the hardiest of carnivores go vegan.

Skilled cooks who proudly proclaim no regrets in the kitchen should visit Cooking Contest Central (www.recipecontests.com), where they can strut their stuff with all the cooking contests fit to enter. The site has a continually updated list of contests, tips ("play the name game--naming your dish is very important"), profiles of hall-of-famers and contest-winning recipes organized by sponsor's name. Visit now to find out what it's like to go to the Pillsbury Bakeoff. The deadline looms for the Lawry's Savor The Summer Recipe Contest, as well as the Birkett Mills Summer 2000 Recipe Contest for your best original recipe featuring any variety of buckwheat.

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