The recipe-blog highway –

a long road with little reward.

I can virtually taste the crusty warm pita slathered in silky hummus when I look up the recipe. The glamour shots of nubile chickpeas draped in golden olive oil set my heart racing. Eager to get started on my own homemade hummus, I scroll. And scroll. And scroll further down, reading what turns out to be a novel-length search engine optimizing text about everything except the actual making of homemade hummus.

It may seem strange that someone who studied literature and is often paid by the word to make a case for writing less – but I would argue that there is a time and a place for semantic abundance – and it isn’t an internet recipe.  Many lament the obsolescence of clever wording – going the path of the newspaper or books of artful verse. I would counter that a new forum demands new expression.

Jump to the recipe

It would no more occur to you to mash your chickpea under your car tires, than it should to write your life’s story for a reader hoping to learn how much tahini to add for texture. Sure, a food blogger must establish her own voice, her raison d’etre, and set up that essential SEO trail to be relevant to advertisers; but what happened to the user experience? As a reader, the chase after the recipe must not overshadow my desire for hummus.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018 Time Use Report, individuals ages 15 to 44 read for an average of 10 minutes or less per day. This will only increase to 51 minutes per day once we’re over 75. That hummus recipe-buried-in-a-blog, at 5,200 words, would require me to read nonstop for almost 4 days straight. The risks of starvation and loss of reader interest are very real.

To be fair, the lovely author of this chickpea-based novella can’t possibly expect anyone to read everything she wrote. And she doesn’t – she’s wisely included a ‘jump to the recipe’ button at the top of her blog. We must therefore conclude that she is producing the volume of content solely for the purpose of advertising-driven monetization.  But then, how are advertisers and sponsors really getting their money’s worth? And how long until they’ve figured out that we’ve long left her blog behind to look up a less wordy cannellini bean paste instead?

This leads me to the optimistic conclusion that a natural selection process of the published word is a pendulum that will once again swing back into its rightful middle ground.  Bloggers will learn to be more succinct. News will return to facts.  Advertisers will learn to adjust to both. Authors will continue to craft stories without hidden recipes. And hummus will preside as a delicious Middle Eastern paste made from seven simple ingredients.

And if you’ve read this far, you’ve totally earned this.

Blend together and serve with pita wedges:

1 clove garlic

2 Tbsp olive oil

½ tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. salt

1 1/2  Tbsp tahini

1 12 oz. can of chickpeas, drained

Garnish: a drizzle of oil, sprinkle of parsley, harissa, or roasted pine nuts.

May 2020