Eating their words

When a tech startup said it could ‘fix’ online recipes, the recipe bloggers rose up

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Startups often launch from Twitter, with creators sharing “personal news” that they’ve begun a new project and followers making sure the great new idea spreads far and wide.

Occasionally, Twitter has the opposite effect. Such was the case when Tom Redman announced the launch of his new website, Recipeasly, on Feb. 28.

“Some personal news!” Redman tweeted. “Two friends and I created a new thing to fix online recipes; — your favourite recipes except without the ads or life stories.”

That was at 1:24 p.m. Three hours later, Redman issued an apology several tweets long, expressing he and his team’s respect for recipe blog content creators.

“Clearly, how we’re marketing Recipeasly doesn’t demonstrate that respect at all,” he said, adding later: “I’m also grateful for the strong feedback. There’s a lot for us to learn, and I appreciate learning from the conversations in this thread.”

Scroll, scroll, scroll, repeat. Courtesy photo.

Now, a visit to brings viewers to a basic black-and-white, sans serif message, headlined: “We’re sorry.” The message shares that the website will remain down while the Recipeasly team “re-examines [its] impact” on the recipe blogging community.

As far as apologies go, Recipeasly is doing it right. There hasn’t been a tinge of defensiveness from Redman on Twitter — only a real attempt to explain how the website works and assure people that his intentions are coming from the right place — and the apology on the website seems about as genuine as it gets.

The fact of the matter is that in a world where we’ve all had to scroll to the bottom of a web page to find a recipe (begrudgingly or not), this discussion was bound to take place. But by circumventing the original bloggers’ work to avoid “ads or life stories,” copyright and simple respect moved to the forefront of the conversation.

Food culture website Eater put it perfectly in its coverage of the Recipeasly debacle.

“But as frustrating as the founders’ goals were, it’s also the logical conclusion of an internet culture that has long whined about having to scroll through essays, stories and paragraphs-long headnotes to get to a free recipe,” wrote Eater staff writer Jaya Saxena. “When labor is devalued for that long, some tech bro is going to come around to ‘fix’ it.”

Basically, it’s all of our faults that we’ve arrived at this crossroads. But where will we go from here?

You’d be hard-pressed to find an internet user who hasn’t Googled “banana bread recipe,” found one that looked appealing, clicked on the link and then exasperatedly scrolled through an autobiographical deluge of words before finally arriving at the goal: a simple list of ingredients and directions.

While recipe blogging often serves as a genuine attempt to help viewers connect to a dish by sharing family stories and cultural details, lengthy web pages also help these bloggers — mostly women — monetize and popularize their work. More text means more chances for Google to latch onto key words and move up certain recipes in search results.

As Eater pointed out, this work is labor, whether today’s tech culture respects it or not. The paradigm which says, “This woman’s words are annoying, get me to the recipe,” is unfortunately drenched in misogyny, and a special type of which we are all guilty.

Luckily, Recipeasly is attempting reconciliation, and so can everyone else. No one is saying you have to read all the nitty-gritty details that led the recipe blogger to share that particular baked spaghetti squash recipe, but it’s possible to still keep traffic going to their site by selecting the original blog, spending the 30 seconds it takes to get past the backstory and going on to enjoy the fruits of their — yep — labor. Alternatively, use control+F on your keyboard, type in “recipe,” and jump straight to it.

While brutal Twitter takedowns rarely present a silver lining, the Recipeasly blowup is forcing everyone to confront their relationship with the internet’s plentiful supply of free recipes. It appears we’ve all been taking this delicious and care-filled resource for granted. Let’s do better.

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