I regularly see posts from people mocking recipes for including stories. I wonder if these same enraged people know about scrolling. I mean, if you just want the ingredients and whatnot, you could scroll down.
These are same communities of people, though, that have encouraged and supported things like blogging, essays, Medium, Substack, etc. How many essays in the world about grandma start with some memory based on food? Should Like Water For Chocolate cut out the story and just include recipes? Do people also get enraged at cookbooks that include suggestions for how to serve a dish or which friends tend to love it?
Or is this an anti-blogging thing? Blogging, associated with moms and people who aren’t “real writers” but rather wannabes are nothing more than essays assembled by people who didn’t get an MFA.
I love reading essays. I even read Laura Lippman’s on her husband’s show even though I haven’t seen it and therefore much of the metaphor was lost on me. (The rest of her book My Life as a Villainess was charming and funny.) One of my favorite books of essays in recent years was Loitering by Charles D’Ambrosio. I also adored Joy Castro’s Island of Bones years ago.
Even so, I will admit that sometimes essays feel bogged down by some element that I can’t always define. Sometimes they feel like they are trying too hard, like they need to include every reference of research they’ve spent years on to prove to their college employer they’re really up to something important in there. Other times it’s elements of family life that ring hollow to me, maybe because they remind me of family I never had or family I only had by definition.
But that’s the thing, right? Not all writing appeals to everyone. Not all television shows are for everyone either. It’s okay for people to like different things. It’s okay for people to express themselves in different ways. It’s okay to scroll past the story and just make the nachos. It’s also okay for the writer to tell how they came to add sardines and goat cheese to some stale Tostitos.