Tweet Me Right: The Joy of Cooking in a Digital World

September 19, 2011

- Fran Brennan

Last week, a friend I talk to about matters both intellectual and, well, food, offered me a slice of homemade plum tart. It was hard to ask for the recipe with my mouth so full, but I tried. She mentioned that she’d tweeted at work about needing a diversion. Could someone send her an entire recipe in a tweet?

Someone could and, in 140 characters or less, a recipe exchange -- and a ‘Tweet Tart’ -- was born.

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There's nothing new about the concept. I remember my mom and her friends scribbling notes and recipes on index cards or in the margins of cookbooks, sharing ideas and food across the backyard fence or kitchen table.

Now, however, there’s not so much scribbling involved. We’re tapping away on keyboards, cooking and">blogging about it, sifting electronically through zillions of recipes, watching cooking tutorials onlinetweeting what we eat, and connecting with cooks thousands of miles from our own backyards and kitchens.

The explosive growth of the Internet and social media has reignited the age-old culinary art forms and created a community of cooks the size of – it’s impossible to say just how big it is, in fact. Personally, I read food blogs from Sydney and SingaporeNew York and New ZealandLos Angeles and London. And I know I’m not alone.

When a beloved food writer and blogger recently lost her husband to a sudden heart attack, the news went out via blog, Twitter, Facebook; and the outpouring of love, support and, yes, food was immediate and overwhelming. Bloggers Without Borders (see? It’s a big blog world) set up a fund and held an online auction to raise money for the bereft family. And food bloggers the world over made (and photographed and chatted about) ‘Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey,’ to honor a grieving woman most of them had never met. 

But online sustenance isn’t limited to matters of the heart or even to recipes. Technology has brought an entirely new generation of might-have-lived-their-whole-lives-on-takeout kids into the kitchen. Don’t know how to boil water? Check out YouTube. Always burn toast? Google it. Want to get a little more creative and make bread/cheese/chocolate éclairs/insert any food here from scratch? You’re bound to find a video – or a friendly group of foodies -- to walk you through it.

From measurement conversions to food-recall information, all manner of kitchen information can be accessed in an instant and can spread just as quickly via social media and blogging. The vast world of food has shrunk, but our horizons have expanded immeasurably.

I still have – and treasure – handwritten recipes and notes from both my mom and grandmother; and I’ll use them forever. But I suspect the legacy I leave my own daughter will be far different: a bookmark folder full of links to recipes for all manner of food from all corners of the world. I do miss that backyard fence, and I can’t believe I’m saying this. But I’m really okay with that.

Where We Click For...

Measurement conversions (This one even allows for different ingredients!)

How-to videos (Although we probably click on Amanda and Merrill's videos most often)

Seasonal eating info and recipes

No-knead bread how-tos

Maple sugaring how-tos (no kidding!)

Handy spice chart

Spice names in other languages

Food safety info and recalls

Stain removal (For those rare occasions when we spill)


This post is brought to you as part of our Food & Technology Series, in partnership with Intel, a company that is all about making our lives better with technology, just as Food52 is with food.


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ctgal October 3, 2011
I have to add my comment(s). I still use my cookbooks and still collect them. I like to support authors and I love to page through the books, especially near dinner time when I am mystified or lacking in creativity and desire. Also, I keep voluminous folders of cut out recipes from magazines and newspapers. I am now in the process of getting them organized on line, but it will take me years. And, finally, every once in awhile I come across a recipe of my mother's, written in her handwriting, and my heart skips a beat. I stare and stare at it, hoping she will magically appear...and make the darn dish for me! It will be 16 years on Wednesday that she has been gone. I am so happy that she gave me the love of cooking and her recipes. Believe me, my daughter will experience that same jolt when she sees my handwriting on something, rather than my bookmark list. So, I use my printed recipes and write all over them. It's not only for me, but it's for my daughter someday too.
BettyAnnQ September 30, 2011
Great read, via my iPad. I've embraced technology, hesitant but accepting the fact the world is not going to change back. But at the end of the day, I go back to my old cookbooks, touch and feel the pages, and enjoy the photos. And best of all, I cherish Mom's old recipes, frayed, yellowed, but timeless! Thanks for a great piece.
carol_tanenbaum September 28, 2011
Love using digital info to cook with, but love even more finding my long dead relatives' scribbled notes in cookbook margins. Fear that won't be there for future generations, as so much of what we blog/tweet/comment digitally doesn't get saved anywhere findable.
Food O. September 28, 2011
Cooking in the digital age? Oh yeah! I will be cooking in Florida this winter and my cookbooks will be staying in New Jersey. With Food52 I have a world wide food community just a tap or click away. I love my cookbooks, but I am turning more and more to searching online for inspiration, support, and yes, actual recipes.
bthelove September 28, 2011
I use my ipad almost as much as any of my cookbooks! I love the Pepperplate app for my ipad and I'm slowly entering my favorite recipes into it. It makes sharing with my daughter, who is in college, much easier. Also, No Takeout (Chef Susan Hermann Loomis collaborated on this) is a staple on my iphone, because I always have it with me in the grocery store! I'll never give up those handwritten shreds of paper that I keep between plastic sleeves in a notebook, though - I just might use the digital version more often. Thank you for an insightful and timely blog.
Mai M. September 21, 2011
A blog post after my own heart :)
Sam1148 September 20, 2011
I discovered that the cover for the Ipad. Is strong enough to hold to it to the 'fridge.
It's not something I'd keep up there for any length of time. But, I do that all the time to refer to a recipe while cooking.
svenskaanna September 20, 2011
I love my cookbooks just as much as I love the internet when it comes to getting food inspiration. I think it's just a matter of finding a happy balance -- too much time in front of the screen is a bad thing :)
mcs3000 September 20, 2011
My iPad probably gets more use in the kitchen than anywhere else. When I made monkeymom's heavenly oatmeal molasses rolls, I used the iPad to watch the video and look-up the recipe. I've also discovered some of the best recipes via Twitter like @chefgwen's cranberry-orange compote. Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without it.
Shelly P. September 19, 2011
I find I rarely use cookbooks anymore. I still own more than will fit on my kitchen shelves, and I still swoon over them in bookstores, but now when I'm hunting for a good recipe I do it almost exclusively online. I think it's largely due to the beautiful food photography on blogs and cooking sites these days -- it's all too mouth-watering to resist!
bugbitten September 28, 2011
My experience is identical to yours in every way. So why are there two cookbooks in my cart on Amazon?
TheNurturingCook September 19, 2011
I was kinda hoping the Homemade Plum Tart recipe would be linked somewhere in or at the end of the article :) And yes, I too was intrigued someone could fit an entire recipe into a tweet and it was good :)
FranB September 19, 2011
Plum Tart (via Twitter): 1 stick butter, scant cup sugar, 1 egg, 1 tsp. vanilla, 3/4 tsp. baking powder, 1 cup flour. Mix, press into 8--inch springform (won't look like enough, but it is), press sliced plums into top, maybe sprinkle with sugar. Bake @ 350. Check after 15-20 mins. Maybe 30 is good. Don't overbake. Retweet.
geekgrrl October 18, 2011
That's 324 characters! How is that a Tweet?
AntoniaJames September 19, 2011
Would love to see a Food & Technology piece on apps or other technology-enabled ways to get information about what is available, now, locally . . . . not just produce / seasonal seafood / etc. but also, where to find bulk goods, spices, types of cheese, etc. locally. Forums like chowhound can occasionally be helpful, but are so difficult to use. I know of an app in beta, but not designed with this in mind. I have such difficulty (especially given the limitations on my time due to other, alas, higher-priority commitments) running down fun, interesting, exotic, etc. ingredients. I often pick EP candidates to test based on their calling for something I've never used before in cooking. I can't be alone in really needing/wanting good, up-to-date local information. ;o)
mrslarkin September 19, 2011
i love using cookbooks more than the web. woops, guess i shouldn't go blabbing that in the Food & Technology series.

But.... the www IS an amazing place.

for fun recipe tweets, i follow @cookbook. e.g. today's recipe: Fennel, Bean & Lime Soup.

on youtube, check out eatitrich - al fresco dining at it's finest. he's got an awesome truck!
Burnt O. September 19, 2011
There's a great app called Asian Market Shopper that helps me decode all the wonderful fruits and veg in the local Asian stores. Some of them are Mom and Pop stores, and the signs aren't in English, and neither do Mom and Pop speak it, so being able to match a photo of some exotic herb or root to an explanation in English, with recommendations and recipes to use it?!! - has been nothing short of miraculous. I've bought and made things I used to pass by - simply because I had no idea what they were.
Especially useful for decoding those little peppers and finding out exactly which are the hottest.
FranB September 19, 2011
Love this. Have always been flying blind with the multitude of peppers.
AntoniaJames September 19, 2011
Love the Asian market shopper! My parents gave me a book called "Ingredients" which consists of labeled photos of every vegetable, fruit, herb, spice, cut of meat (yes!!), imaginable. It's not portable, however, so this app looks useful, indeed. ;o)
thirschfeld September 19, 2011
I noticed the other day Salman Rushdie is going to tweet a novel.
FranB September 19, 2011
Wow, I was pretty happy someone could fit an entire (and great) recipe into a tweet.