Twitter blew up recently in defence of women who write online recipes after a site wanted to publish their recipes without ads or backstories. Photo: Shutterstock
Feast or Famine
by Susan Jung
Feast or Famine
by Susan Jung

Twitter post about ‘fixing’ online recipes by removing backstories and ads missed the point

  • Social media reacted mostly with anger to the proposal to post recipes without the writers’ stories about them, or ads – and rightly so
  • Ads help food bloggers monetise their work, and many followers are interested in the stories behind recipes

Earlier this month, there was a brief Twitter storm. A person named Tom Redman (@redman) posted, “Some personal news! Two friends and I created a new thing to fix online recipes” (here he added a happy face) – “ – your favourite recipes except without the ads or life stories. Feedback and RTs appreciated!”

The reaction was swift. He wanted feedback? He got it.

“So you want to help remove the revenue stream for food bloggers? What the actual ****”. “Hi Tom. The reason I appreciate learning a new recipe is to also learn about the life stories and culture of the people embedded in them. To just wipe them away as an ‘inconvenience’ is super offensive.” “So many recipe bloggers are women and POC so you stealing their content bc you don’t want their lives, just the products for your own profit, is Peak White Guy.”

“‘Fix online recipes’?! So you’re bashing the hard work and business models of food content creators, most of whom are women … and then making it even harder for them to earn income on their content? Not cool, dude.”

The offending tweet from @redman. Photo: Twitter / @redman

“So you’re just … copying recipes from blogs without compensating them or perhaps even acknowledging them?”

“So I’m the right market for this, I just want the recipe, I don’t need the life story. However, isn’t this basically stealing other people’s content and redirecting it to your platform? I may not care about the storytelling, but I don’t think it’s fair to deny them the traffic.”

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Redman’s Twitter post did have a few supporters, with some saying that the ads and text were annoying, and all they wanted was the ingredients and the recipe.

I’ve never written a food blog, but I do write recipes (and other columns) in my capacity as food and drinks editor for this newspaper. On occasion, I reveal personal details about how I’ve developed a recipe, or learned it from my grandmother, mother or other relatives, or ate a dish on the streets of Vietnam or Malaysia or another country. My “life stories” introductions are brief compared to some bloggers, but still, they show that the recipes were developed somehow, and not just plucked out of nowhere.

Most food bloggers are women. I don’t know if it’s true that most are people of colour (POC), as many of the follow-up tweets asserted, but I wouldn’t doubt it. If I’m trying to find a recipe from another culture, I look initially through my many hundreds of cookbooks, but also go online to find out more.

Cookbook writers don’t have the space to write the extensive life stories that give the history of a recipe as that writer knows it, but the blogger has plenty of room to expand on the subject. And that’s where it can get very interesting.

An apology was issued and the website was taken down within a day. Photo:

A recipe, stripped of any context, can be boring: it’s just a list of ingredients and some instructions. I could probably give instructions on how to make tart dough in 100 words or less, but you’d have much more success with the recipe if I added details. You’d also have more confidence in the recipe if I mentioned that I was a pastry chef in Hong Kong and New York – part of my own life story.

All food bloggers start off small but if their recipes are dependable, and if their followers find their stories compelling, they’re able to monetise it through ads and sponsorship. Why would you want to begrudge people trying to make a living? would have done just that by directing people away from the blog to the site, even though Redman says he would include links to take people back to the original post.

Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about that. The site was taken down within a day.