On Comments - Part 2

Monday, May 26, 2008

"Can I make blueberry muffins but without the blueberries?"

I stared back in a mute state, dumbfounded. True, comments like these were nothing new to me. In fact, they seemed to instinctively hunt me down in a die-hard mission to bludgeon the meaty bits of my brain. However, no matter how odd and backward each little comment was I always found myself slightly perplexed.

I re-read over the e-mail that my friend had forwarded to me. She was just as stupefied as me, and insisted on sharing it's delightful insanity.

I must admit that a certain spark of curiosity is always ignited whenever I read one of these comments. What sort of person composed this comment? What are they like in the kitchen? Did their mom smoke a lot of pot while they were still in the crib? All, I believe, to be valid questions.

I have a sort of mental image in my head of these people. Some sort of hunchback of Notre Dame-esque sort of person, with a lazy eye and slow but steady stream of drool coming out of their mouth. They stand at a kitchen counter over a bowl, all ingredients mise en place. The surly would-be cooker looks at the recipe, looks at the bowl, then back at the recipe. Slowly, unsure of what the sentence "Whisk ingredients" may actually mean, they pick up a spatula. Then they proceed to energetically smash everything on the counter and then bludgeon themselves in the head with a fry pan. They then take whatever makes it into the pot, throws it in the oven for the wrong temperature for however long it takes for them to remember there actually is something in the oven. Remembrance is often brought on by the smell of smoke and the high pitched squeal of a smoke alarm.

Afterwards, defeated, they go back to their computer and pull up the recipe. They go to the comments section and emphatically write, in all capitals no less, "THIS REHSUHPEE SUX!!!!". And yes, that is an actual quote.

Then of course there is The Substituter. Their approach to any blog's recipe is that the author has made every single variation and substitution possible in any known conditions that ever will and could happen.

I'll give some leeway. Some substitution questions are logical and reasonable, "Can I use almonds instead of walnuts?" Why not?

"Can I freeze the cookie dough for later use?" Absolutely, I'm glad you brought it up!

"I am allergic to wheat, can I use rice flour? Also, I have no butter in my house. I once used applesauce instead of oil for some brownies so can I use applesauce instead of butter?"

*slam head on desk*

The last one is a bit more painful to me. Certain substitutions are fine and dandy, but asking about changing the whole damn recipe and how it will cook if you're located at 42 longitude of the seventh circle of Hell or on a boat off the Jersey shore during an ice storm is something completely different.

My usual answer to this is, "I don't know. Try it for yourself and let us know!" It's a static answer that hides my desire to beat them with a sack of oranges. Fact of the matter is, you obviously want a different recipe, and you want me to figure it out or find it for you. Too bad. Want the slim-fast version? Look somewhere else. Want my recipe to be more like another recipe? Then go scour Food Blog Search. Does it not exist? Then create it. I am not your oracle, I am a guy with a shitty kitchen and internet connection.

Another favorite commenter that makes me palm my forehead in frustration? The Tangent Commenter. "Love your site. My cats name is Mittens and he loves cupcakes!"

How special for you and Mittens. *Delete*

Seriously, if you have something to say that contributes to the post I wrote, please include it. Do not however go so far off the known map that I'm left to question your psychiatric state.

Then, one we have covered before, The New Guy Commenter. The new blogger in the community who blog stalks the hell out of you, leaving a comment at every post that says something inane like, "Wow, neat!" then plugs their blog URL at the end. I read a lot of blogs, but I only leave a comment when I have an opinion or comment that actually demonstrated that I have 1) read the post, and 2) have something to say that pertains to the post.

Then there is The Asshole. Retarded teenagers or 20-something living in a dorm room or mom's basement, trolling around on the internet. They leave comments like, "Your recipe is shit! Damn, you suck! HAHAHAHA!"

Now, the cute thing is they never seem to get that most people moderate comments. So they basically just waste time. I pay little attention to these honestly. Ten to one, they live a meaningless existence filled with hanging out behind 7-11 or leveling up on World of Warcraft. Life is already to pathetic for these people for me to knock them down further.

Lastly, we have the Errant Questioner: "Are you sure this recipe is right? I tried it and it's not right. You wrote this down wrong." Yes, this recipe was a deliberate subreption, created in order for you to waste time. Everyone else did fine with this recipe, just not you.

I'm not perfect though, if people catch something wrong with the recipe or I wrote it down incorrectly I'll admit fault. However, if you are the 1 in 100 that had a problem with it, then it's probably you.

Ah, but lets move on to the actual composition of these comments, or the lack thereof. These grammatical and syntactic abortions of the English language physically nauseate me to the point of actually wanting to hurl over my keyboard. Or at the very least take a Valium and make it all go away (the curse of a Composition graduate student). It actually pains me when people can't (or won't) spell or capitalize properly. Given, there are allowances. Text messaging. Posting something new on the blog at 3 am. Trying to write on the laptop when your friend is drunk and trying to sit in your lap in a coup to wrest the keyboard away from you and show you something nifty on YouTube. All perfect examples when perfect writing isn't necessary.

I'm also partial to OMG, WTF, and LOL. In fact when texting, I use LOL in place of periods. These and other well known bits of web-speak are acceptable. "LOL, that post was sooo awesome!" is cool by me. "hahahathat post ws SO awsome!" is not.

Still, in light of all the inane comments, they still comfort me in one specific way. It means people are reading, which is nothing to complain about. It means that some people are actually interested in the content of the post and have tried the recipe. Knowing that someone has taken your creation, your project of love, and adopted it themselves is one of the greatest joys in the world. One of the reasons people food blog is to share their culinary lore and knowledge with each other. It's an enriching experience.

In the end, the way I see it, comments are like eggs, there's usually one broken in every dozen, and there isn't shit you can do about it but throw it away, save the good ones, and move on.

(And rant a bit...)


  1. I'm getting a very stressed vibe from you... Are finals murdering your good sense of fun or have trolls been attacking the blog en masse?

    Either way, deep breathes, yoga, go bake a cupcake or something. Actually, my favorite anti -stress recipe is a layered cheesecake but it isn't entirely quick and simple (or postable in the comments section).

    Good luck with the crazies, you seem to find more than your fair share.

  2. I think in nearly 5 years I've only received a few nasty comments and haven't moderated.

    My favorite comments are the ones where they think I'm the manufacturer/retailer. They wish to place an order for a Caja China Roasting box through me, or Pappy's Seasoning. Those I just ignore now. Lordy.


  3. The blueberry question reminded me of a reader that emailed me saying something was wrong with my blueberry sour cream muffin recipe because they didn't like it. Upon further questioning, they made the recipe correctly but they just don't like....blueberries. Apparently when I said it was the best blueberry muffin I'd ever had, they look that as a sign they would suddenly convert to being a blueberry lover and when they didn't like the muffins (apparently the cake part was okay, it was the blueberries they objected to) it was my fault!

  4. I am almost afraid to comment(not really)! I love these people that take your recipe for say, shimp stirfry and comment-"This was a great recipe- I replaced the shrimp with chicken,added black beans, and broiled it and it turned out great!"
    All in all,I generally love getting comments- like a grab bag- sometimes a wonderful surprise and sometimes... flaming bag of dog poo!

  5. Ohhh the pressure to post a meaningful and witty comment ... LOL

    Love the crazy stories about all the nutters that seem to be attracted to you. But really, a blueberry muffin without blueberries ... WTF?!

  6. D Dowd - No worries, most of this post was just to be funny at the extremes of comments. A good 98% of the comments I get go up. It's the 2% of whack jobs out there who bug me. Really, I don't hate people as much as I come off to be. ;)

  7. Ha, I love the blueberry muffin question ... why would anyone try to do that?

    I love the way you put fun essays like this in between the recipes everyone now and then. But as "an Composition graduate student," maybe you shouldn't be so hard on other people's grammar. :) Just teasing!

  8. I wrote this at 3 am. Plus, I'm allowed to have typos on my own blog. I do it for work and school all day, so I don't bother with the blog's grammar. ;)

  9. I had to laugh at this Garret! I hear you with a few of these. I get some pretty awful mails too and I am not always sure how to tackle them . I see with a good pinch of salt LOL! For me it's the substituters that get on my nerves. After 101 mails from the same person all I want to is bang my head with the frying pan!!

  10. I'm having a such a bad blog reading day: two of my favourite bloggers, alpineberry and chockylit have just announced that they are taking a sabbatical from blogging. As I was reading your post, I was actually afraid that you would end with another similar announcement. Food and humour - that what warms our lives. Please take deep breaths and go eat something.

  11. Intriguing question: can one make blueberry muffins without the blueberries. Picture this:
    After a hell of a working day, shopping done, now for something completely different: let's bake those blueberry muffins from the Vanilla Garlic blog.
    A great deal of unpacking in the kitchen, and looking in the fridge, under the table, in the car, in the shoppingbag: where are the blueberries? How the hell are they going to make blueberry muffins without the blasted berries. Know what, let's ask him...
    Can thing up many more scenarios that would result in this philosophical question ;-).

  12. think, think, think, I really can write English not too badly for someone from the Netherlands

  13. good luck with the whackos, garrett. we share your noble sentiments.


  14. Lizet - Hmm... point taken. Still, you gave background to your question which makes it reasonable. When made as a straight up comment, it's odd. You see, if you wrote me that information in an e-mail, I would simply accept the situation and give a simple reply. Sometimes a comment may simply lack the appropriate context. ;)

  15. My junior high home economics "blueberry muffin" recipe is titled "Sweet Muffins" and the "add 1c. blueberries" is an optional variation. I vote "yes" on the blueberry-free concept being feasible.

  16. I read your first sentence aloud to my Mom, my daughter, 4 years old, piped up, "blueberry muffins without blueberries would just be plain muffins". If a four year old can figure that out....

  17. Wonderful essay. Look forward to meeting the author on Sunday.

  18. Hazel - Yes, but note how you changed the name to "Sweet Muffins," not "Blueberry Muffins without Blueberries." That's the kicker with the example.

  19. You know, without the crazies you wouldn't be able to make me laugh as much as you do. I for one am thankful for the crazies. Thanks for persevering through them and sharing with us. :)

  20. Just to add to the blueberry confusion.... my husband likes chocolate-chip cookies without chocolate chips. He bakes the recipe from the back of the chocolate chip bag but doesn't add the chips until the second batch is baked so he can have chocolate chip cookies, without chocolate.

    I love him, but he's still a bit odd in the kitchen.

    I suppose the next time someone asks how to leave the blueberries out of blueberry muffins you just tell them to dump the blueberries in a sperate bowl, ignore them, and bake as usual :o)

  21. Yes Garrett, odd questions make me look for background, possibly the professional disease of the journalist ;-). Why, why, why do people ask odd questions? What's behind it? And up comes a wonderful caleidoscope of scenario's and stories and what if's and if then's. Though I must say, the sillophophy behind the blueberry muffins without blueberries resulted here at home in the question: can I have the blueberries without the muffins?

  22. I remember a food writer once complaining about someone who was unable to find "room temperature" on their themometer. Someone has to keep McDonalds in business.

  23. Hey, my dog kody gives THIS post a two thumbs up. hahahah...i funny.

  24. Thank you. Thank you for finally saying this! I get these kinds of comments all the time and they make me want to tear my hair out. Yes, I love hearing from everyone, but no, I don't have time to answer the question of what vegan gelatin is for every 10,000 people who ask. There's a reason Google exists, and FAQ pages!

  25. A-f*ing-men. I'd say at least 5 times, I've rec'd comments with history lessons on why the recipe I used exists and how I shouldn't call it "shepherd's pie," it's "cottage pie," and so on. Geezus, people, step back from your monitor, I'm just a lowly Sacramento girl in a bungalow trying to make some dang food!

  26. Aw, Garrett.....haven't been here in ages, just dropped by to day hi. Too bad about the comments, you Do get a good chunk of the shit disturbers here don't you?
    keep on ranting...they will eventually get the message. ;)


  27. hahahathat post ws SO awsome!

  28. I could not have said it better and believe me I tried many times! How about the lady who asks a food blogger (me) to plan her upcoming vacation in my city and got mean when I basically replied I was not a travel agent. I try to understand why they would ask such questions, but really I give up most of the time. My eyes get tired from all the rolling!


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