Finding recipes online is a great way to meal-plan and cook. But do you notice how much filler material there is before it finally gets to the actual ingredients and recipe?
Recipe websites from some of the nation’s best cookbook authors are fueled by keyword-rich content. In order for their sites to get to the top of search engine results, they essentially need to repeat the keyword time and again. It’s SEO 101! Not only that, the cookbook authors want to create a bond with their readers—this isn’t just some random recipe you found online; it’s filled with heart, love, and soul. In other words, it builds some excitement towards the prep of the meal and perhaps subconsciously will make you enjoy it at a greater level.
Sometimes, though, we’re in a hurry and just want the damn recipe and don’t have time to read a novel first. The nice thing is, you can just scroll down past the fluff story.
Here’s an example: How To Make Apple Wedges
Brenda is an up-and-coming cookbook author who is trying to save her readers time and money with quick, budget-friendly recipes for the family on the go. Her kids recently went ape-shit for some apple wedges, so she wanted to add it to her website.
There were two ways to write this recipe. The first one is her original draft—the simple version which gets right to the point.
1 medium-sized apple
Cut the apple into wedges with a knife. Serve.
Fair enough. She informed us how to make her special apple wedge recipe. But where’s the heart? Would you eat that recipe that sounds so rushed?
Now, let’s see how Brenda can create that “bond” with the reader and turn this recipe into something special.
Recently on a trip to the shore with my husband and our two youngest boys (Magill is 9, Tomhenry, 5), we spotted a roadside fruit stand in the country. Sitting on the back of a pickup truck with the world’s most adorable yellow lab puppy was a young teenage girl in pigtails. When our car pulled off to the side of the road, she gleefully hopped into duty at her stand. You know me—I just can’t resist children! This girl screamed Americana. Wheat fields flowing in the distance, a Taylor Swift song playing on her radio, cutoff jean shorts, and apples for sale. Because of course there were apples!
My husband and kids love just about all fruit. Whenever I bring home an orange, banana, or pear, it’s gone. I sometimes wonder if I had even purchased it it’s gone so fast. I recently purchased a seedless watermelon and before I had even finished unpacking the groceries, I found the rind in the sink with flies buzzing about. The boys once ate six jumbo bags of grapes from Costco before we even got to the checkout counter, vines included! My husband eats lemons and limes whole—peel and all!
But apples? Blech! No one in our house will touch them. I’ve tried using them in everything—apple pies, apple scones, apple dumplings, apple fritters, apple sauce, apple ham, apple fish, apple gum, apple cough syrup, apple edible panties—nothing. If I buy an apple, it rots. Period.
So when the idea of purchasing home-grown country apples from the girl in pigtails presented itself, I hesitated. I would be buying them purely out of pity, knowing full well my kids would be far more likely to throw them at cows than consume them. The girl introduced herself simply as Junebug, and before I could get a word out, she bent down and picked up a large basket of apples. “Where ya want ’em?” she asked as she approached the car, hunched over with the shockingly oversized basket clutched in her shaking hands. I told her, “Junebug, that’s too many apples! We can’t afford that many!” to which she replied, “No, these are free just for stopping. Everyone gets a free basket.” She kicked the car until my husband popped the trunk. Junebug dumped the basket, letting out a mighty sigh of relief.
I studied the mess, trying to guess how many apples there might be. Before I could muster a guess, Junebug said “One hundred fifty. You were try’na guess how many apples that is, right?” Suddenly intimidated by the rifle I saw mounted in her back window, I bought another three baskets for just $3 each, tipped her a dollar, and we were off with our 600 apples for a short weekend jaunt to the beach with three men who hate apples.
At the shore, the boys raided our fruit stash that we had packed for snacks. My husband grabbed a muskmelon and bit in, right through the hard outer layer, wiping the sugary moisture off his beard. “Good and not even ripe yet, just how I like it,” he grinned, chomping vigorously through the tough rind. The boys threw their trunks on, grabbed a dozen bananas each, and headed to the beach. I unloaded the six hundred apples from the trunk and pondered how to push these on the boys, and that’s when it hit me. This whole time I’ve been trying to make the apples into something complicated. (Apple gum—what was I thinking?!) What the boys needed was simply the apples in their most natural state, with perhaps a little coaxing.
As the boys played in the sand with my husband, I got out my trusty knife and went to work slicing. By the time I’d finished the first basket of 150 apples, my hands were raw, pruny, and wrinkled. My wrist ached. I’d just sliced 1200 apple wedges for three men who don’t even like apples. Had I wasted ninety minutes of our precious long weekend? “No!” I told myself. “They will eat the wedges. They will like them.” So I sliced the rest up, meticulously cutting around the core in each wedge. 4800 wedges, in all, enough to feed a small army.
When the boys walked in demanding snacks and refreshments, their jaws hit the floor. “Mom,” they said. “You know we don’t like apples.” My heart sank, realizing this was all for naught. “Do seagulls eat apple wedges?” I began to ask myself. But then, to my surprise, Tomhenry picked up a wedge and observed it, turning it over, then sniffing it. He furrowed his brow as he backed the wedge away from his face, examining it further. He put it in his mouth and bit off a tiny nibble from the end. I watched his face as he waited for his little brain to compute the results of the taste test. “Not bad,” he said, and finished the rest of the wedge! A suspiciously curious older brother Magill pushed Tomhenry out of the way. “Let me try, twerp,” he said, biting into a wedge. “Yeah, it’s fine, I guess. Would be better if they were peeled, mom.” I went to work peeling the wedges one by one. When finished, the boys each filled up a paper grocery bag with wedges and headed back out to the beach. Then my husband came in and ate the other 4,200 wedges.
It was so simple! They cleaned out 600 apples in no time, and, despite having to soak my hands in a hot bath, then bandage the various nicks and wounds I suffered from trembling with a knife, I was left with a smile as big as the sunset!
I get it, a normal person won’t eat 450 apples in one sitting like my husband, so just multiply this recipe by however many apples you’ll be slicing for your little monsters.
1 medium-sized apple (I prefer red delicious, but any apple will do)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Heat 1/2 tsp. oil on medium-high heat in a medium-sized pan (non-stick, if you have one). When the oil is wavy, but not too hot, turn off the heat and wipe out the pan. Set it aside; you won’t need it.
Pour the 1 cup water down the drain to ensure a clear passageway, then rinse the apple under tap water for 40-50 seconds until clean. Dry the apple.
Take the apple and the place it on a cutting board. I prefer my 24″ x 24″ square end grain board. Peel the apple, if desired. Take a sharp knife, and carefully slice the apple in half the long way, top to bottom. Take each half and slice them the long way, again top to bottom. Now, cut out the core from each of the quarter wedges and set them aside on a paper towel-lined plate. Finally, cut each quarter in half, leaving you with eight wedges. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. I prefer none.
Set the wedges on a plate in a flowered arrangement. Serve immediately, or chill up to 24 hours and serve later.
The results speak for themselves
Brenda received 1,231 reviews for a total of 4.12 stars in the first six years of her recipe being online. Comments on the post were largely positive, though a few people were angry with the long story. “I just wanted the GD recipe,” commented snatchy33. Telling a long, riveting story that leads up to the actual recipe is itself a recipe for success. Even though anyone with hands can slice an apple, hearing it from an expert like Brenda reiterated to them that it was a great idea.
My Hot Take
I find those long stories really annoying when I want my recipe, but I realize that I’m being very hypocritical. People coming to this website want the answers to their questions, not 1200 words of a silly story and then a ridiculous answer to their question. So I get it. It’s good for website search ranking, it’s good for building a connection with the reader, and it helps put a recipe into context with a story. But yeah, it’s mostly still kinda annoying.