Mmmmmm... oh, my, my, my. I am sitting in my office on the second floor, inhaling the most delectable aroma. Today is my birthday, you see, and I wanted a special cake... a coffee cake. Well, not a coffee cake in the usual sense of the word - no walnuts, no sticky white icing, no cinnamon for me, by golly. I wanted a COFFEE cake, because coffee is my favorite thing in the world.
So my sweetheart, an gifted and enthusiastic cook who refers with familiar affection to Julia Child as “Julie” and the Frugal Gourmet as “The Froog”, took it upon himself to research this important matter. He opened his well-thumbed copies of The Way To Cook and The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American and began to look for coffee cake recipes. Unsatisfied, he turned to the Gold Cookbook, a thick, amazingly comprehensive collection of recipes written by former Waldorf-Astoria chef Louis DeGouy in 1947. No luck there, either. Finally, as a last resort, he picked up the phone and called his mother, Miss Frances, who is a Southern authority on common sense in all things. Even Frances didn’t know what to tell him.
“Darling,” I said, after watching him search frantically for a recipe worthy of my consumption, “have you looked on the ‘Net?”
Something For Everyone
No matter what sort of sustenance you crave, you’ll find it in the vast virtual kitchens of cyberspace. And you won’t have to spend money on cookbooks or find a place to put them in your kitchen. There’s every kind of delicacy here (and lots of stuff that ISN’T so delicate!) Got a hankering for something as mundane as meatloaf or as exotic as pork brains and eggs? You can find pages and pages devoted to the fine art of breadmaking; you can find a site which talks about nothing but fine pasta. You can even find a collection of things to do with Velveeta®, a strange substance consumed eagerly by haoles most everywhere.
There are ethnic and specialty recipes galore out on the World Wide Web. But the Global Gastronomer’s wonderful site will point you in the right direction. Though some links are broken, you’ll still find pages with exotica like Mongolian barbeque tips and techniques, Columbian Ham and Banana Sandwiches from the Medellin Banana Cooperative, and recipes for West African favorite Yam FooFoo. If your tastes run to something a little more obscure than one scoop macaroni, two scoops rice, do yourself a favor and consult the Global Gastronomer.
Is little Junior itching to get his hands on your MixMaster? Children have their own virtual kitchen areas at the Kids’ Food CyberClub, which invites them to post their favorite recipes on an electronic bulletin board. I really like the Family Food Zone, as well. The clever graphics look like a refrigerator covered with bright magnets and notes.
One of the most useful sites I found, which could help make the difference between a delightful meal and an inedible disaster, is the Cooking Thesaurus. These pages are a terrific resource for substitutions for thousands of cooking ingredients, including low-calorie and low-fat alternatives, inexpensive substitutes for gourmets on a budget, and innovative replacements for hard-to-find ethnic ingredients.
If you’re looking for everything in one place, there’s hope for you. Several sites claim to provide surfing chefs with recipe databases. Cookbooks Online, for example, offers registered members access to a 1,000,000+ recipe database (registration and access are free - for now). A heady claim, but this site was clunky and slow. Sally’s Place, a sharp, interesting and award-winning culinary site, promises a database soon, and Recipes Online has already begun the monumental task, amassing instructions for over 100 dishes so far.
As of this writing, it has been 9 months, 2 weeks, 6 days since my last manapua. Do you know how hard it is to kick the manapua habit, my friends? The most exotic fare offered at the Piggly Wiggly is stump-slung chittlins. And frankly, that’s a little too exotic for me. But I’ve located all I need to make my very own manapua... and adobo chicken, and 14 different versions of kim chee. Tell your mainland friends to check out Local Kine Recipes, a source of great comfort for those who miss the gastronomical melting pot that is Hawaii.
For The Faint-Hearted
Does your kitchen equipment consist of a rusty can opener and a drawerful of menus from all-night delivery places? If you’re looking to impress a special someone with your culinary talent, there’s always Cooking For Dummies. Or, for that matter, Entertaining For Dummies, Desserts For Dummies, Grilling For Dummies... Yeah, I know, they’re BOOKS. With PAPER. But if you’ve got nothing more than a can opener in your bag of tricks, you might want to go to Amazon Online and order the whole damn Dummy series. And if there’s just no hope for Chef You, you should probably check out Mail-A-Meal. Send some virtual lobster thermidor to your loved one today!
Time to go cut the cake. Y’all have a Merry Christmas, hear?
SITES TO SEE
Breadworld by Fleischmann’s Yeast
Velveeta® in action
The Global Gastronomer
Family Food Zone
Local Kine Recipes
Mail A Meal
Caroline Wright, of WRIGHT FOR YOU Word Services, is a freelance writer. A former resident of Hawaii, she now lives in rural South Carolina. Feel free to e-mail your comments to Caroline at email@example.com.