Monday, March 08, 2010

Deep Thoughts and a Self-Portrait

Happy Monday! Sometimes when I'm feeling overwhelmed, stopping to write down my thoughts is the best thing I can do to diffuse my anxiety. Playing House is at somewhat of a crossroads (in a good way), and I want to share my thoughts with you if you'd like to read them, so here they are!

* When I first started blogging almost 2 years ago, I had no clue how to cook or bake. I was just a girl with a bunch of nice new stuff from our wedding registry that I wanted to learn how to use. Consistently since then, I've improved because of practice. Lots of practice. Taking time to follow recipes with new techniques, or new recipes with old techniques, has caused a slow and steady increase in my "I know what I'm doing" factor, and somewhere along the way I fell head-over-heels in love with all of it.

* I've noticed a trend lately that the recipes I've been making and sharing are getting increasingly more advanced. Please don't run away if you're a beginner; I have no intentions of abandoning my current mix of easy, moderate, and challenging recipes. But as time goes on, my desire to challenge myself in new ways has presented itself, and now that people out there are actually reading this, I care about staying true to what brought you here in the first place, while reconciling that with my evolving tastes.

* I've resigned from Craving Ellie in My Belly and The Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers. I wanted more freedom to pick challenges for myself, and didn't personally feel much of a sense of community in any of those groups. I'm so thankful for the skills and empowerment I've picked up through all 3 of the groups, and the handful of amazing blogging friends I've gotten to know through my involvement.

* In lieu of those groups, I've been cooking along with 3 dear friends (Anne, Sarah, and Wendy) in a collaborative recipe club (CCCP, Cross-Country Cooking Parade), and this is undoubtedly the niche where I feel the most comfortable at this point. We each pick a sweet and savory recipe each month that all four of us make and share our thoughts on. I've added a CCCP tag to the group's recipes that I post on Playing House, so you can see what we've made. I guarantee there will be a strong correlation between posts labeled CCCP and increased difficulty level!

* Here's where you come in: Would it be helpful for me to rate each recipe's difficulty? I'm happy to start using some kind of rating scale system, but there are 2 main drawbacks: what's hard for me might not be hard for you; and I don't want you to shy away from something I think is difficult just because it was a challenge for me. I'd love it if you would take a second to comment on this post and share your thoughts on a difficulty rating. Yay or nay?

Self Portrait1

And as always, thanks for stopping by.

Amy I.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you decided to resign from CEiMB but understand wanting to pick your own recipes. There is only so much time and so many meals one can make :)

As for the rating system, I don't see its benefit. As you said, it's sort of subjective and can't be measured to mean the same thing for everyone. I think, for the most part, readers can tell from reading a recipe whether it would be something challenging for them or not. I have seen professional sites (Martha Stewart, WW, etc) that offer this feature, and honestly, it never sways me one way or the other because I often times completely disagree with their assessment.

Julie @ Bunsen Burner Bakery said...

I think it's too hard to rate recipes because, like you pointed out, what is easy for one person is challenging for another. I routinely hear people say that they are afraid of making a dark roux, but I think it is kindergarten-level easy. On the other hand, I am awful piping decorations, something at which many others excel. I think that people who are interested in cooking should be able to read through a recipe and decide how challenging it is -- or perhaps, instead of a rating system, you can just add in comments in the recipe itself if something is particularly difficult.

I feel the same way too about serving size which is why I personally don't include it... what is one serving to me might be drastically different for someone else. My husband eats twice as much as I do, so are we going off his serving or my serving? 8 Julie servings is only 4 Scott servings. Is this talking about one serving by itself, or one serving with a salad and a vegetable?

Em said...

Hi there! I *just* started reading your blog and haven't made anything from it yet, but I've starred a bunch of things in my Google Reader.

I'm not sure how I would feel about a rating system. I'm just not sure it's necessary. I enjoy reading through a recipe, looking at the ingredients and directions, and going from there. Plus, I'd much rather read your personal thoughts on how difficult you found a recipe to be, rather than read "Easy" "Medium" "Difficult" at the top of the page. Does that make sense? I guess what I'm trying to say is that reading step-by-step directions is more helpful than an arbitrary rating. Can't wait to keep reading!!

b*schus said...

What is really helpful for me is a quick reference for how long I should expect the recipe to take (esp if it needs two days, that always trips me up!).

Anne said...

Yay, thanks for the CCCP shoutout! :) For my part, though, I don't anticipate all of my suggestions being difficult or time-consuming (at least I hope they won't be). And may I just say that I'm amazed that you were a newbie cook/baker just two years ago?

I agree about the rating system: not only is it hard to map one person's rating to another's, a single rating also doesn't differentiate among something that requires skill (e.g. piping decorations), something that's simple but sometimes tricky or temperamental (e.g. making caramel or custard), and something that's just plain time-consuming (not to mention all three). I think that if you're looking to provide readers with an idea of what to expect with regard to difficulty or time, your own words will be far more helpful (and fun!) than a rating could be. :)

Maggie said...

I think a rating system is a great idea. Personally, I feel like reading the recipe is enough to judge its ease, but particularly for beginners, labeling the difficulty front and center might make the recipes feel more approachable for them at the onset. So if it's easy enough to label them... why not?

Lauren said...

Darling, although I am sorry that you're not a DB/DC anymore, I'm so thankful that I met you through it. You are an amazing girl, and I know that there are great things to come.

I'm a tad bit jealous about the CCCP, because you four amazing ladies are always talking about the deliciousness flowing out of your kitchens =D.

For the ratings, I say just mention how you felt about it, or maybe classify as basics, building on them, and putting lots of skills together (or something like that!). Then your readers can grow with you, and if they want to start with something simpler, then they can go back to that.

Linda said...

Maybe not a recipe rating but I always look to see how long a meal will take to make. I look for things like "weekday meal" or "great for the weekend". Then I know if I can attempt it tonight or wait for a weekend.

Amy I. said...

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful feedback so far. I'm really enjoying hearing your thoughts/pros/cons on this, and appreciate you taking the time to write!

Delicious Dishings said...

I've dropped all my baking groups too for the same reasons (well, I'm stalling, but I am dropping DB any moment now). I have so many things I want to make and would prefer to direct my time and energy to things I choose -- though I'll always be grateful for the challenges. I think the group you're doing now sounds much more fulfilling and interesting.

I love posts like these... where you sort of get to know what's going on in the blogger's head and life. I have a few drafted right now.

Even if you make more challenging recipes, I'll still follow along. I think you could go either way with the rating system. Some people might find it useful. But knowing the difficulty of something wouldn't persuade or deter me from trying a recipe. It's more about how it tasted and what it looked like.

Renee said...

I'm sorry you're not a DC/DB anymore since you're the one who inspired me to join. This is my first month in DB! But, I'm happy you're on to new things that inspire you!!

I'm very excited to read about your new recipe challenges. I agree with most others, a difficulty rating is complicated. For me, the time issue is the biggest since I have two little kids and need to have an idea of what kind of prep time and cooking time I need have. Am I letting them run around in the kitchen, putting on a 1/2 hr video, or is this a Toy Story recipe? I say, don't worry about the rating. Even as a beginner I can pretty much figure out by reading the recipe (and your experience making it) the difficulty.

Enjoy your new adventures! It's exciting to watch your transitions as I feel like where you probably were 2 years ago (although, cooking meat still freaks me out).

Jenna said...

I think rating recipes at first won't help, but overtime, for longtime readers, we'll begin to see a pattern and be able to pick and choose what will work for us based on what we know from our past experiences trying out the recipes you post. So I say go for it!

MR said...

As your very proud and loving uncle, and as someone who hasn't followed a recipe in many decades (made easier when one doesn't cook at all), I am neutral regarding your possible ratings system. I love what you do in the kitchen, but I especially love what you do outside the kitchen. I defer to your followers and love that they appreciate you too. xoxo Unk

(wife.) said...

wow, you gots some smart readers. Every comment I read, I thought, "yeah! ratings are bad!" and then, "yeah! ratings are awesome!" Good for persuasive writers. :-D

I do think Jenna offered a really good point: eventually, a pattern will develop. Since you're a fan of order (at least, in the same way that I am, which is to say haphazardly), I think it would also help *you* keep track of things. Although this might sound slightly complicated, you could eventually categorize things by difficulty somewhere on the site, and gradually go back to your old recipes to add ratings. It might be a nice thing when people google "easy bruschetta recipe" to be immediately sent to your blog.

That said, your blog is truly enjoyable, interesting, and clear without it. We haven't missed it up to this point. So if it's an extra thing that you'll have fun with and will help you as you continue to expand your repertoire, great! But if it's an extra thing that could become a slight chore or stressor, don't worry about it. :-)

(wife.) said...

also: yay CCCP! :-D everyone loves a parade. especially my kitchen.

Emily (The Culinary Couple) said...

I think a note of the time involved would be more beneficial than a difficulty rating. I like to challenge myself in the kitchen, too, but I really do like to know what kind of time investment I'm making.

Anonymous said...

Yes! A difficulty rating would be good.

I wonder if the rating system would be more "universal" if you gave an explanation for the ratings? Like, "5 means you have to use fancy equipment and need knife skills and must know the difference between bearnaise and hollandaise." Or whatever.

I also like others' comments about adding a time element. That's definitely helpful.

Bella Baker said...

hi amy! i'm sorry to hear you are dropping ceimb, but I must admit that I have been really bad with participating myself. but i am so glad that we both joined in the first place. you are a fabulous blogging friend and i love stopping by and reading all about all of the delicious things you are cooking and baking. As for the rating system...could be a good idea. why not give it a try and see how it goes?

Kat said...

I noticed you didn't post on Daring Bakers last month. Then I just stumbled upon this post and saw why.
I'll miss you over there, but now I've added you to my Google reader--even better!

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