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This image reads: Prelude to the Recipe. A systematic ish review of food blogs. From the kitchen of Data Soapbox.

Prelude to the Recipe: A Systematic(ish) Review of Food Blogs

In my research and practice careers, I’ve worked on a lot of important and difficult health and social challenges. Substance abuse and addiction. Violence. Risky sexual behavior.

This post is not about those issues. Instead, I will be addressing a completely inconsequential first-world problem:

The recipe blog post.

As a general practice, I do not cook.* I will occasionally bake something easy with my sons to “make memories” and “teach life skills.” Otherwise, I’m a straight-from-the-fridge-or-microwave kinda girl.

That being said, I’ve been known to meander through Pinterest, clicking on recipes that sound delicious. I’ll navigate to a food blog post and then scroll…and scroll…and scroll…to get to the actual recipe. It’s a little maddening.** And apparently the Internet agrees:

This is a Tweet by MehGyver (@AndrewNadeau0). It reads: Me: Please, I beg you, just tell me the ingredients. Recipe Site: Sure! Me: Thank you. Recipe Site: After I explain why I love these ingredients. Me: Whispers no. Recipe site: It was a crisp fall evening and I, a wide-eyed college student, was studying in Rome. The Tweet has been Quote Tweeted by MiddleClassFancy. The quote reads: Look Karent I just want to know how to make some gosh dang apple fritters.This is a meme. There is a photo of Tina Fey rolling her eyes. It reads: When you click on a recipe and realize it's buried within a blog full of personal stories about someone's childhood.This is a Tweet from Sean Kelly (@StorySlug). It reads: Canonically, the Lord of the Rings is a memoir by hobbits, which has several detailed descriptions of meals throughout, so maybe the whole saga is just one of those recipe blogs where they have to tell you a whole epic story before getting to the food.

I decided that I would research this incredibly trivial issue and create an infographic for the benefit of you, the reader. You’re welcome.

Flash forward two work days, and my eyeballs and brain were both numb from creating a dataset of 101 recipes from 101 food blogs.*** You can find that dataset, along with data sources and detailed methodology, here. I’m calling this review “systematic-ish” because, although I did follow a process, that process favored speed over precision. So, please don’t use this dataset as the basis for your Nobel Prize research.

After I had my dataset, I did a bunch of exploratory calculations and graphs in Excel to see what was (or wasn’t) knocking around in the data.

The biggest takeaway, not surprisingly, is that recipe blogs tend to be more wind-up than pitch. On average, they’re 58% introduction and 42% recipe.

I incorporated this finding, along with some descriptive information and graphs, into a kitschy vintage recipe card:

This is an infographic. Title: Prelude to the Recipe. A systematic ish review of food blogs. Body text: Social media is sprlinked with a very specific observation about food blogs: They often spend a lot of time introducting their recipets. We reviewed recipes from 101 popular food blogs in an attempt to quantify this phenomenon. (Note: Detailed methodology, dataset, and data sources are available at We counted Number of words introducing the recipe plus Number of words comprising the recipe equals Total words. (Note: Even though there are usually words below the recipe, we assumed that most people skipped those.) The introduction makes up more than half (58%) of an average recipe post. Recipe introductions include ads, directions and techniques, F A Qs, historical information, ingredients, personal stories, photos, related recipes, serving and storage suggestions, tips and tricks, variations and substitutions, and videos. Breakfast recipes tend to have the least intro material; beverages have the most. There is a bar graph. The y (vertical axis) reads Intro: Percent of Total Post, and it runs from 0 to 100 percent. The x (horizontal) axis shows categories and numbers of posts. Bar 1: Breakfast, 9 posts, 46% introduction. Bar 2: Dessert, 26 posts, 54% introduction. Bar 3: Side, 5 posts, 55% introduction. Bar 4: Snack, 4 posts, 57% introduction. Bar 5: Lunch dinner, 26 posts, 57%. Bar 6: Salad, 13 posts, 65%. Bar 7: Topping, 10 posts, 66%. Bar 8: Beverage, 4 posts, 75%. Bar 9: Miscellaneous, 4 posts, 65%. The text continues: There is a small relationship between intro length and blog popularity (bivariate correlation = 0.21). Posts with shorter introductions tend to come from slightly more popular and influential blogs. (Source note: American Food Bloggers. The top American food blogs ranked by popularity and influence, updated daily. Top 40 in US rankings on June 11, 2021.) There is a scatter plot graph with 40 points. The y (vertical) axis reads Intro: Percent of Total Post, and it runs from 0 to 100%. The x (horizontal) axis is labeled Blog Ranking, and it runs from 40 to 1. There is a slightly positive trend line marked through the dots. The bottom of the infographic says From the kitchen of Data Soapbox.

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* Don’t be alarmed; no one in my family starves. My (wonderful) husband cooks.

** I just want to know what that vegan queso is made from. Spoiler alert: It’s cashews.

*** This is just one more demonstration that days, months, years, even decades of behind-the-scenes work can underlie even the simplest of research communication products.

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