I don't mean to chip away at this galaxy mirror cake-like veneer of perfection about me—what? stop laughing, quit it—but there have been times over the 1125 recipes to date on Smitten Kitchen when I've, uh, stepped in it. You know, said something that came out wrong. Okay, just said the wrong thing / could have probably done a little more research and offended fewer people / used a different choice of words / actually just not told that story at all. Here are five that stand out the most on my own personal Cringe Meter:
An Israeli restaurant in my neighborhood made shakshuka and we were obsessed with it. I made a version from Saveur. I called it an Israeli dish. It did not go over well.
"Israeli? Really? ...I guess all dishes in the Middle East have now become officially “Israeli”."
"This may be popular in Israel but it is NOT an Israeli dish. It is an Arab dish along with hummus, falafel, shawarma, etc. Israel was created in 1947 and Arabs were eating these foods a long time before that..."
"Oh, and by the way, there’s almost no such thing as original 'Israeli' cuisine. Most of the cuisine is just an adaptation from Eastern Europe or North Africa, which came with the Jews who arrived to Israel after WW2. In this case, that version of shakshuka is indeed from North Africa (Morocco, Libya, Tunisia—I think it was popular in all of them)."
"Why can’t the Israelis just call these foods: shakshuka, hummus, and falafel like the rest of us Middle Easterners? Could it be about cultural appropriation, similar to land appropriation. In the same why they can admit that Palestine belonged to others, they can’t admit that these foods belonged to others. This IS the Israeli problem."
The upshot: It now, correctly, says the dish is of Tunisian origin. I cringe that I hadn't done five additional minutes of research. I did have to delete some pretty hateful comments, so rare for my site, which sucked.
Geez Deb, couldn't see how that could have gone off wrong!
"Holy offensive name, Batman! Seriously. The drink—or its name, at least—is an American invention; actual car bombs caused such death and destruction in Northern Ireland that anyone ordering one in a pub anywhere in Ireland would be fully deserving of a black eye. Christ."
"Associating something so horrific with a baked good (or drink) may strike some as flippant and others as downright offensive."
"As the wife of a former British Royal Marine Commando, I can tell you that the name is in very poor taste. I get why it’s supposed to be funny and certainly don’t judge (I just refuse to use it myself), but the fact of the matter is that people—both civilian and military—die or are seriously injured in car bombs. This happened during The Troubles and it happens today around the world."
The upshot: I changed the name fairly quickly. My friends—terrible people, all of them—chided me endlessly for caving to what they considered mob rule, but, and oh god this is horribly twee, it was one of the first times I found that having a wide audience was making me a nicer or at least more mature person. I mean, here were actual people who lived and do live with dark stuff like this, and I was making cupcakes? I cringe now, I cringe so hard.
"I'm going to start off the year with a recipe for an amazing vegetarian soup! With Parm!" thought Deb in 2014.
I made a Gourmet recipe from 1994. I got an email from a food blogger about five minutes later that said "I wrote about goulash once. You might want to close your laptop now." I thought she was being melodramatic.
"Don’t you ever, ever put flour, starch or anything in this food—humiliation. Forget about beer too. Pasta is a deal-breaker too. Onions should be shallow fried at the beginning until hydrous."
"This sounds like an L.A. version. …You should not have shown up in my ‘traditional Hungarian goulash w/ egg noodles’ search. You should be ashamed of yourself!!!!!"
Some were more explanatory:
- "This is a long-standing beef (no pun intended) that Hungarians have about goulash. It’s almost never authentic and considering it’s usually the only food people associate with Hungary, we get a bit rankly about it (factor in a century of foreign occupation and goulash becomes a veritable metaphor for all the ways we were wronged and how we're just still so misunderstood. sobs). This is not to say that these North American versions aren’t tasty. "
Some took a bigger view:
- "As the author of five cookbooks, I’d like to offer a quick thought to those who take umbrage at the use of goulash. Indeed, if we all made one goulash recipe and never innovated we would never progress. Make what you consider to be your goulash, or if you want something new, try this goulash. There is not just one version of lasagna or tacos or any dish."
The upshot: It remains and offended comments still trickle in. The best comments tell me exactly the right way to make it; I look forward to crunching them all together and making it the "correct" way soon.
I used the words "Meat Hangover." I'm so sorry.
Deb Perelman is our Writer in Residence this month. See her previous—wonderful!—pieces here.