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Forgive me, but I must go on a rant here. You see, what I love is cooking. What I HATE is unfair reviews!
* If you despise one of the major ingredients, why in the devil would you prepare it?
* If you haven't made it/tasted it, what on earth would make you think your input is valuable?
* If your grocery doesn't have something or it's not in your pantry, how assinine is it for you to say, "I deducted a star because I couldn't find/didn't have (fill in the blank)"?
* If you have young children and the recipe includes hot seasonings, how stupid is it for you to say "It was so spicy my kids couldn't eat it"???
* If your review reads something like "My whole family went berserk they loved this so much and they've demanded that I serve it at least once a month!", how can you possibly feel comfortable that you gave the recipe 4 stars?
* If your every instinct tells you there's too much salt, too much garlic, too much hot sauce, too much whatever for your family's taste, why don't you just use your common sense and cut back instead of telling us it was too salty, too garlicky, too spicy, too whatever?
* If you're a food snob, how fair is it for you to rate a recipe that calls for 'cream of --' soup or garlic powder or margarine or dried parsley flakes and say it didn't come up to expectations?
* If you regularly use 'cream of --' soup and have never bought a head of garlic or a fresh bunch of Italian parsley in your life, how fair is it for you to substitute commercial products for fresh and say you were disappointed in the results?
* If you limit/eliminate your intake of certain food products, whether for physical or philosophical reasons, what makes you think you have the right to try to impose your restrictions on the rest of us?
* If you've never shared a recipe, why should your opinion of ours matter?
* If you're from Texas and automatically give 1* reviews for chili recipes that include beans, may I suggest you get over yourself?
* Last, but most assuredly not least, if the
'zaar program that does the calorie counting screws up, does it really make you feel good to slam the recipe poster?
So, what do I think constitutes a fair review? Here's my take on the issue...
1) I try to judge a recipe 'in context'. If it requires a special trip to a gourmet food market... and if the ingredients cost a bundle... and if I have to spend a lot of time and effort preparing it... well, yeah, I hold it to a higher standard. In that case, it needs to be perfection itself to rate 5*. On the other hand, if a dish is quick and easy and fairly inexpensive, and everybody goes back for seconds and tells me how much they enjoyed their dinner -- well, I have no problem giving that recipe an excellent rating as well. Comparing dinner party possibilities with weeknight family meals is a silly apples/oranges thing. There are 5* dishes in *both* categories!
2) Some seasonings are super-personal. Salt, garlic and spicy things are probably the source of more negative comments on this site than anything else. Tone it down -- or ramp it up -- based on your intimate knowledge of your family's tastes. If any of the above are slightly too much/too little for us, I do not deduct a star. After all, the poster wasn't at fault -- my judgment was. (I do make an exception if the given amount of an ingredient is way over the top and really ruins it...)
3) I am willing to admit that I might be at fault. If a recipe has 8 great reviews but it was a flop for me, should I rush to submit a poor rating -- or should I maybe consider that it was slightly above my skill level? Or that maybe I misread the directions? Or maybe mismeasured the ingredients? If my results were totally at odds with several other reviewers', I make the dish a second time to be sure.
4) Hurt feelings are not good. Most of my reviews are extremely positive. If you think I go overboard with 4* and 5* reviews, let me assure you that I have tried many, many more recipes on this site than those for which I have submitted a critique. If it's just goshawful, yes, I'll say so. If a recipe was submitted by one of the superstar chefs around here and I find it to be seriously lacking, I don't hesitate to post negative comments. But to say hateful things about a recipe that some newbie just posted? Oh, that is sooo lame!!
5) The "authenticity" thing leaves me cold. Who cares if your Polish (or Ukranian or Italian or German) grandmother wouldn't have been caught dead using a certain ingredient in an ethnic dish? Hey, maybe her grandmother came from a different part of Poland (or the Ukraine or Italy or Germany) where using it was common. Imho, the only criterion on which it should be judged is taste.
6) And then there's the matter of substitutions. Hmmm... Debatable. For the most part, I think that if the substitution (or elimination) of an ingredient works, then it's fine to post stars. Just indicates that the recipe is adaptable to personal tastes/needs. But if the result is negative, I think it's only fair to post a 'comment', without stars.
Southern, of course. Italian, always. Love fish and seafood. I'm a Tex-Mex fiend. And Cajun dishes are the food of the gods!