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Saturday, June 7, 2014
Personal Reflections ... Society ...

I joined the ratings web site Yelp about about a year ago, and I put up a couple of reviews for some local establishments that I frequent. Given that I frequent them because I actually like these places, I gave them all good reviews on Yelp. Well, wouldn’t you know it . . . a few months later, Yelp took down all my reviews. I never got an explanation, but I have heard that Yelp puts every rater thru a credibility analysis, and if you give good ratings all the time, they decide that you must be getting paid or otherwise have a vested interest in promoting the places that you write about. So you get booted.

Well hey, Yelp . . . maybe I just wanted to tell the world about the good places, and not bother to bitch about the not-so-good (I mean, isn’t there enough bitching about life already?). Perhaps I like to commend, and I don’t enjoy criticizing. But I WILL now criticize Yelp; sure, they need to maintain credibility with their viewership, but in the process they make the assumption that every honest person is going to gripe on-line about their bad experiences. Honesty = bitchiness. People who just don’t like to complain, who like to share the good but perhaps keep the bad to themselves, just don’t fit into Yelp-world. I just don’t see this as a positive social trend; it is NOT an example of how modern technology is “bringing us all together” – just the opposite, I’d say. But that’s just me, I guess, living in the past.

Hey though, I could try to “modernize myself”, and perhaps I will start by doing a bad review here. I’m going to pan most recent versions of a famous cookbook, the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook”. I have had the 1981 version since the mid-80’s, and it served me well as a basic cooking guide over the years. By 1990 I was pretty much a committed vegetarian, so a lot of the recipes (such as Porcupine Meatballs, Tongue and Lima Skillet, Creamed Sweetbreads or Salami-Bean Casserole) were no longer relevant. I bought and made good use of 3 or 4 basic vegetarian cookbooks (including Laurel’s Kitchen and the Enchanted Brocolli Forest). But the BH&GN Cookbook has so many recipes for so many different kinds of foods that a lot of it still worked for me. I still found myself pulling it off the shelf and opening it on the table as I tried to figure out how to put something palatable, perhaps even enjoyable together for dinner (or dessert – lots of basic cookie and cake recipes).

A few years ago I decided to go modern and pick up the 2010 version of BH&GN Cookbook; I liked the notebook format, it’s very nice to leaf thru on your kitchen table. But something is missing, something has been lost. This new “New Cookbook” seems to be trying too hard to be “with it”, to adapt to “modern family life”. It has lots of pics and gives you prep times and hints on how to use pre-packaged foods from the supermarket (such as spinach ravioli) . . . it also drops some eclectic but interesting items from earlier editions such as mulligatawny, a spicy Indian soup (albeit, I use a recipe for mulligatawny from Nikki Goldbeck’s American Wholefoods Cookbook, using lentils instead of chicken pieces).

But then again, you can still find a lot of from-scratch recipes here, if that’s the way that you want to go (although the recipe for home-made tomato catsup is gone; can’t expect anyone to make their own catsup anymore). There are more pix and more info inside than the classic version, even if mulligatawny is gone. So now that I’m looking thru the thing again, it doesn’t seem so bad after all. There are some ideas in it that I may want to try out, such as veggie-stuffed pasta shells (but I will substitute tofu and flax meal for cheese and egg), or roast red pepper soup (using veggie broth instead of chicken, of course).

Maybe I didn’t like the new copy at first mostly because I’m nostalgic for a simpler time, when recipes could just be recipes, and a cookbook didn’t have to get involved with family life-style management. I suppose that the modern BH&GN Cookbook is quite useful to “today’s busy families”, that it does its best to allow them to get involved at whatever level they wish to with their meal preparations. I guess that I just long for the days when most households had someone with the time and interest to prepare good fresh meals (but yes, I realize that this duty was repressively assigned primarily to the women of the family, back in those “good old days”).

So maybe my review here is more of a thumbs-down on modern life than on the 15th Edition of the BH&GN Cookbook; maybe it’s more a function of what’s going on in my own head these days. But hey, I guess it’s just another part of growing old.

Yea, it looks like I can’t post a bad review after all (other than for Yelp). My heart is just not in it. I guess that I AM old now, I am part of a different generation – one that didn’t bitch so much (how else would our nation have gotten through a horror show like World War 2?). One that didn’t go around saying “don’t trust anyone over 30” or sing “hope I die before I grow old” (the Who). It’s too bad that “my generation” (the Who again) was responsible for these innovations, and the generations that followed are now taking it to the next level. We certainly did “teach [our] children well” (CSN&Y). And they returned the favor with things like Yelp. Oh well, at least we handed down to them a pretty good cookbook, if they are interested.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:23 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, For the most part I totally agree with you on this post. Well, I’m not a total vegetarian; I’m a “have no clue what I am when it comes to eating” person. Get to a certain age and it becomes a matter of who cares what’s for dinner. Well, at least that’s just me. I tend to think that too many people put too much fuss into any meal; but I’m also totally aware that that’s just me. I’ve done a *lot* of cooking in my day, and maybe I just had enough at this point. But I digress as that’s not the point of your post.

    I still totally agree with you: Why would your reviews be taken down because they are all positive? How silly! Why frequent a place to eat where you don’t like the food? Only to put up a negative review? Odd, I say. Demanding posts that are negative is a way of furthering the whole idea that one can say the nastiest things about anything and anybody, often just to get out some of the spite, and yet be held unaccountable for any of it.

    But there’s a different aspect to this whole ratings business that annoys me very much. Here it will seem like I am disagreeing with you; however, my point is a different one from yours. This has been something I’ve been thinking about for a while, a problem I see with all this constant reviewing of the simplest thing. One can’t buy a pencil on the Internet without getting a request to review both how the pencil was and how the service was. So, I tend *never* to give any reviews of anything.

    It seems to me that in too many cases absolutely *nothing* can be given anything but a “5 star” review; absolutely everything must be a perfect review; a “4 star” review will cost somebody a job. In fact often either in writing (on the ‘net) or in person, when getting some service and/or product from any place that offers products or services of any kind (and here I actually thinking of such diverse places as a hospital and a car dealer both of which I had occasion to do business with), one is actually told in so many words that “we would like to have our ratings be all 5 star”.

    And I have actually gotten the impression that should I rate any small item in a long list of what I might or might not like about the product or service, the person involved might actually be in danger of losing his/her job; thus, “guilt-ing” the customer into giving a 5 star review. I ask myself how can absolutely *every* aspect of anything be 100% perfect. I am wary of places and things that have 100% perfect ratings.

    Now while this last point I’m making sounds like a disagreement with you; it actually is *not*. I certainly can understand that some one individual, rating different places, (in your case restaurants) could certainly give a positive rating on the places he/she might visit; otherwise, why would one keep returning to a restaurant where he/she did not like the food? Seems odd to me. In that case, of course, the ratings would all be positive. Furthermore, it seems to me that it certainly leaves room for a “4 star” review for some small aspect of service and/or food. It also seems to me that “4 stars” would be a very fine review, quite positive, I would say.

    Something seems to be terribly wrong with this whole “ratings” picture. It seems to me that this technological generation has no clue of how to handle or appreciate reviews of their products or services. On the one hand rating something like a restaurant(s) one frequents, positive ratings seem the only sensible thing (for reasons I’ve given above).

    Yet, on the other hand I find it strange that there can be some people who are so afraid of being rated a “4” that they will almost beg for a “perfect” rating in every aspect of service or the product. As I see it, “very well done, no real criticism but simply not perfect” for instance seems much more “human” to me that “100% perfect”; a “5” (“perfect in every way”) makes me think of some inhuman being performing the service or making the product; thus leading me to distrust this product/service.

    Then there is Yelp who takes down your ratings because they are all positive. Something is definitely wrong with this picture. I am to the point where I simply don’t trust any of this “ratings” business any more. Any request for a rating from me is quickly deleted (with a hope that the individuals involved are not fired because of my delete of the request to rate). MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — June 8, 2014 @ 10:45 am

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