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What constitutes a good eGullet food challenge?


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Host's note: this topic was split from the $5 Meal Challenge topic. Some posts here refer to posts remaining in that topic.

 

My meta issue, and I've probably stated this before, is that I don't believe cooking and/or eating well ought be viewed as a challenge.  I think part of the demise of a good food culture was predicated by Iron Chef, and all the shows that followed.

 

But yeah, rice & beans to feed 4 for about $3 can be done.

Edited by Smithy
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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I have a bottle of red boat for you. I bought like 5 bottles, and certainly can't use them all.

 

And while that dish looked good, that does not necessarily mean it would win on the 5-ingredient challenge.  I would just prefer egullet not to become the food network.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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41 minutes ago, Anna N said:

 We’ve had a number of challenge threads which have been great fun but they’ve also been inclusive. I don’t find this challenge to be inclusive or acknowledging various cultural, dietary, religious etc. limitations of a very diverse group of members. Doesn’t even apply equally to all American members.  I suspect that making a meal for $5 in Alaska is considerably more difficult than doing the same elsewhere in the USA. 

I admire and applaud the enthusiasm of the poster and proposer of this challenge but I don’t see it as particularly plausible. By all means for those who want to take it up — good luck. 

Do you think a thread on hunting is "inclusive"? You think threads on pork products are "inclusive"? Do you really think that every thread has to be thought to death so that it "includes" everyone? This entire place would die overnight, if not sooner. There are more threads than I can count that do not "include" me. Many of them I enjoy reading anyway - because not everything has to be about me. As for the threads I don't want anything to do with, I have a simple solution: I don't click on them. There are also more threads than I can count that simply don't get any traction, so they die their own death. If that happens, it happens. It doesn't need anyone's assistance.

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I enjoy the "challenges" we've had from time to time -- the cook-offs, the "how many meals can you get from a roast chicken," etc. There used to be a food blogger who had a regular challenge going all the time -- cheapest meal, best fusion meal, best meal from pantry items. No, I don't want to see it become the only thing on eGullet, but there are lots of threads on eGullet that I don't read, either. That's why, I presume, it's set up the way it is.

 

I am, in fact, thinking in terms of one tonight that's a standby from when the kids were little: Mexican lasagna. Ground beef, onion, garlic, spices; cheese; diced black olives; black beans; corn; enchilada sauce; tortillas. Brown the ground beef, layer everything in a casserole dish, as many layers as it'll hold, and bake. You can make it for less than $10 in ingredients, and it'll serve four. Leaves some left over for salad.

 

Will follow up with photos.

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17 minutes ago, cakewalk said:

Do you think a thread on hunting is "inclusive"? You think threads on pork products are "inclusive"? Do you really think that every thread has to be thought to death so that it "includes" everyone? This entire place would die overnight, if not sooner. There are more threads than I can count that do not "include" me. Many of them I enjoy reading anyway - because not everything has to be about me. As for the threads I don't want anything to do with, I have a simple solution: I don't click on them. There are also more threads than I can count that simply don't get any traction, so they die their own death. If that happens, it happens. It doesn't need anyone's assistance.

Carry on. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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2 hours ago, weinoo said:

My meta issue, and I've probably stated this before, is that I don't believe cooking and/or eating well ought be viewed as a challenge.  I think part of the demise of a good food culture was predicated by Iron Chef, and all the shows that followed.

 

I wasn't going to say anything, but eating "cheap" and ignoring quality, isn't that the antithesis of eGullet? I mean, it's great if you can do it, but it seems to be an afterthought. I'd rather read about great food.

 

And I don't feel bad posting this, because OP can post this at any other forum and get lots of participation, but I'd like to see eGullet as Food-Network-Free as possible.

Edited by Smokeydoke (log)
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@cakewalk, thank you for your rationality :)

 

I have no idea how much a Big Mac costs, but I can see that the OP is in Silicon Valley, so I believe that a $5 meal might feel more challenging there than other places.  Maybe it would be interesting to see what you can make for $5 around the world.   Those in Asia will have a feast, those in Alaska may be sharing a pot of beans.

 

 

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12 minutes ago, Smokeydoke said:

 

I wasn't going to say anything, but eating "cheap" and ignoring quality, isn't that the antithesis of eGullet? I mean, it's great if you can do it, but it seems to be an afterthought. I'd rather read about great food.

 

And I don't feel bad posting this, because OP can post this at any other forum and get lots of participation, but I'd like to see eGullet as Food-Network-Free as possible.

 

 

There's "cheap," and there's "inexpensive." I often cook meals with expensive ingredients, when I could cook them more cheaply, because they're better, and it's worth it to me to pay the extra. I have a friend who's horrified that I buy beans from Rancho Gordo instead of for a quarter of the price at the grocery; it doesn't bother me a bit, because they're much better, and it's well worth it to me. 

 

On the other hand, there are things I dearly love to eat that just aren't expensive. They're better when prepared well, and that's part of the attraction to them, and to this forum. I have learned a great deal from it over the years, from better prep techniques for inexpensive ingredients to learning about how to use, and finding sources for, exotic and often expensive ingredients. As I noted above, I enjoy the occasional challenge, whatever its nature, and I learn a lot from those as well.

 

YMMV.

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22 minutes ago, Smokeydoke said:

but eating "cheap" and ignoring quality, isn't that the antithesis of eGullet?

 

 

12 hours ago, ImportantElements said:

Since we are all big fans of food, and a lot of us love to cook, how about a small challenge ? 

 

12 hours ago, ImportantElements said:

The meal has to be prepared or cooked. You cant just buy a frozen pepperoni pizza for $3 and call it a day. I would love to see your creations :)

 

I don't see ignoring quality anywhere in the challenge.  Don't you think he's posting here precisely because we are the sort of people who won't ignore quality?

 

 

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I read the topic differently, it seemed that the purpose was to create a $5 meal. While that is a worthy cause, I never prepare a meal thinking, "I can make this for $5." I prepare meals thinking, "this is going to be delicious." If it's $5, that's great, but it's not a priority of mine. YMMV.

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51 minutes ago, Smokeydoke said:

I'd like to see eGullet as Food-Network-Free as possible.

 

Whatever that means.

Some folks like Food Network.

We all have our unique preferences.

It's definitely not as good as it was in the early years, but it's not ALL bad.

I see nothing positive in shaming or insulting some folks.

 

 

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~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

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The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Just now, DiggingDogFarm said:

 

Whatever that means.

Some folks like Food Network.

We all have our unique preferences.

It's definitely not as good as it was in the early years, but it's not ALL bad.

I see nothing positive in shaming or insulting some folks.

 

 

 I was quoting @weinoo about Food Network and if you like Food Network, you can always visit Food Network, there's nothing wrong with that?

 

I'm not shaming anyone, @ImportantElements is new here and maybe older members, (weinoo and I) aren't crazy about the challenge?

 

I think you're reading way too much into my comment.

 

 

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1 minute ago, Smokeydoke said:

Food Network and if you like Food Network, you can always visit Food Network

 

Don't and won't.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Well, may I surmise the reason you don't, is exactly because they do things like this?

 

eGullet is unique in many ways, being active on other "foodie" forum boards, I know this to be true. I'd hate to take away what's unique about this place just to cater to the masses and I hate for eGullet to go that way.

 

And honestly, if eGullet became another Food Network, I would no longer read it.

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7 minutes ago, Smokeydoke said:

 I was quoting @weinoo about Food Network and if you like Food Network, you can always visit Food Network, there's nothing wrong with that?

 

I'm not shaming anyone, @ImportantElements is new here and maybe older members, (weinoo and I) aren't crazy about the challenge?

 

I think you're reading way too much into my comment.

 

 

The fact is, people can like Food Network and still post on eGullet.  We don't have exclusive membership criteria. 

 

As I mentioned upthread, if people don't want to participate in a topic, they don't have to click on it. 

 

I wasn't aware that you were an old member like weinoo! In any case, it's irrelevant. If someone joined yesterday, he's a member.

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8 minutes ago, Smokeydoke said:

Well, may I surmise

 

No, you may not.

I'll comment more once these off topic posts are moved to another thread.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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Just now, cakewalk said:

The fact is, people can like Food Network and still post on eGullet.  We don't have exclusive membership criteria. 

As I mentioned upthread, if people don't want to participate in a topic, they don't have to click on it.

 

Exactly!

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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I didn't say that people who like Food Network can't post on eGullet, I said I'd hate for eGullet to become another Food Network.

 

That's the last I'm going to say on the topic, obviously, I'm not getting anywhere.

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1 hour ago, Smokeydoke said:

, I never prepare a meal thinking, "I can make this for $5." I prepare meals thinking, "this is going to be delicious.

 

And that is a luxury not everyone has.

 

My cooking habits have definitely changed since giving up a salaried job to be self-employed.  Cooking is easy when the sky’s the limit. But when its not, those expensive diver scallops, 24 month prosciutto, foraged mushrooms and fancy cheeses don’t make it into my basket anymore.  I find it harder to get inspired to cook on a budget, it can be depressing when you have good taste but no cash.  

 

Sometimes money is an object - for students, single parents, retirees on social security, etc. Broke folks are welcome here, too. 

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@pastrygirl That's a nice, non-dramatic reply, thank you.

 

Well, I don't know what to say, that's the problem with forums, isn't it? You can't please everyone. I guess I can ignore threads like these, I do hate stirring up drama. It would've been better to ignore.

 

And I do agree with pastrygirl that "broke folks" (her words, not mine) are welcome here, I never meant to imply that they're not. And tbh, I'd wouldn't categorize OP as broke. But on the same token, I'd like eGullet to be a place where money isn't a stigma. After being chided about how much European butter costs, or how impractical my equipment is, I'd rather have a like-minded group of people who understands my passion for great food. I thought it was such a place.

 

Anyways, I'd like the drama-filled posts to stop. We're here to talk about great food, I think everyone can agree to that.

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4 minutes ago, Smokeydoke said:

... that's the problem with forums, isn't it? You can't please everyone.

 

It's a matter of approach. I think that's the benefit of forums. Not everyone is "me." There's also "you." Inevitably, we are going to differ. Quite frankly, I think that is for the best. 

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I don't watch the Food Network, nor do I jump into "challenges" readily. I'm challenged enough, thank you! But I can see how some challenges could be fun, if you like that sort of thing, and as pointed out, clicking on a thread is a choice.

 

However, there was something very basically wrong with the $5 challenge, and it speaks to the points above about whether a meal for $5 is a useful topic. Yes, plenty of people don't have the luxury of buying whatever strikes their fancy, or are on a tight budget. If we wish to serve that need it can't be a game. Buying all the ingredients for one $5 dinner is in no way a practical solution to eating as well as possible on $15 a day (or something like that.) No one wants to eat badly for $5 a meal. Some people can use help figuring out how to make a week's worth of decent meals for an average of $5 per meal: in other words, how to plan and shop for real value, learning how to cook large amounts at a time, learning to re-purpose leftovers, learning to cook less expensive cuts of meat, etc. Really, like other aspects of cooking, these are skills that go far beyond looking at the price on a package.  

 

So, on the topic of what makes a good challenge, it helps to think it through.

Edited by Katie Meadow (log)
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"Challenges" may not be the proper term, but I'm not sure what I'd call them. "Premises," perhaps. I like the eGullet cookoffs, which invite a variety of posts on a given dish. I like the threads that have to do with use of a specific ingredient (how many ways can you use xxx, etc.). I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion on how many meals one can get from a single roast chicken. 

 

I am, fortunately, not in the income category where I have to constrain myself to eating on a SNAP budget (though I've taught a class on how to do just that). But it's entertaining to me to see just how cheap a meal I can make (albeit not every day!). Nor am I in the income category where I can afford to travel the world and enjoy all the marvelous cuisines I enjoy vicariously on eGullet -- which is one of the several reasons I so thoroughly enjoy eGullet. And I do, occasionally, get to travel, so it's always good to have a resource to check out food I ought not miss! 

 

It's also interesting to me to see how food costs compare elsewhere in the wider world; I know, living in an agri area, food is cheaper here than it is lots of places. As a converse to the $5 meal, I'd be interested in a comparison of the costs of preparing the same meal in different parts of the world. Say, sausage and eggs (as I think most places in the world have some kind of sausage). Not for any "bragging rights" regarding how cheap or how expensive something is where you are, but just for information and the sake of "well, I'll be damned." (As an old newspaperwoman, I have never lost my love for the "well, I'll be damned" piece of writing.

 

So, bring on the good "challenges." What's the weirdest flavor combination you tried and loved? What can you always make from your pantry and freezer when it snows 12 feet and you can't get to the grocery? What's your best recipe for xxxx? No, please don't make them the only thing on eGullet. But they're fun.

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