Golden caramel cheesecake. Butter crumble apple pie. Glazed raspberry croissants. Is your mouth watering yet? Scrumptious desserts such as these are just a few of the thousands of recipes available on Pinterest, the wildly popular “scrapbook style” social media site.
As the busiest holiday season of the year begins, amateur and veteran cooks alike will be searching for the perfect dishes to serve at the family table. Looking to spruce up your go-to pumpkin pie recipe? Searching for an unpredictable side for Thanksgiving dinner? You’ve come to the right place. Whether updating a classic staple or seeking a new favorite, Pinterest provides a connection to hundreds of food blogs. No longer confined to the pages of a cookbook, these online food journals unlock the doors to a culinary wonderland.
Pinterest, boasting an exponential growth rate since its inception in March 2010, has fueled the growing popularity of top food bloggers. In fact, according to an Infographic study, 57 percent of Pinterest members use the site for food related searches, which ranks the topic as the most popular category. With new members joining every day, the site provides bloggers with the audience they need in order to gain popularity.
It certainly has done just that. Pittsburgh native Michelle Norris Lettrich, creator of the blog “Brown Eyed Baker,” started her blog to cope with the winter blues and a recent move from home. “I figured it would be a creative outlet, perhaps nudge me to try some new, more challenging recipes,” she says of her blog’s early days. “That was over five years ago and, as they say, the rest is history.” Now, she has 56,752 followers on Pinterest and 25,539 followers on Twitter.
As an active Pinterest member myself, I readily acknowledge my addiction. Long hours of studying are relieved with a quick log-in to the “Food and Drink” page where I am struck with a collage of delicious images. My stomach growls involuntarily as my eyes flit to each tantalizing meal. Like eager students in an elementary classroom, each “pin” demands attention, begging to be the lucky chosen one out of the bunch.
A giant triple fudge cookie cake catches my eye, and a simple click leads me directly to Lindsay Conchar’s blog, “Life, Love and Sugar.” The pleasing diary-style layout of her weekly posts eases the chaos of Pinterest’s never-ending array of treats. Displayed on the screen are typed instructions accompanied by magazine quality images of each finished dish. This particular entry celebrates her one year “blog-iversary.” A year has passed since her first post, and she is still going strong. The casual writing style masks the reality that this recipe is being shared by a complete stranger. It reads like a card from a good friend.
Similar to the relatively new methods of dating and shopping, personal face-to-face interaction of recipe swapping is being replaced with online communication. To some, this new culinary trend may sound grim. Yellowed index cards covered in curling manuscript are exchanged for color coordinated webpages. Crisp fall afternoons spent mastering great-aunt Jane’s lasagna in Grandma’s sunny kitchen are becoming a rarity. As a result, many beginners are left without a personal connection to cooking. But as traditions of the past slowly fade away, these blogs fill the empty space.
Both Michelle and Lindsay use their blogs as a means to share their rich family histories with those who lack a strong foundation. For both women, it’s no surprise that baking runs in their blood. Michelle’s Italian grandmother was a naturally avid baker. “My grandma baked by feel; her hands knew when the dough was ready and she never second-guessed herself.” Michelle shares many of her beloved dishes with her readers such as her Thanksgiving leftovers casserole, the perfect follow-up to the famous turkey dinner.
Lindsay’s grandmother left an assortment of family favorite recipes as well, including the challenging gaufrette, a light French cookie passed down through the family’s Belgian roots. Unfortunately, the recipe for her grandmother’s beloved Ã©clairs cannot be found. However, she hopes to recreate them by trial and error, perhaps posting updates on her blog.
Flavors of fall
Now, as October is beginning, Lindsay’s favorite flavor is the highlight of the season. “Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere. Just how I like it,” to quote her blog. She’s even made a twist on the go-to Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie, and mixed the favorite with another classic dessert, cheesecake. She is more than happy to share this new family staple with her readers. “A slice of pumpkin pie and a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. Given that this is the only time of year for pumpkin, I try to squeeze in as much as I can.”
Featured on the blog are Lindsay’s favorite Thanksgiving must-haves, green bean and hash brown casseroles and devilled eggs to name a few. Her absolute favorite, sweet potato casserole, has become a solid family tradition for the holiday meal. As Lindsay says, “this dinner/dessert crossover isn’t complete without the toppings. Gotta have the marshmallows!”
Each year, Michelle contributes delicious recipes and helpful guidelines to her Thanksgiving archives. Packed with information, her site mirrors the resourcefulness of Beeton’s classic Victorian household management handbooks. Last year, she compiled a list of her 70 best “turkey day” dishes including unique breakfast ideas, such as beer waffles with cinnamon caramel apples, classic staples, like buttermilk biscuits, and no less than 16 different pumpkin recipes. Her impressive cooking repertoire includes a tutorial of every Thanksgiving essential, even down to the bread and butter (quite literally, as her recipe for compound butter has been shared over 10,000 times on Pinterest). For those looking to change up the menu, she includes exciting and rather unconventional recipes, such as cranberry ice cream pie, a twist on a classic holiday flavor.
As Michelle’s popularity continues to soar, she discovers new ways to cater to her readers. In addition to fantastic meals, she provides essential guidelines that guarantee a stress-free, enjoyable Thanksgiving Day for the host or hostess. Cooking the turkey is an overwhelming challenge, especially for those without previous experience or advice. Michelle’s step-by-step instructions cover the process from beginning to end and ensure a successful dinner. Another helpful reference is the full menu outline, a detailed layout from which the day’s courses can be planned. In recent years, she has devoted posts to fans’ recipe requests in order to meet their exact interests. As with most food lovers, she is eager to share her passion with others. Her grandmother would be proud.
Michelle and Lindsay have been successful in their hopes of conveying a sense of familial warmth through their writing. Each post evokes both knowledge and joy, but more importantly, a love for creating delicious meals. As Lindsay’s title aptly puts it, “Life, Love and Sugar.” That’s all you need.
Hillary Pyo is a third year student majoring in English. She can be reached at HP815477@wcupa.edu.