Thursday, May 21, 2009

Local/seasonal foods personalized recipe service!

OK, folks, I'm going to let you in on my million-dollar idea, mostly because I can't figure out why this service doesn't already exist. (If it's already out there and I've somehow missed it, please leave a link in the comments.)

Here's the deal: Recipes are big business. It's fun to page through cookbooks and cooking magazines to see the delicious-looking pictures and get ideas for new dishes that you might (theoretically) prepare at home. And there are billions and billions of recipes on the Internet! If you know what you want to cook, the procedure for finding the recipe is pretty much instantaneous. But the Internet hasn't really improved the procedure for getting recipe ideas. You still pick whichever recipe sites you like, and you get to see whichever recipes they've decided to post and feature that week. There's no advantage over just getting a subscription to a cooking magazine (except, perhaps, conserving paper).

So my dream service is the following: A little widget (that can go on a homepage or facebook page or whatever) that randomly finds me a recipe -- with a picture -- every day, according to my personalized parameters. For my personalized parameters, I'd like be able to enter a range of criteria, for example vegetarian or kosher, or, say, no strawberries (for people who are allergic to strawberries), or no broccoli (for people who hate broccoli), etc. And I'd like to be able to enter general preferences like the fact that I'm more interested in appetizers than desserts, I like Greek but not Thai, I prefer recipes that are easy, etc.

I'm illustrating this post with the pictures from the one-and-only recipe I've ever posted: delicious stuffed grape leaves!

And -- as a bonus -- I want it to use my locality information to pick recipes that feature foods that are in season in my area. Because, like every city-slicker liberal, I'd like to favor local, seasonal foods, but how the hell do I know what's in season? Sure, I can look around, and when I see that every grocery store has a million bunches of asparagus, all on sale, then that's a clue. But I'd like some more detail, and especially ideas for items that may not be familiar to me. I don't have that info, but I know there are databases that do!

Now, I'm sure there's a business model in there somewhere, for example a deal with some existing recipe databases to bring people to their site. Logically, the widget would just show the photo, the title, and the beginning of the recipe, and you have to click through to the real site for the rest.

What do you think? Does this exist already? If not, why not?? (I've done a number of searches, and I can't find it...)


GG said...

That'd be awesome. On a practical note, the widget would probably have to be run from some sort of recipe database or website (like so it would be a good idea for those websites to provide that service for their visitors :) I'd use it!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey GG!!!

Yeah, exactly. Either some existing big recipe database would have to host it, or perhaps a company like Google that already has an incomprehensibly enormous database, hence could easily catalog all of the recipes that are out there.

Varina said...

Well, I am about as likely to voluntarily and successfully create a widget as I am to build my own house (actually I helped build a log cabin in fifth grade as part of a class project, so I might be more likely to do the house thing), but I generally find such things generally easy to find using the google, just "recipes, vegetarian, kosher, green beans" if you needed kosher vegetarian recipes when green beans were in season is usually pretty successful. In that vein I was looking for stuff on local food in Zurich, I imagine this works better in German. There have been CSA things since 1965, and apparently Americans got the idea from the Swiss, according to this article:
Slow food Switzerland puts out good newsletters to give you hints on especially interesting or noteworthy local food:

Louise said...

The closest thing I've come across is, which will produce recipes consisting of the things in your virtual pantry. It's clever, but I found it was too much work to keep updating my pantry with what was new/gone, and most of the time the only thing I had all the ingredients for was mac&cheese...

Let me know when you've invented the ultimate recipe generating tool, and I'll sign right up! It sounds great!

Bob said...

Yep, it's been done.

My 60-something mother simply goes into Google and types in the search fields:

recipe [ingredient a] [ingredient b]

Something suitable will usually come up.

[I only read Sabayon's entry after I wrote this]

Lorry said...

I use recipekey, although it doesn't tell me what's local or in season, which would be AWESOME. I don't think keeping my pantry up-to-date is that hard, but maybe that's because my pantry is so small. ;) I just ask for recipes and then when I see ingredients and think "wait, I don't actually have that anymore" I uncheck the box and search again (or check boxes for what I do have). I like this because I get to use what I have before it goes bad.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Sabayon!!!

Ah, that's cool! I should have guessed that the Swiss came up with this idea -- they're very big on healthy agriculture close to home. And I guess a Switzerland-specific slow-food newsletter might work.

Hey Louise!!!

Yeah, that definitely sounds like too much work to tell it exactly what you've got in your pantry. I want something that requires less effort on my part than a google search, not more.

Hey Bob!!!

Yeah, I know I can just google for recipes, but I want it to surprise me with something interesting on a daily basis (in a cute, convenient window on my homepage!) without my even having to think about it. I know I'm being picky, but I'm one of those spoiled Internet addicts. ;^)

Hey Lorry!!!

Sounds interesting, but I actually kind of want shopping ideas too. I don't really cook, so I don't have many raw materials already in my fridge/pantry, and I don't have a good idea of what I might want to buy in order to make something interesting...

Aerin said...

It's a great idea. I'm not sure it already exists.

I read Barbara Kingslover's _Animal, Vegetable, Miracle_ last year, and she gives some ideas for food groups and receipes - BUT that's locally in Kentucky.

My guess is that the foods in season in Kentucky are probably different than in Switzerland. But you never know....

Melisma said...

My local farm has a website and sends email updates listing what is in season or available from the greenhouse. For example, strawberries should have been available starting Monday, but the temperature has been cool for the last couple of weeks, so fresh, local strawberries will have to wait another week. The flavor of fresh local strawberries leans more toward tart and juicy, which I prefer to the plastic dry steroid berries from California.

The website also contains a recipe or two highlighting seasonal ingredients.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Aerin and Melisma!!!

Those sound great!!! It looks like -- even though there isn't one global widget providing local information to everyone -- there are quite a lot of very good local websites. So you just have to find the right one for your own area. :D