tor notes that Culinary Success! is best measured in units of husband-approval

So, cooking – it’s not really my thing.

Some people get really into cookery and use seasonal ingredients and make their own gnocchi and everything. I would like to be one of those people. But sadly, I can muster up very little enthusiasm for cooking. But I still cook a little. After all, one must eat!

Since my cookery repertoire is so meagre I often find myself browsing big recipe sites to get spinach ideas and the like.

And I read the comments.

Comments are the scourge of the non-feminist internet. The more general and mainstream the site, the more bigoted and venomous the comments, and usually I avoid reading them unless I’m feeling very masochistic.

But I always read comments on recipe sites because they are 1) informative, and 2) quite low on bigotry (I suppose it is difficult to inject a lot of racist / sexist bile when you’re commenting on something as apolitical as spinach and potato soup).

But recipe comments suffer from their own pollution.

It seems every second or third comment makes reference to the commenter’s husband. Like:

I thought this recipe was okay, but my husband thought it was way too spicy!


My husband usually hates vegetables, but he thought this was nice. Will make again!

In fact, it seems that maximum husband-approval is the greatest compliment one can pay a recipe:

Wow! 5 stars!!! My husband loved this! He went back for seconds! And thirds! Thanks so much for this!!!

It is incredibly annoying!

It makes me feel like I have teleported into 1950s suburbia (a magical 1950s suburbia, with consumer net access).

It is a reminder of how little things have changed, at least on the domestic front.

I am waiting for the day when I come across a recipe comment along the lines of:

Zomg! My wife loved this. Will make again and again! Thanks!

On that day, I will make my own gnocchi. With a sauce made from seasonal ingredients!

This post is crossposted from Tor’s blog Adrift and Awake. See the comments on the original post here.


#1 Liam on 23.09.09 at 10:40 am

I like to read those “my family loved this! they went back for seconds! and thirds!!” in the context of Aunt Thally.

“Five stars! Will poison again!”

#2 Dr Sister Outlaw on 23.09.09 at 10:59 am

tor, as a happily single woman I completely agree with you!

#3 FDB on 23.09.09 at 11:13 am

My fiancee loved this post! Thanks so much!!!

#4 Cristy on 23.09.09 at 1:18 pm

My personal bug bear is the comment: “I would go vegetarian, but my husband loves his steak and I don’t want to cook two meals every night.” Or the varation that mentions three meals “because I already have to cook something different for the children”.

If they’re not going to ear what you cook, why don’t they cook their own bloody food? (Husbands more so than children, depending on their age).

#5 Zoe on 23.09.09 at 1:27 pm

(tor, you might not know that FDB is 100% man ;)

I sometimes do make two dinners, but the kids won’t cop chillies and we love ‘em.

I think one of the interesting things about tor’s post is the range of people who read food blogs/sites and their range of expertise. At somewhere like the chowhound or egullet forums, everyone’s pretty seriously into their food to begin with, and you tend to not get these comments. Compare that to somewhere like ask metafilter you get a different crowd.

I think that there may also be something in the way women and men interact – and build community, relationships and identities online. It seems that expressions of praise are valued more in sites that attract more women. By that I mean craft-focussed sites, such as cooking/crafting ones, not ones where the conversation is overtly political to start with.

#6 Cristy on 23.09.09 at 1:51 pm

Oh I’m not dissing the chili-free etc meal for little ones! More the “eating steak every night for my man, when I’d rather be a vego.” But maybe it’s just a convenient excuse for people who experience a bit a cognative dissedence (spelling?) around meat…?

#7 Zoe on 23.09.09 at 1:55 pm

Yeah, and that genre of whingey blokedom who expect to be fed what they want but won’t make it.

On another note, it was a tweet from Claire from Melbourne Gastronome (@mutemonkey) which led me to tor’s original post at Adrift and Awake – and she just coined the term “smug housewife blog” which I really like ;)

#8 Cristy on 23.09.09 at 2:01 pm

Yeah it’s a weird genre. I can relate to many of their interests – cooking, craft, children, etc. But not the general motivation and identity thing…

#9 tor on 23.09.09 at 9:24 pm

Cristy: The women who say they can’t go vegetarian because they don’t want to cook more than one meal, it bugs me too.

I do sympathise with them a little though – I went veggo when I was about 11, and at least a couple of times a week my poor mum would end up making a meat dish for my dad and brother and a veggo one for us. Though on the other nights she would simply make a veggo dish and the boys could take it or leave it (go mum!)

#10 tor on 23.09.09 at 9:32 pm

Zoe: I think you’re right about the differences between the way men and women build communities online. I do think praise has a more prominent role in women’s communities, and I also think that women are more likely to include references to their families too, which may explain the “my husband loved it!” phenomenon somewhat.

Say, if there was a blokey site where men swapped car tips, I don’t think you’d ever see a man saying something like “Wow, my wife loved the new dash mat you recommended, thanks for the tip!”

#11 dust and dinner parties « adrift and awake on 24.09.09 at 3:58 am

[...] less dusty news, Zoe from Progressive Dinner Party has crossposted my piece on recipe site comments, and the discussion continues over [...]

#12 dylwah on 24.09.09 at 9:20 am

Tor – “I am waiting for the day when I come across a recipe comment along the lines of:
Zomg! My wife loved this. Will make again and again! Thanks!
On that day, I will make my own gnocchi. With a sauce made from seasonal ingredients!”

Does this count? – “It was quite fun seeing dads sequestering bowls of salad for their breastfeeding partners so they did not miss out.” from –

““Wow, my wife loved the new dash mat you recommended, thanks for the tip!”” this just does not happen. the most likely response is “That Dash Mat was fully sick, you should have seen the looks i got from tha chicks. I did an extra four Chap Laps on Sat nite and burned off Donnie’s Wrekka and used the demountable widgit to blow off some slags.”

one more thing i’d like to add is that for me and the het guys that i know who do cook for their partners and wives there is a hesitation about talking for them. whatever Dr Honey thinks about food and where i get the recipes she is perfectly capable of saying herself.

#13 dan on 27.09.09 at 2:22 pm

I wonder about distinctions. Is it not for the cook to contextualise the eating within the frame of their meal.
Like the car owners likely contextualising of mods, within the frame of car use? Meals are shared things, or at least there is some gesture towards inclusion. Cars sadly are seen as an individuals domain. (but the car stuff is off topic)
I kind of like the idea of domestic meals being shared (sharing often involves compromising) less me more us.

#14 pumpkin-eater on 27.09.09 at 9:25 pm

This post reminded me of this interesting blog on language and parenting that appeared in the NYT earlier in the year.

I tend to avoid sites where husband-approval units are used, it’s not just men that find it alienating.

#15 Zoe on 28.09.09 at 1:49 pm

not just men that find it alienating


#16 dylwah on 30.09.09 at 9:59 am

“This post reminded me of this interesting blog on language and parenting that appeared in the NYT earlier in the year.”

yeah PE, i have got a lot of reactions like that a lot over the last 2 1/2 years.

#17 FDB on 30.09.09 at 3:11 pm

On the topic of spousal approval, Lady Friend was most impressed with your care package Zoe. As was I, natch. So there IS a chilli bean paste made with 100% broad beans… I knew it!

If there’s ever anything I can send your way from Melbourne, do let me know. And gimme a heads up next time you’re coming to town.

#18 Zoe on 30.09.09 at 4:44 pm

Oh, I’m so glad it arrived – sorry it took so long. Let me know how you think the chilli bean paste compares.

And I’m hoping to be in Melbourne late next march for the first Australian Food Blogger’s Conference.

#19 FDB on 01.10.09 at 9:35 am


#20 Uppercase Kate on 03.10.09 at 9:40 pm

I just went to Epicurious and was browsing and I came across this comment I thought you all may appreciate in light of this post:

“I cooked this for my girlfriend who’s vegetarian but doesn’t normally go for the portabello mushrooms. She loved it. Thought it was better than any restaurant she’s had. I’m a meat eater and the flavour was pretty damn good. I used goat cheese instead of the smoked gouda, and it really went well with the aioli. Definitely recommend it.”

#21 Introducing tor | on 02.08.12 at 9:38 pm

[...] post on the importance of husband-approval units as currency in cookery blog threads is crossposted here. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in [...]

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