Social media and the great recipe explosion: does more mean better?

Recipes were passed through generations, now they’re shared around the world via Instagram and Pinterest in seconds – and you don’t even have to leave home for the ingredients

In the 1980s, the Egyptian food writer Claudia Roden visited Australia, touring various wineries. She noticed that many served bread and oil, plus a little bowl of an artisanal spice mix for dipping, which they called “dukkah”. “It made people thirsty so they drank more,” Roden remembers. As she dipped her bread first into oil and then into the heady mixture of crushed roasted hazelnuts, coriander seeds, cumin, sesame and salt, Roden realised that what her Australian hosts were offering her was essentially her mother’s own spice mix from Cairo in the 1940s. This taste of her childhood had travelled so far that, like Chinese whispers, it found its way back to her.

“Dukkah” is proof, if proof were needed, of the power of recipes to change the way we eat. This toasty Middle Eastern concoction is now a thing in big cities the world over – and with good reason, since it improves almost anything savoury you care to sprinkle it over. Some add dukkah to hummus, others to hard-boiled eggs. Chefs and food writers have adapted it in countless ways. Some use pumpkin seeds instead of the hazelnuts, and fennel seed in place of coriander. But what most dukkah-eaters don’t realise is we probably wouldn’t be eating it at all – outside of Egypt – had Roden not first thought to record the formula on paper in A Book of Middle Eastern Food in 1968. She took the name “dukkah” from a travel book of 1860. In every Egyptian home, blends of spices and sesame seeds called “do’a” are eaten with bread for breakfast or as a snack, but as Roden writes, “It is a very personal and individual mixture which varies from one family to another.” Before Roden, no one had ever included a recipe for dukkah in a book. Her mother’s particular version therefore became the template for all dukkahs. Roden, who is 80, sent me a Youtube video a friend of hers in LA had passed on showing someone making dukkah with baked chickpeas and peanuts (cheaper than hazelnuts). She finds it “strange and exciting”, she tells me, to see how her family recipe was adopted so enthusiastically until it became “a many splendoured thing that is not Egyptian at all”.

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from Food & drink | The Guardian

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