Frequently Asked Questions
[Last updated: 10/23/13]
- I have a recipe question. And I have an answer for you, or at least, I hope I do. I get a lot of recipe questions via email and although I try to respond to them, between you and me, it’s much better for everyone involved if you leave your question in the comment section of that recipe. I always read new comments, no matter how old the post is and will respond to a published comment much faster than an email. Plus, anyone else with your question — and there is another person with it, always — can save themselves the trouble.
- … But do you read comments on really old posts? Absolutely. I check comments from the site’s internal admin panel, which shows them in the order they arrived, regardless of how old the entry is, so even if you comment today on the oldest entry on the site, I will see it when I check in next.
- I contacted you through Twitter/Flickr/Facebook/LinkedIn and you didn’t respond. To be completely honest, it is impossible for me to manage multiple inboxes at once, so I focus my energies on one. If you email me through the main address for this site [the smitten at gmail dot com], I will respond as soon as possible. That said, my inbox can get really backlogged when life gets busy, and it can be hard to catch back up. If you emailed me a question about something (as in, about a recipe or cooking or life, and not about whether I want to increase my CPMs or some other nonsense) and I didn’t get back to you, would you do me the favor of resending it so that it returns to the top of my inbox?
- I work in PR/ marketing/ product services/ community outreach/ advertising for a company that makes something your readers would love, can I send you a sample? Thank you, but I don’t do product reviews on Smitten Kitchen or accept any free stuff. The reason is that I couldn’t imagine even suggesting that someone consider shelling out for something when I didn’t do the same. I buy what I like and I talk about things as they seem fit; this system works a lot better for me, and seems far more transparent to readers.
- I would like to advertise on your site. Why thank you! However, advertising on Smitten Kitchen is handled by Martha Stewart’s Circle Network. Send any ad-related inquiries to Diana Marko, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I have a question about The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook related to publicity, events, or a potential book tour stop. Thank you! This page contains all of the listings for The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Book Tours. If you have any further questions about the book’s U.S. publicity, Sara Eagle (email@example.com) knows all (and often, more than me!). Sheila Kay (SKay@randomhouse.com) is the person to speak to about the Canadian edition’s publicity and (Fiona Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org) can speak to UK/Australia publicity.
- Do you have a recipe for… ? The two easiest ways to find content on Smitten Kitchen are to use the Google search box at the top left corner of every page, just below the logo, or to use the almost excessively organized Recipe Index and browse by anything from season to course to dish to the speed or store-ability of the recipe, or even the specific fruits or vegetables it might contain. Sections for special diets, such as Vegetarian and/or Gluten-Free are included as well.
- How do I print a recipe? You can print any recipe by clicking the “Print” link at the bottom of each post. [It comes before the ad and the comments begin and it looks like this.] In many browsers you have the additional option of simply highlighting the text that you want to print, and from your Print menu, choosing “Print Selection”. This is great if you just need to grab part of the recipe, such as just the ingredient list.
- How do I email a recipe? You can email any post to yourself or someone else by clicking on the email link at the bottom of each entry, before the ad and the comments begin. It looks like this.
- Can you unsubscribe me from your newsletter? If you are subscribed to receive emailed versions of Smitten Kitchen posts, it is because you signed up for it through a link in the sidebar. To unsubscribe, simply click the “Click here to safely unsubscribe now” link at the bottom of any of the emails you receive, and you will be instantly removed from mailings.
- Who designed this site? I did before launching it in 2006, mostly because I’m unhealthily particular about the way I think everything should be. Also, CSS is fun.
- What kind of publishing software do you use? Who hosts your site? Smitten Kitchen is run on WordPress software that has been souped up with a zillion (actual number) plugins. It is privately hosted.
- Why don’t your links open in a new window? The reason is that that the W3C (the standards organization behind the web) says that you should not. In essence, it takes the browsers control out of the user’s hands — opening a window that they didn’t okay, etc. — and that’s a no-no. That said, I always open links in new tabs, by Cntrl-clicking each link as I press it. (On a Mac, use the Open Apple instead.)
- Why doesn’t your print template include photos? For a while, the print template did include the top photo from each entry but I received many complaints that it was a toner drain. Then I removed the top photo and now I receive this question. In short, until we figure out a seamless way to give you a choice as to whether or not the photo is included, I am defaulting to my preference, which is to not use any more printer toner than needed. That stuff is crazy expensive!
- Your site is fraught with errors and as an editor/copy editor/grammar junkie I feel it is my obligation to send you a list of every one of them. Thank you. I appreciate it because mistakes make me cringe (er, once I see them). However, Smitten Kitchen is a one-person operation, run by a very imperfect human being spinning out thousands of words a week. With this level of output, the odds of typos are extremely high. Just shoot me an email and I’ll get it fixed, ASAP.
- I saw an ad on your site that offended me. I cannot believe you’re taking money from that terrible political candidate/evil corporation/people who kick puppies! I know that you have bills to pay but… Wait, stop. First, ugh, I am very sorry. Believe me, the last thing I want on the site is political or other offensive ads, ever, and never once have I said, “Let’s put up a really obnoxious ad because MONIES are the most important thing in the world.” My ads are served by large networks that buy in bulk; sometimes these slip through and we can’t remove them until they are brought to our attention. There are no direct transactions; the following scene has never/does not ever/would never happen:
Evil Congressional Candidate: I’d like to buy an ad on your site.
Deb: You have very divisive views and I disagree with your politics, so, no.
ECC: But I will offer you a LOT of money. You will be rich!
Deb: Hokay, then! Why not?!
[Fades ominously to black.]
Finally, many ads are targeted either by region or browsing history (i.e. people who go to any political sites are likely see political ads; I, predictably, see ones for cookware) so I actually don’t see what you’re seeing. Nevertheless, shoot me an email the moment you see something you don’t like and I will immediately do everything in my power to have it taken out of the rotation.
- Who takes the photos seen on Smitten Kitchen? Deb Perelman. I have seen my husband, Alex, cited as the site’s photographer so many times in articles that I wanted to correct that here, and clearly. I think the confusion arises because in the early days of this site (pre-June 2008), I’d work on the site in the evenings, after work, and Alex, being the awesome husband that he is, would help. The photos he’s taken are clearly marked, but very, very few. (Although, of course, they are excellent.) Mostly, he’s acted as an occasional photo assistant, pouring batter into pans for “action” shots and/or a model, as he is about to bring food out to guests
- What kind of camera do you use? What lenses? Check out Our Approach to Food Photos. The equipment information is out-of-date, but my belief that the kind of camera you (or I) use does not matter remains current.
- Can I run one of your photos on my site? All photos on Smitten Kitchen are copyrighted, which means that they should not be reused without my explicit permission. However, if you’re excited about a recipe and want to tell people about it via your site, well, thank you, I appreciate it, and you may. Make sure you’re only using one photo at a time (i.e. rather than pulling every photo from a post) and clearly link that photo back to smittenkitchen.com, or even better, the permanent link to that recipe (linked from the title, first photo, or word “Link” at the bottom of each post; these deep links will be more useful to your readers). If you’d like use of the photo to illustrate anything besides your enthusiasm for the recipe (i.e. for your business, advertising, decoration, postcards, books, a different recipe on your food website, etc.) you must first purchase the photo. The next two links will describe how to do this.
- I want to buy a print. We’ve set up a small, and (we hope) very reasonably priced print shop through SmugMug. If you’d like to buy a print you don’t see there, please email me and we’ll be happy to upload it for you.
- I want to buy a full-size download of one of your photos. A limited selection of my photos are available through Getty Images. If you don’t see what you’d like there, email me with a link the photo you’d like and we’ll find a reasonable price. The transaction will then be run through our SmugMug shop.
- Why didn't this recipe work for me? Can I say this? Promise not to take it the wrong way? I have no idea. The very difficult thing is, I am not in the kitchen with you. I don't know if your ingredients were fresh, measured correctly, if your oven is properly calibrated, if you forgot to set the timer, if you swapped an ingredient for another one that probably caused the dish's demise, if your ingredients were at room temperature, if the bowl where you whipped the egg whites was clean and dry, or if the cooking faeries were just not in the kitchen with you that day. And that list of possible things that can go wrong is just the tip of the iceberg. Here's what I can tell you: First, consider all of the variables listed above, and understand that even one of them can change the outcome of a recipe. Second, do understand that if I say a recipe worked in my kitchen -- and unless you see said recipe filed under "Disasters", that is what I am saying when I suggest you try something out -- it means that I feel confident that if you make it as written, it will work for you too. From this side of your computer, it's really the best I can offer you. Hm, did that sound frustrated? It's true, it drives me bonkers when a recipe I consider worth laminating and framing flops in someone else's kitchen and I only wish I could get to the bottom of it every time. I am working on that skill. I will patent it when it's ready.
- I only have extra-large eggs/How many ounces in a pound?/What gas mark is 350°F? etc. I've created a Cooking Conversions & Equivalents page that is replete with an measurement/weight converter and a list of common ingredient substitutions.
- Why aren't your recipes in weights/Metrics? While most of the newer recipes on the site include weights and Metrics along with cups-and-spoons measurements, most of the archives do not. They will be, in time. If there is a recipe you'd like to see done sooner (i.e. bumped up in the queue or now-now-now!), leave a comment on the post. I usually fix it within minutes of seeing the comment.
- How do you measure your flour? I'm a spoon then sweep kinda gal (meaning that I gently spoon my flour into the measuring cup until it heaps over the top and then use a knife or spatula to sweep it flat). My cups generally weigh in between 4 1/4 and 4 1/2 ounces. Do you find this question utterly exacting and of dubious urgency? It is understandable, especially as there is no "wrong" way to do so. However, the method used (packing flour into cups versus scooping the cup into flour versus spooning flour into the cup, etc.) can yield cups of flour with widely differing weights, anywhere from 4 to 6 ounces! Thus it can be helpful to know the way a cookbook author/food writer/blogger did as they created their recipe. Did this stress you out because you're not sure how every other cookbook author/food writer/blogger creates their recipes? Fret not. Most people are either scoop-and-sweepers or fluff-scoop-and-sweepers, which only produce only slightly varying weights. And unless you're getting into large flour quantities (5 cups, 10 cups, etc.) it's rare that a slight differential will make a dramatic difference. Happy sweeping!
- Can I substitute ___ for ___ in this recipe? As much as I wish I were able to, it's just not conceivable for me to rework every recipe to fit every diet limitation. If I have a hunch that it won't cause any disasters, I will say so but the disclaimer is always that if I haven't tested in it my kitchen, I can't really vouch for the results. That said, if you find a substitution or adaptation of a recipe that works well please share it with us in the comments -- I bet other commenters will appreciate it as much as I do.
- Can you suggest a wine or beer pairing for your recipes? Eh. I love wine and beer with my meals but I'm never going to be the type who tells you that you can't drink a Chinon with a salad course. I think everyone should drink what they like. Uninspired by what you're drinking? Go to a wine tasting and find some new favorites.
- How come you don't have ___ recipes? Although with an ever-growing Recipe Index it can begin to look this way, the fact is that the Smitten Kitchen will never been an exhaustive recipe site. More accurately, it could be titled "things we've cooked that we wanted to tell you about." Have a recipe you think we'd be all over? By all means, send it to me. I am always in search of new ideas.
- Why don't you include nutritional information or calorie counts in your recipes? While this is not a feature I'm interested in adding to the site, I frequently use this recipe analysis tool from About.com to check information. It's far more useful than any list I could add at the end of a recipe because it allows you to cut and paste whole recipes, removing or adding any ingredients you'd like and adjusting serving sizes to what you'll eat or make.
- How do you keep track of recipes? I use Google Documents. I have a couple documents full of categories of web links (i.e. "check out Heidi's cauliflower popcorn"), written references to cookbook pages (i.e. "Reichl's raspberry tart from Tender at the Bone") and notes for myself about things I want to try (i.e. "Cinco de Mayo dinner party ideas"). It's not the most straightforward system but it works for me, largely because Google Docs are awesome and can be accessed from any computer or my iPhone (so useful when you're at the grocery store). I also share my cooking ideas document with my other half, so he can help me answer the "what should we have for dinner" question, even when he's at work.
- Can I write about one of your recipes on my site? But of course, and I appreciate it. All I ask is that you identify smittenkitchen.com as the place you found the recipe (read on for why), you only share a recipe you've actually tried, you use your own photos and put the recipe in your own words -- both a copyright requirement (read on for why) and something I am sure your readers will appreciate.
- How do recipe copyrights work? Welcome to the most frequently asked of all the frequently asked questions in the history of food writing, or, in short, great question! Here's the official word from the U.S. Copyright Office: "A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection." Got that? Ingredient lists? Not copyrighted. Directions and added instructions? Copyrighted. Reprinting a recipe word for word? A copyright violation. That's about as clear as it gets. More questions? Keep reading...
- Do I still have to list smittenkitchen.com as the source of the recipe if you yourself adapted it from another source? Yes, you should, something along the lines of "Recipe from smittenkitchen.com where it was adapted it from [The Name of the Cookbook, Magazine or Publication]. Why? Because I generally change almost everything about a recipe before I share it with you, and to only source my source, i.e. The Name of the Cookbook, Magazine or Publication, might end up looking nothing like what you're adapting it from and everything like a Smitten Kitchen post. Plus, awkward, as if you cut and paste fully, you'll might find notes near the baking time of an SK recipe about how "some little Jacob guy pulled down a stack of books and when I was cleaning them up, I forgot to check the time the cupcakes were finished" which would be especially strange coming from [The Name of the Cookbook, Magazine or Publication], yes?
- Do I need permission to adapt a recipe from another source? No, you do not. But it is in good form to acknowledge the source.
- What if I want to run an existing recipe on my own blog? You are welcome to run the ingredient list as-is, but you should put the directions in your own language and add your own tips. By doing this, you are creating a new piece of work, not just creating an infringed copy of what is already out there. [See above: Can I write about one of your recipes on my site?]
- "Deb, you use the phrase 'Adapted from' in many of your recipe sources. What does this mean?" In most cases, what it means is that I am being gracious. In the vast majority of recipes (the exceptions being where I've used the phrase "Adapted, barely" and very early recipes on the site, where I was less versed in copyright etiquette and am slowly getting things into proper form), I've changed many, many things -- ingredient levels, some mixing instructions, cooking temperatures and times, added several notes and extra tips -- enough that the recipe is legitimately "new". But, out of respect for the place where I started my hunt for the dish, and out of a stubborn belief that it's in bad form to pretend you were the first one to ever rub butter into flour, I like to give shout-outs to places that got me started on the path to what I wanted to achieve in the kitchen.
- What happened to the Baby Food site? For about half a year, there was a sporadically updated Baby Food sub-blog in the smittenkitchen.com universe. It's archives are still up and feel free to use them if you're looking for a place to get started. However, the "baby" in question is now three, and kicked the baby food habit shortly after he started it, so we got into solids quickly and I stopped having new recipes for the section. While I still make applesauce all of the time (he's a junkie), the swift move away from baby food was a bit of a philosophical matter, too. My goal is for all of us to eat the same meal and while I don't at all mind his influence (for example, we eat a lot more sweet potatoes, broccoli and other preschooler-approved vegetables than we did before and I use a lighter hand with the hot sauce), he eats what we eat. And that you can find right on the front page.
- Your kid must be such an amazing eater... You're hilarious! While I haven't even the slimmest desire to use the site to taunt my kid for having fairly-normal-for-a-preschooler food preferences (plain buttered noodles three meals a day, please), I also don't want to give out that impression that just because I cook for a living that I have some sainted preschooler who has never lost it over a fleck of parsley too many on his carrots. Be assured, he is normal, which is to say perfectly imperfect, and we'd have him no other way.
- I am creating my wedding registry/setting up my first kitchen, what do you think I need? Updated 12/09: I finally created a guide to the most practical, beloved items in my kitchen, just for people like you. [Build Your Own Smitten Kitchen]
- Where'd you get those spice containers? Everything you'd ever want to know about the new and old ones, right here.
- How do you keep your stove so clean? The first thing I need to tell you is that the idea of anyone, anywhere mistaking me for a neat/clean freak is hilarious. I have my moments of obsessiveness (cough), but for the most part, storm out of the kitchen when I'm done cooking and cross my fingers that this will be the day that it up and cleans itself. Eventually, someone caves. And while I am all for using the lowest level of chemical interference needed in your cleaning, I am also for getting the job done. If you've got this kind of dinky white stove and it never gets clean, I recommend the single tiniest drop of Soft Scrub With Bleach on a wet sponge; it alone will clean the entire stove. It is a game-changer. It may even accidentally convince people you're not a slob, and what's the harm in that?
- What kind of counters do you have? Like the above, this is a question that makes me laugh every time I receive it because I need to tell you: they're plastic. We live in a rental building, and they're just about the cheapest counter the landlords could put down. They're, in fact, so ugly in person that I almost didn't take the apartment because of them. It's bad enough to have them on the counters, but up the walls too? My eyes! But then I discovered that they didn't photograph so terribly (this was the first recipe photographed in the then-new kitchen) and decided to grin and bear it. And you would not believe how often someone who has asked me who my "counter guy" is. (I take it they don't mean this guy.) Nevertheless, I did some research and found the source of this lovely countertop, baby-plus-Crisco-can not included in purchase.
- I want to start my own blog, how do I do it? There are dozens of different free blog platforms out there these days, however I have personally been most impressed with WordPress, as it seems to make it easiest to get started. Your blog will be up in seconds.
- How do I build an audience? If you enjoy what you're doing, are excited about sharing your knowledge with others and can convey that to readers, an audience will without doubt follow.
- Deb, that answer was a cop-out. I realize it sounds rather twee -- "do what you love, and lovely things will follow!" -- but the further along I get in this whole blogging thing (I've been at this a decade; related: I am old) the more true it feels true to me. If your site doesn't reflect you -- your viewpoint, your interests, your preferences -- but instead reflects someone else's idea of what a blog should be, you're never going to enjoy it, it will always be a chore (and don't you have enough of those?), and your readers will figure this out. Don't be afraid to challenge the norms; maybe you've got this radical idea for a food blog without photos; maybe you find recipe headnotes tiresome; maybe you don't want to write about your grandmother's cooking -- you can do this. You should do this. I would read it.
- So, will you link me? Can we exchange links? My Good Reads list is published directly from my RSS reader. My hope is that generating the page this way will mean that it is always an accurate reflection of what I am reading these days, sharing sites you might enjoy as well. So, link exchanges are out of the question (and you shouldn't do them either, frankly), however if you have a new or even established site that you want to bring to my attention, by all means, please share it with me. I love finding new, excellent sites to read.
Further unsolicited advice: Wait until you have more than a few posts up to pass the link to your site around. When I click over to a site and there's only one or two entries (and one is a "Welcome! Soon I will be writing more here.") I learn nothing about the site. It's far more fun to have a month or three of posts to dig into, because when you're into a new site, you want to keep reading. The other advantage to this is that it gives you time to get your blogging sea legs, to get real comfortable with the format before inviting the world's gaze.
- Can you tell me more about The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook? Thank you! I've put everything I could possibly imagine you needing to know about the book over here. Whee.
- Are you writing another book? No, I am not, I'm honestly not even considering it. I know that a lot of authors finish one book project and jump right into the next one, and I think that's wonderful for other people, but it doesn't work for me. I need more space between projects, and that last one, it was a beast, in part because it took me so long to write and in part because people like you received it so enthusiastically, I've spent the last year visiting 32 cities (and the UK!) and having a blast but I'm also a little exhausted. What I'd really like to do right now is go back to just (psst: It was never "just" for me) being a blogger. I want to be here, doing this because it still the most fun part of what I do. If I were to do anything else right now, it would probably involve a little freelancing (but not so much that I'd have to be away from here).
- Is this site called Smitten Kitten? No. Smitten Kitten is a store in Minneapolis that sells a different kind of ... treats. Please don't Google if you are at work. I was informed by no fewer than two lovely people that I'd met on book tour that they'd made a "clerical error" when telling their bible study group about this cooking site that led to arched eyebrows and awkward conversations. I want to spare everyone this.
- Are you a vegetarian? I thought you were and then you posted a short ribs recipe and I was confused. No, not a vegetarian. Not in the least. However, I was a vegetarian for about 15 years (a very opinionated 13 year-old, you see), coming back into the carnivorous fold in 2004. That said, all of that time definitely changed my orientation towards eating; I generally consider meat a side dish and the number of vegetarian recipes on this site greatly outmatch those for meat-eaters.
- Do you still have that tiny kitchen? Yes, I do, we haven't moved and I don't particularly want to. I mean, I'm not overly attached to the apartment we live in now (it's a 1.5 bedroom rental, it was never intended as our forever home) but I like so much about it, a central location, decent light, an absolutely reasonable (uh, for NYC) rent and a kitchen that works for me, that I see little reason to uproot ourselves just to have a slightly larger place and pay so, so much more. Would I one day like to buy a place and gut renovate a kitchen to make it just perfect for me, me, me? I mean, who wouldn't, right? But, as long as it was in NYC, I don't think it would ever be "big" and I just don't think you live here if, above all, you value space. What I'd rather have is a kitchen with a window and a view.
- You bake so many cakes and cookies. Do you weigh 300 pounds? Nope, though I don't think anyone is going to mistake me for malnourished in this lifetime! Something that is less clear on the site is the distinction that we make between rich and healthier foods. Healthier foods are what we eat on a daily basis at home. The desserts and rich braised short ribs and macaronis with cheese are almost always reserved for dinner parties or parties where desserts have been requested. I'm not saying that this is what others should do but this system, for the most part, works for us. Biggest disasters? Last minute party cancellations leaving us home with a pan of chocolate brownies. That we try to hide in the freezer. Only to learn that brownies taste better frozen. Sigh.
- Do you have a favorite food? Artichokes. Pommes frites. Bourbon. (Yes, bourbon counts as food in the Smitten Kitchen.)
- Where else do you write? As a freelancer in a recession, I write for whomever wants to pay me -- ha. But really, I have written for a slew of publications and a simple Google-ing of "Deb/orah Perelman" will no likely yield a few clips, most of them incredibly boring. The food-related clips are sometimes noted in these entries.
- I am coming to NYC -- where should I eat? In May 2011, I began sharing a sporadically updated list of foods I'd recently become obsessed with in New York City. See: Deb's New York.
- Can you give me restaurant recommendations for Rome or Paris? I know you love both cities! There are lots of Rome details and tips over here, and Paris ones here. The Paris ones are several years old and any recommendations should be taken with a grain of fleur de sel.
- Finally, do you have a nagging question? I promise, I don't bite and I will almost always answer, either in the comment sections of posts or over email. Good cooking questions keep me on my toes. Plus, I rather enjoy talking about things beyond cooking, too, and have found that sometimes the most random questions begin the most interesting conversations.