“It all boils down to people needing to remember there’s a person on the other side of the screen who deserves space and support, time and rest,” Mr. Sparks said.
Lucia Lee, a middle-school teacher in Brookline, Mass., posts photos of kimchi jjigae and seared mackerel to Instagram: neatly framed, overhead shots of simple, well-lit plates. She started her account as an archive of her home cooking, and celebrates the romantic possibilities of her favorite ingredients and techniques, often with loose, narrative recipes and notes on who grew the food, or whose original recipe served as inspiration.
Ms. Lee is often under pressure, in comments and direct messages, to offer more detail and more structured recipes, and her instinct is to jump in and be helpful. But posting is a creative outlet for her. “I respond sometimes, if people are polite — a ‘please’ and a ‘thank you’ really go a long way,” Ms. Lee said. “But this isn’t my job, I can’t just pump out recipes for you.”
In many ways, “recipe?!” is a familiar online demand that has flourished on social media. Every few months, for years now, a small but vocal group on the internet agrees that the people who share recipes and the stories behind them should just get to the recipe.
They usually blame food bloggers for taking search engine optimization too far, or for plain old long-windedness and vanity. They demand that free recipes appear online without ads, introductions, process shots, context or stories. Without any trace of the people behind them. This unreasonable request has become a damaging cliché, a way of demonetizing the work and dismissing the writers — particularly women who write about cooking for their families.
An animated Maritsa Patrinos comic, published on BuzzFeed in 2018, illustrated the early mood: A cheerful young man scrolls through a post about a “delicious lasagna recipe,” and wastes away to a skeleton before he can reach it. In the years since, that comic has become darkly self-referential — it may as well be about the get-to-the-recipe conversation itself. It never ends.