Tweet and Eat: Dinner in 140 Characters

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Recipe tweets, or twecipes, are incredible feats of verbal compression.

To make the 140 character cut, the recipe has to be reduced to its essence, trimmed and edited, and then trimmed again. Every keystroke has to pull its weight; each word should vibrate with economy.

The best twecipes are models of clarity and usefulness. Take this one for mussels in a creamy fennel sauce:

brwn fennel/garlc/T buttr. Boil+c wtwine; +2lb mussel. Cvr,shake5m; rmv open to bowl(discard shut). Boil sauce+⅓c srcrm/s+p.

It relies heavily on the reader’s familiarity with ingredients and techniques (no stated prep steps for the fennel bulb or garlic, no warning about the curdling tendency of over-boiled sour cream), but directions are thorough, unfussy, and I’m betting it’s delicious.

Less successful are those that rely heavily on often cryptic abbreviations. Take the following recipe for pureed eggplant:

Brush aub w/evoo, roast 20m, 200c. Peel, msh, + halfonion/1TS ginger/chilli/halfTS cumin/lime/coriander. Season.

In this instance, it’s unclear what you even end up with— eggplant skin on and uncooked onion for a chunky side dish, or no skin and sauteed onion for a silky-smooth dip.

Some cooks, presumably those who do the NYT Sunday crossword in ink, claim to enjoy puzzling through twecipes. For the rest of us, help can be found in an online glossary of culinary twitterese, although even that didn’t help with parsing the eggplant recipe’s use of ‘evoo’ for extra virgin olive oil.

The first cookbook collection of twecipes will arrive in stores next week.

Eat Tweet comes from Maureen Evans, the cook behind the twitter recipe feed @cookbook. The hands-down queen of the genre, the surprising poetry and miniaturized elegance of Ms. Evans’ twecipes has been likened to Fabergé eggs and bonsai trees. Appropriately, she has a sideline as a poetess of haiku, also available through twitter.

Mk smthng gr8 4 dnr 2nit.

For more twecipes check out the recipe directory at twitter aggregator We Follow. It provides links to over a thousand twitterers, ranging from champion tweeter Jamie Oliver, with more than a half a million followers, to  GrandmaVera whose tagline reads: OK I think I may have this twitter stuff figured out now…

 




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2 Responses to Tweet and Eat: Dinner in 140 Characters

  1. Maureen says:

    Hi! Wow. Thanks for writing this exciting post about my wee book.

    I think you’re right: twecipes do count on readers having some sense in the kitchen. Generally, personal interpretation is what makes cooking an art, rather than sheer science. Good recipes allow for a little of both, really. : )

    As for misinterpretation, I edited carefully to ensure than no major-misguidance is offered, so with care each twecipe should turn out well… but they are as prone to flops as any recipes, if not followed carefully. On the other hand, many people say it’s easier to keep their place when following twecipes, so they do make up in navigability what they lack in hand-holding.

    I love long recipes, too, but tiny recipes give me more time to think creatively.

    P.S. I wrote the glossary you mention in this post, so it only defines terms used in my twecipes. But anyway, evoo/EVOO is what some tweeters call olive oil. I prefer the interpretability of olvoil. 🙂

  2. Lora says:

    next will there be a Twereipe Wreck site with pictures of peoples dishes (fails) who tried to decode and cook from the twecipes?

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Is it appropriate conversation for the dinner table? Then it should be fine.

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