There is a shocking amount of fighting in Facebook recipe groups

As a true older millennial, I couldn’t extricate myself from the hellscape of Facebook. The reason for my delayed exodus is that I am deeply curious and nowhere else on the internet do I have more opportunities for me to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations and conflicts.

The odd selection of Facebook groups I’ve joined really cover the gamut of content, from memes to hair care techniques, but most of them revolve around recipes. I am deeply fascinated by how other people cook and eat, especially those from cultures not my own, and I love trying new techniques. Without Facebook recipe groups, I might never have learned that you could freeze cabbage leaves instead of painstakingly cooking them for stuffed cabbage, or the logic behind rinsing rice to remove excess starch. But above all, I would have missed a hell of a lot of drama.

Amidst the tips and tricks and weeknight dinner ideas, there’s a somewhat shocking amount of struggle in the average Facebook recipe group. Most of these groups are heavily moderated and operate under a set of rules, breaking which will get you kicked out. In general, these rules are pretty obvious – you can’t sell anything to other group members, you have to keep threads on the topic, and give credit where it’s due. However, most also have policies governing how group members should post and interact within the group. “Rude comments will not be tolerated. We’re not going to ask people to be nice,” read the guidelines for a recipe group for busy moms. “If you are caught being rude, you will be banned without warning. This is not a daycare center, be kind and considerate or get banned.”

These rules are there for a reason—the comments below each recipe post can get dramatic right away. However, the nature of the power struggles largely depends on the nature of the group. When a group is committed to sharing vegan recipes or keto hacks, it’s inevitable that there will be arguments about whether the recipe actually follows the rules of these highly specialized diets. If the group’s focus is on healthy eating, be damned if you suggest using any sort of processed ingredients, like low-fat mushroom soup or sugar-free Jell-O, that couldn’t possibly fit a particularly crispy cook’s definition of “healthy.”

Most of these arguments are incredibly petty, but it’s also true that many posts in online recipe groups are objectively bad — they’re clueless or perhaps accompanied by horrific photos of genuinely unsavory food. In the Instant Pot Community, a group run by the company that makes the cult pressure cooker, someone seemingly asks once a month if they can cook a piece of beef like prime rib or filet mignon in their Instant Pot; Those requests are immediately answered by hundreds of horrified commenters who yell, “Don’t do it!” Other struggles range from debates over whether or not the amount of sodium in Better Than Bouillon is “worth it” to frustration with new members who don’t search the group for topics that have been discussed literally thousands of times, such as B. The right way to boil an egg.

My theory as to why these conversations so often devolve into ad hominem attacks and petty arguments is that there are few things people care about more than food. But while I can totally understand why a person might be a little appalled that someone would cook prime steak in their Instant Pot or add sugar to their cornbread, I can’t see myself starting a digital brawl over it.

Sometimes, however, the issues dividing recipe group members are far more serious, ranging from race to class to fat phobia. After the 2020 killing of George Floyd, a Trader Joe’s recipe group I was in was completely shattered in just a few threads of comments after someone posted a link to a petition asking the grocery chain to ban “racist branding”. of their product lines to be removed. The fight got ugly, racial slurs were hurled, and part of the group (myself included) branched out to start their own anti-racist offshoot of a group that was once solely focused on finding the best frozen appetizers that made you eat something could buy TJs.

About a week ago, while browsing a group for easy air fryer recipes, a recipe for a seafood boil with kovbasa, a type of Ukrainian sausage, crossed my timeline. As I clicked through to the comments, I noticed that there was controversy over whether there was actually such a thing as Ukrainian sausage, or if the poster was just sharing this recipe to stoke some political drama. “I’ll ask my Lithuanian neighbors where to get ‘Ukrainian’ sausage,” wrote one commenter. “I think it’s one of those politically correct statements. If this group goes there – politics – then I’m OUT!”

The conversation grew from there, with the moderators deleting several offensive comments. Some members shared their support for Ukraine amid the Russian invasion, while others insisted that calling the sausage Ukrainian was a virtuous co-optation of Polish culture. Even after years of seeing people arguing about whether powdered chicken broth is a reasonable substitute for chicken broth, I was stunned at the idea that something as simple as a recipe could become a weapon in a political incendiary war. The very last comment I saw that somehow didn’t get deleted called for the assassination of a world leader.

You could say that all of these bickerings are a product of our politically divisive, social media-obsessed era. Or maybe it’s just that we all have really strong ideas about food, deeply rooted in our own experiences and cultures, and believe that anyone else who might have a different opinion is just plain wrong. More likely, however, is that whenever a group of people get together to talk about anything, there is always drama.

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