Thursday, October 1, 1998
In his 1997 book, Data Smog, author David Shenk tells us that the Sunday New York Times contains more information than people learned during their entire lifetime during the Renaissance era. Spend a couple of bucks to go surfing at Bytes Internet Caf and in 15 minutes you'll find more data to deposit in your data bank than you'll know what to do with in the course of many lifetimes. Check your bags at the computer station and launch yourself through the looking-glass and into cyberspace.
Tap into Infoseek, for instance, and enter 'cooking' in your search. Then stand back as 706,854 entries assemble for your perusal. Owner of Bytes Caf, Mark Fidler will tell you that short of succumbing to click exhaustion, the trick is simply to narrow your search, distilling and refining the details as you go.
Lacking a particular destination, however, you may become the object of the search. It's easy to get lost out there, just finding out stuff you may be certain you will never need to know. Start with the Fred Q. Farkle Family selection from this behemoth menu, and you'll be delivered to their home page, where images of little Billy and Sally Farkle are posted for posterity, along with Frieda Farkle's fave family recipes like peanut butter Rice Krispy bars ala mode. (Is there something vaguely disconcerting about voyeuristically viewing Frieda in her Wisconsin Dells sweat-shirt as she glops peanut butter into a bowl of breakfast cereal? Or is it just me?)
There are no road signs now for what lies ahead. Your curiosity piqued, you brace yourself for http://www.melsutherncookin and find yourself face to face with Mel's Mom and her prize-winning pancake recipe, one with no exact quantities except for one egg and lots of conjecture. Nonetheless, Mel promises that her mom's pancakes are so good you'll want to slap 'yer granny! And if you encounter any problems, "Well, just practice," read the directions. "You'll get it eventually," she assures.
Forsake the objections of your conscience, next you are taken hostage by the glittering promises of the Original Weenie Roasting Company, manufacturers of both Original and Mini Weenie Roasters. Action-gifs featuring five-pronged weenie wands hover over glowing coals as your hand is subliminally invoked away from your clicker in a clutching motion, blindly groping for a credit card. Your left hand seizes the mouse in a Dr. Strangelove grip and your bank account is fatter by $29.95.
Eyes glazed over and fingers numbed, you find momentary refuge at the Edibilia website, where there are recipes from all over the world and articles on subjects like home-dairying, micro-brewing and wine tasting, all neatly chronicled in an easily navigated e-zine format. Losing control, you click the little blue hand on the Lunacy button, and important culinary developments explode on the screen. "Fun with Grapes: A Case Study," lays out a careful procedure for blowing up grapes in the microwave, at home in your own kitchen laboratory. (After 40 seconds on the high setting, the observed results produced "extremely satisfying flare and associated sparks," it was noted.)
More ground-breaking experiments involving flame-throwing Pop-Tarts appear, followed by detailed methods for "How To Use A Banana." Before you learn why the safe use of this product by pregnant women has not been established, your Internet provider disconnects, and you are hurtled off-line and back through the looking-glass, at once awed and spared from all that you did not know. cw