July 7th, 2009


We can put a man on the moon but we can't build a fridge that prints out recipes?

I was going through some recipes Amma printed out for me, and it struck me that the original promise of the internet has not been realized. A while back I joked that the internet is really catching on; it helps you keep your recipes organized. The joke being: back in the early days of computing, nobody could think of *any* good uses for home PCs, so they had to fall back to lame grasping at straws like recipe organization.

But, now that I've actually tried to use computerized web technology to deal with recipes, I see that we are living in the Stone Age.

My family loves to talk about food. We email recipes back and forth, ask questions about spices, ponder why you can't get vada pav in SF, etc. So, here is my vision. We should have a Pai family food blog, that lets any of us automatically post to by cc'ing an email address (food@pai.com or whatever). Then whenever we got these email threads going, the discussion would automatically get archived.

FURTHERMORE, this food blog should serve as an online repository of all our recipes. It would have to be extremely searchable and continually indexed. (Some data sanitization, tagging & such, might be needed, but no more than putting together a set of printed recipes... probably less.) So anytime we wanted to find a recipe we could just look it up.

FURTHERMORE, (and this is where it gets Jetsons-esque) every kitchen fridge should be a lightweight internet client. It should have a screen that can be used to navigate ones family food blog, and it should be able to print out recipes. AND it should have a built in camera so when you make something you can instantly take a picture of it and include it with the recipe file.

Sounds reasonable doesn't it? In reality, it's surprisingly non-trivial to set up the autopost via email thing I mention above. I spent a lot of time messing with bloggering softwares and email servers and got no farther than registering paifood.com. All the solutions people proposed sounded complicated, boring and like a 2nd job. I even asked metafilter, but metafilter just collectively shrugged.

Will the vision I've described come to life in my daughter's lifetime? Or her daughter's, daughter's lifetime? If not, what is all this technology worth?

WAR, what is it good for?



Making this at the moment.

Smells good.

I like how all the spices are seed pods.

As usual, cooking makes me realize how little I know about anything.
  • What is fenugreek?

  • Is it related to fennel?

  • What's a pressure cooker?

  • How do you spell dal?

Red Lentil Dhal
Submitted by Isa
prep time: 15 minutes | cooking time: 50 minutes | makes 6-8 servings

Toasting and grinding your seeds is so worth the effort, and doesn't take long at all. Serve this dhal as a main dish with rice or as a side dish. It is aromatic, rich and delicious.

Coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, saute pan, large, soup pot

3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried red lentils
2 tablespoon tomato paste
4-5 cups water or veg broth
5 plum tomatoes, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 cup lightly packed chopped fresh cilantro

Spice blend
2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 whole cloves
4 cardomom pods

2 dried red chilis (seeds removed)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a saute pan over medium heat, toast the seeds (but not the dried red chili) for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from pan and let cool. Transfer to coffee grinder, aling with the dried red chili and cinnamon, and grind to a fine powder.

Over medium-high heat oil a soup pot, add onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and saute 5 more minutes. Add spices and salt, saute 5 minutes more.

Add 4 cups of water and stir to deglaze the pot. Add tomato paste and lentils. Bring to a boil then lower the heat a bit and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, lime juice and cilantro and more water if it looks too thick. Simmer 10 more minutes, or until lentils are completely tender.