What's For Dinner? is a community forum published every Saturday at 4:30pmPST. Conversation is about food, recipes, cooking, and eating, and is informal, anecdotal, and friendly; all are welcome. Pour a libation and join us around the table.If I wanted to use $5 words, I'd call this a prolegomena to the historiography of a partisanal omniphagorists' virtual sodality. But maybe it's better to call it "Hey! Look @ WFD did!" - it is the weekend, after all.
Tonight's offering was suggested by a comment by tapestry about past WFD diaries. I began to wonder about these: what had been written about, what appeared more-or-less popular (based on comments/recs), et cetera. So, after a little searching, and a lot of patience, please enjoy What's For Dinner: What's For Dinner. Or, after revisiting (nearly) all past What's For Dinner essays, maybe call it What's For Dinner: GROUNDHOG DAY.
I said "nearly" all WFD diaries because there seem to be a few from way back that fell through the cracks when using the DK search bot. I think I captured most; maybe 10-20 from 2006-2008 didn't get vacuumed up. But the data are representative overall.
A brief history: "WFD Episode 1.1" premiered August 5, 2006 as an occasional series driven by DK users tvb, kate petersen, and cookiebear, and has since grown into the community you're mixing with right now.The method for this study is pretty straightforward. I used the DK search tool to bring up the list of WFD diaries, which came with author, date published, # comments, # recommendations, # hotlisted, # views. This resulted in a population of 289 diaries, from Aug. 2006 - Jan. 2014. This information was pasted into an Excel spreadsheet (289 rows). I added 3 columns to the spreadsheet: Category, Theme, and Focus. Here's where things got tricky... Judgment is subjective. Sorting people's creative work into subjectively-defined groups can be difficult; however, it was clear that there were repeated themes people explored. So I devised the Category (Big Group), Theme (Medium Group), Focus (Smallest Group) hierarchy to enable sorting and analysis.
Category included Cooking, Ingredient, Dish, Celebration. Cooking included diaries about technique and process. Ingredient diaries highlighted a particular foodstuff. Dish diaries focused on a particular concoction and/or variations. Celebration diaries included those about holidays, ethnic foods, seasons of the year, writing, the WFD community itself, and diaries that seemed to lack an overarching theme.
Theme is a subset of diaries within each Category. These included topics about a food group, particular holiday or culture. Examples include diaries about mammals, poultry, seafood, bread-grain-pasta, fruit-veg-nut, dairy, holiday, season, culture, technique, light, sweets, and writing.
Focus is a subset of diaries within each Theme. Examples of pigeonholes for topics within the Focus grouping included soups-stew-casserole, vegetarian, pie, cake, Jewish, WFD, barbecue, herbs-and-spices, beef, canning, party, salad, reminiscence, the Internet, and "Challenges." Challenges include diaries about kitchen disasters, making do with/without something, etc.
Coding was sometimes a challenge. For example, WFD 5.21, Wiligia, from December 2010, was a reminiscence about family celebrating Polish-American Christmas. That could have been classed as Celebration-Culture-Poland, Celebration-Writing-Reminiscence, Celebration-Holiday-Christmas. For this, I chose the latter, based on the overarching theme of Christmas especially, rather than Polish-American food in general.
I realize there might be some (a lot!) of disagreement about how to classify a particular diary. There was a fair amount of subjective judgment in the coding, but I tried to glean the primary focus. That's why, if anyone is interested, I can post the spreadsheet info and you can re-code/sort as you please.Once everything was coded, the data juggling began. It was fairly rudimentary; I used Excel's "Sort" function and counted up various groups, then made charts with some of the numbers. I was interested to see what the diaries could say about WFD over time. The results presented here are limited to speaking to diary topics and the relative attention given them. Results are NOT about foods/dishes/topics people discussed in comments in each diary. If someone wants to take a crack at exploring comments, have at it. Elfling could probably write a code that would analyze that subject in a few minutes, but it's more than I want to do.
Now - to the results!
This is the distribution of diary categories since the beginning (pie chart - of course):
BEEF 9, GARLIC 3, HERBS & SPICES 10, LOBSTERS 2, MEATLOAF 2, PASTA 8, PIE 6, SALAD 7, SQUIRREL 1, THANKSGIVING 8, KITCHEN TOOLS 6, and WINE 1.Only 1 diary about cooking squirrels. Hm.
WFD topics are predominantly mainstream USA, but some of the more interesting (to me) diaries feature cultural / ethnic cuisine topics. Here are the numbers (slightly skewed as a few were grouped in "holiday" theme; this is the "culture" theme breakdown).
Of course, some of the above should be considered with caution. Very often comments in WFD diaries go off in directions far afield of the diarist's topic. Another analysis might factor the number of diarists per year; et cetera, et cetera. Please take the data and relive each WFD diary and create your own analyses. Have fun! Just don't let Ned Ryerson sell you products based on his actuarial tables.
That's all ok, this isn't science; it's What's For Dinner. This exercise was largely for my own amusement, and I hope it is of some interest. At least I got to make some pretty pies.