Sweet Research and the Joy of Cooking Just Enough

Sweet Research and The Joy of Cooking Just Enough

“The calories and portion sizes of classic recipes may reflect prevailing tastes and norms. Yet, they may also establish or reinforce exaggerated norms in other settings…”

-Brian Wansink and Collin R. Payne, “The Joy of Cooking Too Much: 70 Years of Calories Increases in Classic Recipes”

In their research article originally published in Annals of Internal Medicine, Brian Wansink and Collin Payne analyze the calorie increases across 18 recipes printed in both the 1936 and 2006 editions of The Joy of Cooking. Using a variety of methods that I barely understand, Wansink and Payne tracked both ingredient changes and serving size adjustments for their analysis. These researchers did a lot of statistical analyses, made some impressive charts, and seemed very intent on telling me that “P<0.001,” though I have no idea what that means. In this highly formal and informative article, Wansink and Payne conclude that “the mean average calorie density in 18 classic recipes has increased 35.2% per serving over the past 70 years” (121). 

…So I understand that eating too many calories is bad. And my hometown actually received a shout-out on the TV series Parks and Recreation for our history with high obesity levels. But I simply could not find a way to relate to or really care about Wansink and Payne’s article the first time I read it. This response had much more to do with my utter disregard for numbers than for their abilities as researchers and writers. But still, for all their talk about recipes, Wansink and Payne did not mention a single specific food in this article. I don’t even know which “classic foods” have become unhealthier. Why should I care about anonymous recipes in The Joy of Cooking? The only cookbook I use is a recipe collection from my roommate’s grandma. And Pinterest. Continue reading