Repairing the Epi Archives, Part One: Our First Steps

David Tamarkin

Earlier this summer, rocked by changes at the top of our masthead, Epicurious made some promises to our readers. They were promises of change: change to the recipes we publish, the stories we tell, and the people we hire.

We’re applying these changes to current and forthcoming content; the slate of recipes and stories that will appear on the site in the foreseeable future is inclusive in a way that is long overdue. But new content is just a small fraction of what Epicurious readers encounter. Unlike many other editorial sites, the bulk of our traffic goes to our archive: recipes (and to a lesser extent articles) that have been published as recently as three days ago and as far as twenty-five years back.

So as we begin the work of repairing Epicurious holistically, we’re paying particular attention to our history.

This work is in the very early stages, but it has begun. Epicurious editors have already identified a long list of recipes and articles in our archive that are in need of repair, and started to make changes to correct the content.

What qualifies a recipe or story as needing repair? It could be one of many things. Over the years, Epicurious has published recipes that have been put through a white American lens. We have published recipes with headnotes that fail to properly credit the inspirations for the dish, or degrade the cuisine the dish belongs to. We have purported to make a recipe “better” by making it faster, or swapping in ingredients that were assumed to be more familiar to American palates, or easier to find. We have inferred (and in some cases outright labeled) ingredients and techniques to be “surprising” or “weird.” And we have published terminology that was widely accepted in food writing at the time, and that we now recognize has always been racist.

To actually repair content that contains the racist language described above, we’re making edits. For example, when we come across a recipe with a reductive, racist title (i.e. Asian Noodle Salad), we’re looking closely at the recipe and its headnote and adding more specific and accurate language. That title may simply reflect the recipe’s ingredients (Cold Rice Noodle Salad), or, if we see that the recipe is actually a well-established dish, we will assign it its proper name. (Whenever possible, we are in communication with the recipe developer about their inspirations and the context for the recipe.)

Sometimes it’s obvious how we can repair a recipe or story. Other times it requires debate. Certainly there will be times when our edits do not go far enough; some of our repairs will need repairs.

Transparency is key to this process, so we will be adding notes to recipes and articles that have been edited. Most of the time you’ll find these notes in italics at the bottom of the page, but for particularly egregious articles you’ll find a note at the very top.

It’s depressing, disheartening, and discouraging—for the Epi staff, but especially for our readers—that problematic recipes and stories are so easy to find on our site. And it is frustrating—again, especially for our readers—that these repairs will take months, and maybe years, to complete. The ultimate goal is that we get to a place where we can say that the site has been repaired for good. Until that day, we’ll post regular updates such as this one.

Originally Appeared on Epicurious

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