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The Social Kitchen

During last week’s “The Social Kitchen” panel at Food 2.0, hepatitis Amanda Hesser of Food 52 said something that really stuck to me:

“Technology is knocking down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room”

Left to Right: Mike Lee (Studio Feast), drugs Amanda Hesser (Food 52), discount rx Mike LaValle (Gojee), Sarah Maine (RecipeRelay), Will Turnage (Ratio Bread App & R/GA)

I never really thought about it before, but in some ways it’s true — while the act of eating together and breaking bread has always been an inherently social activity, cooking has conventionally been more of a solitary act confined to the kitchen. If you think about it, a traditional kitchen has almost always been walled off from the dining room, and in a way, that separation also dictates our interactions in both spaces.

Whether it’s at home or at the restaurant, there has long been a schism between eating and cooking – in the case of the home it’s the divide between the kitchen and the dining room, and at the restaurant, the back of the house and the front of the house.  But with the gaining popularity of culinary curiosity, the rise of open kitchens and collaborative cooking, coupled by the social sharing abilities of food and cooking technology, the walls between the two have begun to come down.

While Ruby on Rails and Gems still completely perplex me, what draws me most to technology is not so much the 1’s and 0’s  but the ability to facilitate real life, offline behavior.  With the emergence of cooking websites, applications, and blogs, learning how to cook and sharing experiences in the kitchen has never been so easily accessible before, empowering the home cook and enabling the emergence of the social cooking and eating experience.

Just last week, I was invited over for a dinner party at my friend Josh‘s apartment along with Cathy and a bunch of their friends.  I had never cooked with either Josh or Cathy before, but just having read their blogs and literally browsing through all of their recipes, cooking together almost seemed second-nature to me.  In the four person apartment, where Josh and his brother Mike both live with two other roommates and also run their catering business Brothers Green, the kitchen is fully stocked, the island provides ample counter space for chopping and prepping, and the whole space opens up into the living / dining area.  For dinner, we were asked to either bring beverages or ingredients to cook with.  As friends trickled in and brought varying ingredients, ideas were shared, consensus was made, everyone fell into line, and somehow dinner fell into place.  Between all the dumpling wrapping, vegetable chopping, and beer sipping we all became fast, new friends.

Without any pre-planning, a bunch of home cooks managed to cook up an entire dinner on the fly, and we even created some awesome new recipes along the way, one of which I’m sharing with you below.  This all just comes to show that you don’t need extensive training or expensive tools to master the culinary domain.  The kitchen is now a welcoming place of experimentation and exploration for self taught home cooks – the new voice and authority on the internet.

Fried oyster mushrooms
Photo: Pete Lee

Beer battered Oyster Mushrooms with Pomegranate and Sake Reduction
This tasted like a new, improved vegetarian version of General Tso’s chicken.  The trick is to double-fry the mushrooms, so they stay crispy even after you drizzle a generous dose of pomegranate and sake sauce on top.

Serves: 15 people at a potluck


Big pot of oil / deep fryer-ful of oil
3 dozen oyster mushrooms
4 eggs
6 cups of panko or breadcrumbs
splash of beer

1 large bottle of Pom
1 lime
splash of sake
2 Tbsp sugar
A few tsp of potato starch with water


1. Beat the eggs, pour a splash of beer and set aside in a bowl, then pour panko out into a shallow dish
2. Dip mushrooms in the egg batter, then roll them around in the panko.  Repeat until you have all your mushrooms battered up.
3. In a deep fryer or in a big post of oil, deep fry the mushrooms until golden brown.
4. After the first fry, lay the mushrooms out on a piece of paper towel to soak up the excess oil and cool for a bit.
5. Heat up a pan and pour in a bottle of Pom, the juice of a lime, a splash of sake, sugar, potato starch, and a splash of water, stir on low heat.
6. When the mushrooms have rested a few minutes, throw them back into the pot / fryer to fry them again.
7. Stir your pomegranate sake sauce and reduce until a syrupy texture, while keeping an eye on the mushrooms
8. Plate your double-fried mushrooms, then drizzle the sauce on top and sprinkle with chopped scallions (optional)


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One Response to The Social Kitchen

  1. Darcey says:

    Hey! I was there for this also. Great panel discussion.

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