Google Recipe Search: Find Recipes You Want, Skip Ingredients You Don’t

Yesterday, Mashable announced that Google Rolled Out New Search Tool for Recipes. Now, being a devout foodie, this was exciting to me. Being someone who recently started eating a primarily vegetarian diet, this was even more exciting to me. And, being someone who geeks out about the power and potential of the semantic, data-driven web, this was even more exciting to me.

Basically, the tool lets you search within a results set limited exclusively to recipes and filter your search by ingredients you do and don’t want to include as well as the time the recipe takes to prepare and the calories it contains. And, after a few test runs, I’m happy to report that it delivers on its promise, combining a lot of search power with an extremely simple, straightforward interface. In typical Google fashion, it’s there if you want it and won’t get in your way if you don’t.

But, if you get as excited as I do about the ability to easily search for low calorie, 30 minute or less tofu recipes that let you use up the last of last week’s broccoli purchase without having to buy oyster sauce, then you definitely want to check this tool out.

(And yes, there are indeed 8 recipes that fit that description. Thanks Google!)

Save Money, Save The World

 

 

What’s smart, efficient and good for the environment? You, if you sign up for Earth Aid — a new site that helps you make and keep an ‘energy budget’. Stay on budget, and you could earn rewards from companies like Dove and Starbucks.

Go over budget and…well, you know what happens when you exceed your credit limit? Imagine that happening to the environment. Yes, the environment will feel just as crappy as you feel when you spend too much on shoes and have to live off of rice and beans for a week as a result (what, like I’m the only one?)

Anyway, by far the coolest part of today’s Mashable article about Earth Aid (at least imho) is this: “But the app doesn’t just rely on outside funding. “We’ve been making money,” said Earth Aid CEO Ben Bixby. “We’re really serious about finding a sustainable way — not just environmentally but economically, to deliver these solutions and this opportunity to people.” Bixby explained that Earth Aid gets paid when it helps people save energy. It earns a commission when users choose certain rewards products or when the company’s partners get new customers through the app.”

Yup, that’s right. This company isn’t just doing social good for the sake of social good. They’re actually establishing a viable, sustainable business model around it. It’s a win-win-win-win — Earth Aid’s customers are winning, their partner companies are winning, the company’s bottom line is winning and the environment is winning. That’s a lot of win. And, a lot of very powerful precedent for a social good company to be setting.

More power to them!

Mark Bittman’s Food Manifesto For The Future

Note: I don’t normally publish straight reprints of other people’s content, without adding some commentary of my own. But, in this case, I was so inspired by the sheer ‘rightness’ of this piece, that I felt compelled to do so. The only commentary this article requires is the republishing of it. As far as I’m concerned, the manifesto speaks for itself.

For decades, Americans believed that we had the world’s healthiest and safest diet. We worried little about this diet’s effect on the environment or on the lives of the animals (or even the workers) it relies upon. Nor did we worry about its ability to endure — that is, its sustainability.

That didn’t mean all was well. And we’ve come to recognize that our diet is unhealthful and unsafe. Many food production workers labor in difficult, even deplorable, conditions, and animals are produced as if they were widgets. It would be hard to devise a more wasteful, damaging, unsustainable system.

Here are some ideas — frequently discussed, but sadly not yet implemented — that would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring.

In no particular order:

  • End government subsidies to processed food. We grow more corn for livestock and cars than for humans, and it’s subsidized by more than $3 billion annually; most of it is processed beyond recognition. The story is similar for other crops, including soy: 98 percent of soybean meal becomes livestock feed, while most soybean oil is used in processed foods. Meanwhile, the marketers of the junk food made from these crops receive tax write-offs for the costs of promoting their wares. Total agricultural subsidies in 2009 were around $16 billion, which would pay for a great many of the ideas that follow.
  • Begin subsidies to those who produce and sell actual food for direct consumption. Small farmers and their employees need to make living wages. Markets — from super- to farmers’ — should be supported when they open in so-called food deserts and when they focus on real food rather than junk food. And, of course, we should immediately increase subsidies for school lunches so we can feed our youth more real food.
  • Break up the U.S. Department of Agriculture and empower theFood and Drug Administration. Currently, the U.S.D.A. counts among its missions both expanding markets for agricultural products (like corn and soy!) and providing nutrition education. These goals are at odds with each other; you can’t sell garbage while telling people not to eat it, and we need an agency devoted to encouraging sane eating. Meanwhile, the F.D.A. must be given expanded powers to ensure the safety of our food supply. (Food-related deaths are far more common than those resulting from terrorism, yet the F.D.A.’s budget is about one-fifteenth that of Homeland Security.)
  • Outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage the development of sustainable animal husbandry. The concentrated system degrades the environment, directly and indirectly, while torturing animals and producing tainted meat, poultry, eggs, and, more recently, fish. Sustainable methods of producing meat for consumption exist. At the same time, we must educate and encourage Americans to eat differently. It’s difficult to find a principled nutrition and health expert who doesn’t believe that a largely plant-based diet is the way to promote health and attack chronic diseases, which are now bigger killers, worldwide, than communicable ones. Furthermore, plant-based diets ease environmental stress, including global warming.
  • Encourage and subsidize home cooking. (Someday soon, I’ll write about my idea for a new Civilian Cooking Corps.) When people cook their own food, they make better choices. When families eat together, they’re more stable. We should provide food education for children (a new form of home ec, anyone?), cooking classes for anyone who wants them and even cooking assistance for those unable to cook for themselves.
  • Tax the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods. Another budget booster. This isn’t nanny-state paternalism but an accepted role of government: public health. If you support seat-belt, tobacco and alcohol laws, sewer systems and traffic lights, you should support legislation curbing the relentless marketing of soda and other foods that are hazardous to our health — including the sacred cheeseburger and fries.
  • Reduce waste and encourage recycling. The environmental stress incurred by unabsorbed fertilizer cannot be overestimated, and has caused, for example, a 6,000-square-mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that is probably more damaging than the BP oil spill. And some estimates indicate that we waste half the food that’s grown. A careful look at ways to reduce waste and promote recycling is in order.
  • Mandate truth in labeling. Nearly everything labeled “healthy” or “natural” is not. It’s probably too much to ask that “vitamin water” be called “sugar water with vitamins,” but that’s precisely what real truth in labeling would mean.
  • Reinvest in research geared toward leading a global movement in sustainable agriculture, combining technology and tradition to create a new and meaningful Green Revolution.

I’ll expand on these issues (and more) in the future, but the essential message is this: food and everything surrounding it is a crucial matter of personal and public health, of national and global security. At stake is not only the health of humans but that of the earth.

- via The New York Times

 

 

Chicken Wings, Man Caves & Cheese Dip: Superbowl Search Stats Send Me Straight Down Memory Lane

 

 

Growing up in a family whose parents straddled the line between the news and entertainment worlds, I always had a keen sense of the psychology behind mass trends. Well before the term ‘trending topic’ was trendy, my parents were explaining why certain stories made the news and certain stories didn’t, and why the audience of my dad’s entertainment news show cared about some celebs and not others.

When I started doing SEO and creating web content, this sense of why people think about things, when they think about them and how they think about them came in very handy indeed. Understanding the psychology behind mass media is one of the handiest gifts my parents gave me, even though at the time, they had no idea that our dinner table conversations about industry trends and TV show teasers would eventually lead me to a better understanding of trending topics and search terms.

As much as we in new media like to talk about how old media is a medium in decline, the fact of the matter is that back in the day, producers, advertisers and assignment desk editors knew just as well as we do that people wanted to see content about chicken wings, big screen TV’s and pizza delivery services right before the Superbowl. They just didn’t have as much real time data as we do. Sure, the data-backed decisions we make today are probably a little more reliable. But the fact remains that old media made it work for many years before the advent of these awesome real-time analytics.

So, whenever I see a story like today’s Mashable article ‘Pre-Super Bowl Google Searches: Chicken, TVs and Man Caves‘ I feel like I should give a little tip of my hat to the folks who spent years drawing the same conclusions about consumer behavior based entirely on historical behavior, industry knowledge and a whole lot of gut instinct. And, especially to my parents, who taught me how to use all of those data points to make viral content way back before viral was even a term used to describe anything other than a bad cold.

After all, analytics are awesome. But only if you know how to use them. And my parents may not have taught me much (or anything) about football, but they did teach me an awful lot about that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go figure out a way to work the terms ‘chicken wing’, ‘big screen TV’, ‘man cave’, ‘pizza delivery’ and ‘healthy Superbowl’ into a single blog post. :)