This is partially inspired by the fried egg question which was closed. The question is: do we want questions about food presentation, or even preparation final touches, to be considered off-topic?

Reading the accepted answer to the meta question about serving (Are we about serving, or just cooking/food prearation?) it seems that presentation should be on-topic, as long as it is about the food itself, and not things like plates and napkins. I think the outlines in that answer are about right for the site and community, but it seems that they have not been followed.

So, should a question about preparing food to make eating it less messy, for example, be closed as off-topic? Even though it seems to have generated an answer that was to do with the food itself rather than any eating technique? Would it not have been better to edit the question so that it points people in the right direction rather than close it outright?

1 Answer 1


Yes, we consider serving questions to be on topic, as long as they're the kinds of questions that would require at least some level of experience in the culinary arts to answer (which is why questions about topics like dinnerware and etiquette are not in the scope).

As far as I'm concerned, the fried egg question:

  1. Was not reasonably about cooking or serving (it was simply about eating);

  2. Did not inspire any edits that would have made it about serving (otherwise someone would have done it);

  3. Had already amassed far too much attention and voting activity to salvage with such editing, even if it were possible; and

  4. Was liable to generate a slew of copycat questions about eating any other food ("How can I eat a burrito without leaking filling?" "How can I eat a hamburger without squirting ketchup?" Think about where this ultimately leads.)

We had a series of long, frustrating arguments about these kinds of generic food questions early on and eventually came to the general agreement that we had to set the bar somewhere if we wanted to be taken halfway seriously as an expert Q&A site. The topic being discussed just doesn't meet that bar.

Questions here are supposed to be about cooking or food preparation. Yes, we'll accept some serving questions, but they have to be good questions - questions of interest to professional or enthusiast cooks. That's why the FAQ doesn't explicitly include this category; we don't want to encourage it across the board. Food presentation is about making meals look attractive for guests, not about how to eat runny eggs without getting it on your hands. Sorry.

In closing, if your question refers to eating food that's already been cooked (or prepared for eating) then please think long and hard before posting it here, because it's likely to get closed. That's not legitimately in the "serving" category; it's Yahoo Answers fodder.

  • On reflection I have to agree with this. It really is a slippery slope. personally its a shame as I finally felt like an expert in something. But maybe that says more about me than anything else :).
    – Sam Holder
    May 3, 2011 at 9:30
  • 3
    I think the question could have been edited to something like "How can I present a fried egg sandwich so that it won't run when being eaten?" I would have edited it had I seen it on time. I do see the slippery slope argument, and you're probably right, but I think that eating questions are presentation questions in disguise.
    – Carmi
    May 3, 2011 at 14:22
  • @Sam: No disrespect to your (incredibly) thorough answer. And as I admitted in the comments, it was a fun and engaging question. I just don't think we can make special exceptions on that basis and expect the rest of the community to submit to our whims.
    – Aaronut
    May 3, 2011 at 14:57
  • @Carmi: To me that's actually a very different question from a semantic point of view. The question literally says "here's the sandwich, how should I eat it?" without allowing for any discussion of the preparation. I agree, if it had been edited early (and the OP had agreed to it), it might have been an easier call; unfortunately once a question picks up significant momentum, the consequences of game-changing edits grow more significant. It was all 4 factors above that compelled me to close it (especially #3); had it been just one of those things in isolation I would have preferred cleanup.
    – Aaronut
    May 3, 2011 at 15:00
  • @Aaron, I agree with you wholeheartedly, I wasn't trying to make a case for an exception, I was more musing on the fact that really I should have voted to close, but as I felt the OP's pain and had some 'expert' advice to give, I was blinded to the fact that it was an off topic question.
    – Sam Holder
    May 3, 2011 at 15:17
  • @Sam: At least it's only an occasional hiccup here; at sites like P.SE it's practically a way of life. ;)
    – Aaronut
    May 3, 2011 at 15:24
  • @Aaronut: Fair enough, I didn't take the time/attention thing in to account. I suppose it was too late to save by the point I came accross it. I'll accept the answer, as it does make sense generally. I am now secure in the knowledge that the question could have been reworded to meet the standards. Thanks
    – Carmi
    May 3, 2011 at 15:27

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