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This question asked today caught my attention because it's only somewhat related to cooking and preparation. The OP is asking about the history of french fries, as opposed to asking a specific question about how best to cook them, a potential substitution, etc.

It seems like there's been some discussion about this before, and Aaronut offers some persuasive arguments about why "historical trivia" should be considered off-topic, unless it directly relates to being able to prepare a dish or item in question. But it doesn't look like this was definitively resolved, and the meta thread is fairly old.

As a fairly new user to the site, I'm unclear whether the linked question would be considered off-topic enough to merit closure, and where to draw the line in practice.

EDIT: I missed a more recent meta thread that implies that anthropological investigations of food culture are generally allowed. Is there consistent agreement on this or is the debate an ongoing one?

  • I don't know the answer to your question, but I will say that the question referenced doesn't feel relevant. In no way will answers to that question help any cook make better food, or make it easier for that cook to make the food. – Jolenealaska Jun 13 '14 at 14:47
  • Unless you want to discuss that specific question in more detail, I think this may just be a dup of meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/q/1701/1672 - it's a few years more recent than what you linked to, and judging by the voting on the answers, the community is in favor of allowing historical questions (subject to our usual high standards, of course). – Cascabel Jun 13 '14 at 15:34
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    @Jolenealaska That's all true, yet it doesn't mean it has to be off topic. Looking at it from another point of view, our site is about understanding what to do in the kitchen and why, and history is sometimes part of the "why". – Cascabel Jun 13 '14 at 15:35
  • Thanks for the link @Jefromi, I missed that meta thread when investigating and it's very relevant to the larger question I was trying to ask. I still think the specific thread is borderline unless rephrased, because it's essentially asking about food trivia ("Who invented the french fry?") which is open to historical debate and frankly, just not very interesting. – logophobe Jun 13 '14 at 17:26
  • Can I then just give you a couple of examples of similar questions 1) cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/17958/… 2) cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/42073/… – Divi Jun 13 '14 at 22:59
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You link to a thread in which we discuss the relevancy of questions about food, but not cooking - and I would continue to assert, as I think would most moderators and veterans, that those are still off-topic. We consistently close questions about snacks, eating out, nutrition, and other topics along those lines.

That being said, the history of cooking is generally relevant to cooking in the present day, and food history is generally recognized as an exception to the rule.

There's precedent for this in the tag which contains 24 questions, only one of them closed - and that one is really a shopping question.

Conclusion: The history of cooking and food preparation is on topic.

However, the history of subjects that we already consider off-topic - such as the history of gardening, agriculture, diet/nutrition, etc. - would not be on-topic. If you look at the history tag, you'll see that all or at least the vast majority of questions there do still relate to cooking - not simply food history in general.

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