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This question: Bananas - too many - so how can I preserve them? currently has some close votes, as an off-topic "What can I do with [ingredient]?" question.

It does indeed ask for things to make with an ingredient, but it's possible to interpret it as asking for categories of things (preservation methods) rather than a list of recipes and variations.

So, should we be applying that off-topic category here?

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The purpose of the rules is to avoid unanswerable questions. The kind that solicit opinion based answers or unending lists of equally valid answers.

In my opinion the rule of thumb is- would this question produce answers that could be objectively voted up or would they have any value to someone searching for the same question on Google.

I am sad when a clear, useful, and answerable question is closed because of our rules. I understand it sometimes has to happen because the rules need to be unambiguous- but it is unfortunate.

Even though we have a rule against it, there is nothing inherently wrong with a recipe request. It is an important question to the asker. It is perfectly possible to have a recipe request be an answerable question with valuable answers.
We have a rule against it because we have found that, in general, the answers those questions collect tend to be opinion based and inconclusive. It's impossible to vote one above another and who knows if it would help the next person with the same question.

I don't know what the solution is for this question. Obviously I found it perfectly answerable. I think the answers provided would be useful to someone searching with the same question. As such I don't think it needs to be closed on its own merits.

I could see us closing it to keep simpler rules- but that would be sad.

  • Yeah, the issue with recipe requests and what goes with X isn't that they aren't answerable, it's more that that they're really easily answerable, but not quite in the way we like. The most concise summary I have is that they're not exactly soliciting answers, they're just soliciting a variety of knowledge on a subject. – Cascabel Mar 22 '17 at 19:43
  • That is true. I suppose in this context "answerable" means "definitively answerable". Where there can be an answer that is more correct than another. – Sobachatina Mar 22 '17 at 19:45
  • I hesitate to focus too much on "correct", since often there are multiple good approaches to solving a single problem, perhaps roughly equally good, perhaps with the best one depending on context. In that sense, this is perhaps in a bit of a gray area - on one end, we have straightforward questions with a few possibilities for answers, on the other we have recipe requests or what goes with X with endless variations, and preservation methods are somewhere in between. One way to handle that is on a case-by-case basis; another is to aim for consistent if imperfect rules to avoid debate. – Cascabel Mar 22 '17 at 19:52
  • I think I would always prefer case by case- but I'm not the one who has to do it. – Sobachatina Mar 22 '17 at 19:56
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    Well you kind of are; you have close-vote privileges. If you feel like there's a decision to be made here that's tough for you, that's a problem too :) – Cascabel Mar 22 '17 at 20:07
  • Ask it somewhere else. If it doesn't work here, there are certainly other places where it would work. – can-ned_food Apr 10 '17 at 12:40
  • I'm kind of at a loss what to do with the fact that this is the most upvoted answer. It sort of amounts to a shrug - we like the question conceptually, maybe we should close it but we'd be sad about it. My reading of existing policy was that it was already in an off-topic category, and I didn't exactly see evidence that this question avoided the issues of the category (it attracted recipes, which the OP appeared to be happy to have as answers, and relatively long lists of possibilities). But the voting sort of suggests that people like it. – Cascabel Apr 10 '17 at 18:21
  • 4 vs 2 votes isn't significant enough to base policy on. The issue for me is that this question worked and didn't generate a horde of useless answers- despite being a hot-network question. Can we tailor a rule to allow this useful question or do we sacrifice the question for the sake of objective rules? I think I would err on the side of closing questions for being too open-ended rather than simply asking for a recipe. For example, I am interested in trying Cornish pasties but I don't know what recipe is authentic. I don't know how to ask this question here without someone voting to close. – Sobachatina Apr 10 '17 at 20:14
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I think this is off-topic under the "recipe request" logic.

It seems probable that the OP isn't asking for non-edible ways of preserving bananas (for example, casting it in a resin block). Just because a recipe is intended to be eaten sometime later than today doesn't make it less of a recipe -- there's simply a subcategory of recipes being explored.

Even if you're broadening it to preservation methods rather than recipes, there is a long list of possibilities (freeze, pickle, dry, marmalade). While this won't necessarily have the near-infinite variety of a "what's your favorite banana ketchup recipe" question, it still isn't a good fit for StackExchange.


Edit: Since I originally wrote this, another answer to the question was added that included a recipe. Previously, the answers had just been broadly about preservation methods -- but it shows that a recipe request can apparently be inferred by users even if the question is not specifically saying "what is a recipe for this".

  • I think your last paragraph is kind of the core issue here: is that sort of list too broad, even without the explosion of possibilities that comes with specific recipes? If not, we can try to salvage it, but if so, no matter how hard we try to make the question not ask for recipes, it's still off-topic. – Cascabel Mar 21 '17 at 15:10
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    I suppose you could make exceptions if there are only a limited number of possible preservation methods (I doubt there are dozens of ways to preserve bananas, for example), but the more complex loopholes you make, the more arguments and debate (and bad feelings) are created. – Erica Mar 21 '17 at 17:07
  • That's a very good point. It's certainly possible to ask more specific questions that'd still be okay, anyways. I think I'm personally pretty well convinced, but I'll give it a while longer before accepting here or closing there, to see if anyone else wants to vote or speak up. – Cascabel Mar 21 '17 at 18:12
  • In response to the edit- there has never been anything wrong with recipes in answers. A recipe in an answer does not imply that the question was too open ended. – Sobachatina Mar 22 '17 at 19:00
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    Yeah, recipes (or links to recipes) as examples in answers are fine as long as the answer is actually answering the question (which presumably wasn't just a recipe request). What's not great is if this ends up as a workaround allowing the same answers as a direct recipe request, i.e. we don't want to end up with several people posting their favorite jam recipes. – Cascabel Mar 22 '17 at 19:55
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My personal opinion: I would like to be able to take questions like this, but it would be an exception to an existing policy, so we might have to err on the side of considering them off-topic for now.


It's definitely under the general umbrella of "what to make with X" and non-specific recipe/dish requests (not necessarily specific recipes, but general "what should I make?"), and those have long been off-topic. We deemed those off-topic because they're generally broad, they solicit ideas and brainstorming rather than answers per se.

It does also place some restrictions - preserving, not just something made with bananas, and is ideally asking for categories (i.e. "jam" not jam recipes).

So if we want to allow this question and others like it, we'd need to know a few things:

  • how are we going to judge whether a question is specific enough?
  • how are we going to keep people from just brainstorming recipes anyway? (as a mod I care a lot about this, because I have to deal with deleting answers if they veer toward that)
  • does this extend to asking for categories of dishes, e.g. sufficiently specific requests for baked goods with bananas?

We also have to consider whether it's worth it. As Erica mentioned in a comment, creating exceptions to general rules is confusing and often leads to debates and bad feelings. Would we gain enough good questions to make up for the trouble?

Quite honestly, I don't have good enough answers to any of this to be ready to make an exception to our current policies and deal with all the debates. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, though.

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