I had my question What is the process of obaining a quality traditional Romanian smântână from raw milk? closed, and this is not the first time I had a question closed on very thin justification and arbitrary interpretation of on-topic rules, which never happened to me on any other Stackexchange site I had posted questions.

First reason of close "Requests for recipe recommendations are off-topic; everyone has their own favorites. However, if you have a recipe already you can ask for help improving it - just be specific about what you want."

If you read the question carefully, you will see that applying this reason is a big stretch, which if applied to almost any question on the site would qualify it to close. You would see I am not asking for recipe recommendations, but about technical details of a specific established process. While of course a recipe is also a process, but note that almost anything ever asked about on this site is about details of a process, so by this interpretation any question would qualify to close. I am asking about the temperature, time and separation technique of an established Romanian way to obtain cream from milk. If this is a "recipe question", by this interpretation standards, point me any question on the site, and I will find a justification to close it!

Second reason "What can I do with [ingredient]?" is completely inapplicable, as I am asking about one very specific established process in a specific country tradition, for which there is only one correct answer, and nothing in the question asks about various ideas what to do, etc.

Such closing practices are extremely discouraging and make me consider never contributing to the site again and finding kitchen related forums elsewhere, as these closing practices are arbitrary, overzealous, and seemingly some people are closing questions just because they can, and because by some interpretation they can find something in the question that could justify the close, so they vote to close.

The intent of the closing-rules are even specified by the closing reasons ("because everyone has their own favorites" and "because they are subjective and lead to a long list of equally good suggestions") and it seems the people voting to close didn't even notice or consider these intent explanations, as none of them apply here, as my question is about very specific details of one very specific established method. I didn't ask "what are the possible ways to make cream from milk?", in which situation these closing reasons would be more justified to apply. I asked what is the time, temperature used to obtain one specific variation of cream commonly used in the tradition of one country.

Do these people voting to close actually consider if their action is helping the site and is within the intent of the on-topic guidelines? Or they are voting to close just to feel they are doing something and feel their power and usefulness, just like an overzealous policeman ticketing someone doing no harm just because by some (creative) interpretation they managed to find something against them in the book, or an immigration official at the border refusing random people just because they can find something suspicious after grilling them enough, which would happen with just about anybody.

1 Answer 1


Firstly, let me apologize for your feeling victimized by an arbitrary application of some rules, and feeling unwelcome on SA as a consequence. I also see that I may have jumped to conclusions too hastily in the comments on your question. I appreciate you taking the trouble to open this meta question, rather than giving up on the site. This answer is meant to unpick my reasoning and motivation for voting to close the question, and to see whether I still believe that decision was valid. I hope it may be informative and helps to sustain a positive discussion.

I should note that the decision to close or reopen a question is a community effort, and that this answer contains only my personal opinion. I would be very interested to hear others'.

My initial reaction on reading your question, which opened

What is the exact process of obtaining traditional Romanian smântână, the thick kind, without the use of a centrifuge or separator?

was "this is a request for a recipe, which is off-topic." You have rightly pointed out that this is too strict:

Recap of guidelines on recipe request

This meta question, which you linked to in a comment, asks about the distinction between on- and off-topic recipe-related question (and also shows that this discussion has been ongoing for at least a decade!). It serves as clarification of the fairly sparse "on-topic" Help page. The answer states

If your question is along the lines of "How do I make [name of dish]?" then expect it to be closed for this reason.

But, as you point out, there is an exception for questions about specific recipes. Four types of questions encouraged in this context are

  • Understanding recipes ("Why do I need to pre-bake the crust for my pie?")

  • Modifying recipes ("Can I substitute brown sugar for white in this recipe?")

  • Fixing recipes ("My sauce came out too spicy. What can I do to cut the heat?")

  • Recreating recipes ("How can I make french fries exactly like McDonald's does?")

I think we can agree that if your question is to fall under any of these exceptions, it is the last one. The community thus needs to decide whether your question indeed falls under that exception

Recreating specific recipes

The meta question cited above states

Questions about recreating recipes are the most subjective of the above, but as long as they are reasonably specific as to what the end result should be (details about appearance, colour, texture, sweetness, spiciness, etc.) or refer to a very specific and well-known preparation (every McDonald's restaurant makes their fries the same way), then answers can still be qualified and the question will still do well.

The only "recipe" questions we don't encourage (or allow) are indiscriminate requests for recipes, because they don't have right/wrong/expert answers.

So really, what we need to decide is whether your question is either

  1. Reasonably specific about the desired end product, or referring to a very specific and well-known recipe,


  1. An indiscriminate request for recipes.

Back to your question

The question is made more specific by stating it is looking specifically for solutions not using a separator or centrifuge, and that

Any other ways to obtain cream, any procedure not specifically from Romanian tradition, is outside the scope of this question.

A tricky aspect of making this decision is that I have absolutely no idea of what smântână is, how common it is, or how many variations there are on its recipe. I do know that wherever there is a tradition, there is variation (consider for example Italian nonnas' family recipes). Given this, I concluded that asking for the "exact process of obtaining traditional Romanian smântână?" was a non-starter akin to "what is the exact process for making traditional spaghetti alla Bolognese?". Therefore, I decided to vote to close the question.

Can/will I change my mind?

You do mention in a comment that

My question refers to one very specific preparation, for which there is only one good answer.

However, to me this is not convincing. Either there is a single correct answer, in which case the question should probably be more specific even than "only traditional Romanian methods count", or you are looking for the common denominator in all traditional recipes, in which case the question returns to an indiscriminate request for recipes. Unfortunately, SA does (apparently) not have any experts on traditional Romanian smântână that could have changed my mind by providing a clear-cut and final answer to your question. That said, one could disagree with the second sentence of this paragraph, in which case I will be very interested in the arguments for said disagreement, and open to change my conclusion.

  • Thank you for taking time to expand on the reasoning. I am hoping there will be some input from others, especially moderators and those who crafted the guidelines in the first place to provide some insight on the motivation behind the recipe restriction. Which as I understand is that only one correct answer is possible to be objectively selected. Please also note that here the basic recipe is known and obvious "take milk, let it stand, wait", and what I am asking is mostly parameters to look at (time, temperature, other) if it doesn't come out the same as old ladies on the farmers market sell.
    – lowtoxin
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 22:58
  • @yannn I share your hope for more input. I am also considering whether an edit of the question to include the basic recipe you describe and ask how to change the procedure to influence the outcome would be received differently.
    – LSchoon
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 8:31
  • @yannn I don't have time to write an exhaustive response right now but I broadly agree with this answer. The question, even with edits, is asking for a full, specific, detailed process, not just a technique and not just how to adjust an existing process to achieve a desired result. Asking about various aspects of this would be fine; asking for the entire thing all at once does appear to be a recipe request, and the fact that the recipe in question is "something Romanian grandmothers do" doesn't change that.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 17:12
  • 1
    If you're okay with a general process (e.g. let it sit several days, until you decide it's done), in the vein of what rumtscho answered, then you could edit your question to ask for that. But the question as it stands asks for a lot of specifics; it's asking for one correct, canonical recipe, not that general technique. And finally, rejecting answers that aren't literally from a Romanian grandmother is a bit dismissive of the expertise that others may have, and if that's all you'll really accept, you're probably better off somewhere with a higher population density of Romanian grandmothers.
    – Cascabel Mod
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 17:19

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