I made some comments on this question for which I attracted a bit of stick (maybe quite rightly) for suggesting that as it was about a dish prepared in a few places in North America that it violated the 'too localised' rule.

How should we apply the too localised rule?

One suggestion (from someone having a dig I believe) was that questions about Vietnamese food should be closed by my logic, as vietnam is a smaller area than the area that the dish in the question was prepared in.

To me this does not follow, as it is not only people in Vietnam which would know how to prepare Vietnamese food. Vienamese food is widely known and an audience all over the world would be able to answer questions on it. Just like if a question about Eccles cakes came up I would not expect that only people from the Eccles borough of Manchester to be able to answer it as Eccles cakes are much more widely known that that.

Others suggested that this was ok as this discussion had said that restaurant mimicry was ok. But the question was about not how a specific dish from a specific restaurant chain is prepared, or even how a specific dish from this country is prepared, but this dish which is prepared differently in D.C./VA (and maybe a wider area of New York, but the OP wasn't sure).

To me this seems like it is only something that a few people can answer as unless you have eaten this dish from the specific area you are not going to know what result the OP is after. its not likely that other places in other countries are going to serve 'Eastern USA style General Tso's chicken', meaning that it is not answerable unless you know the area.

Would a question like 'How can I make my chicken balti more like a Bradford chicken balti?' be acceptable?

I ask this so I can get a better feel for the On-Topic/Off-Topic line that the community decides on in my own mind.

Whilst i am not suggesting that any of the following are happening, I also feel that I should voice my concerns in view of having open and frank debate and so that they are mentioned and can therefore be born in mind by anyone who may not have considered them to be potential issues.

Please don't hate me for bringing them up :-) (or ^_^ if you prefer)

I must confess that I had concerns about question from the point of view that is seems like a 'give me teh recipeez' question on the surface, but was by hobodave, a reputable member of the site and i did not want new users who had had their 'I want recipe for X' questions closed to perceive (rightly or wrongly) that there was a 'one rule for some and one rule for others' going on.

I would hate that it was perceived that there was 'its ok if its in America' thing going on, which is another of my concerns, as a non American.


2 Answers 2


I am not from the USA, I have never eaten General Tso's Chicken on the east coast of the USA - all I had to go by was a picture and a description of the end result - and yet I managed to scrounge up a reasonably close approximation.

Here's how I see it: You need to read the text very carefully.

This question would only be relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

(Emphasis mine)

This question, much like most "restaurant mimicry" questions, is particularly relevant to a (relatively) small audience, but it doesn't meet the "only" bar. Everybody can benefit from the question and answers.

I also didn't interpret it as a blanket recipe request because the characteristics and ingredients of the dish were clearly outlined. Implied in the question was "Yeah, I know there's lots of recipes on the internet for this, but they all turn out like the crappy sludge I get served locally."

It's more like a question on preparation. If it's reasonable to ask, "How do I grill a juicy, flavourful steak?", then it's reasonable to ask, "How do I prepare a thicker, redder, spicier General Tso Chicken?". Those questions are fundamentally the same. If he had simply asked, "Does anyone have any recipes for General Tso Chicken?" or "What's the best recipe for General Tso Chicken?", then I would have voted to close.

But back to the issue of localization. Examples of highly-localized questions might be:

  • Where can I find a farmer's market in Sudbury, ON?
    (Any answers to this would be thoroughly useless to anybody who lives outside that general area.)

  • Why is there a shortage of tomatoes?
    (This actually happened here, but again, it's not a useful question to keep around. This could happen in many different places for many different reasons, and the last thing we need is for people to search for this and get an answer that they think is correct, but applies to a completely different situation!)

  • Which store has the best prices on cast-iron cookware?
    (Prices obviously have drastic regional variances, and there may be all sorts of mom-and-pop stores that don't even exist outside of one neighbourhood.)

Hopefully you get the idea. Both hobodave's question and the above examples are "localized." What makes the above examples too localized is that they can't ever help anyone outside the specific geographical area of the person who asked the question, and also, the answers may be wrong or make no sense after a few months have passed. Stack Overflow used to have a "No Longer Relevant" close reason which I think was better for describing time-localized questions, but we obviously need to limit the number of close reasons to avoid confusing people even more.

One caveat about the "restaurant mimicry" subject: If the desired result is not blindingly obvious (e.g. the restaurant is a worldwide chain) then it has to be described. If the extent of the question is "How do I make Lasagna Bolognese like they do it at [some Mom & Pop restaurant in upstate New York]?", then the question really is too localized because only the people who've been there will have any clue what it's talking about.

The main difference in my mind is whether the restaurant is actually the focus of the question, or just being used as an example to help clarify the question. In this case, it was clearly the latter. In instances of the former, and in the absence of much elaboration, I would vote to close.

It's also important to note that "too localized" has a somewhat different connotation from other close reasons. When you vote to close as TL, you aren't saying that "this question doesn't belong here." Rather, you're saying "OK, this question's been answered, so please don't bump it anymore because nobody else cares." To that end, it's common courtesy to wait for an accepted answer before voting to close as TL. This would apply especially to the second example of the three I provided earlier; the first and third are also just poor questions so I might not be as courteous with those.

  • Whilst I agree with a lot of that, I still feel that my vote to close was valid, as really the question should have been 'How can I make my sauce thicker, redder and more spicy'. As I suggested in the comments at the beginning this would be better as a 'here is my recipe, it didn't turn out how I had hoped. I wanted [X] but [Y] happened, what could I do'. It really has nothing to do with eastern seaboard general tso chicken (as you answering without ever having had it proves) and in its current form just seems like a 'give me the codez', which will encourage others to request the same.
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 27, 2010 at 15:52
  • We should be encouraging people down the line of questions with answers, and I believe this can be done in a lot of the 'I want recipes for [X]' cases. As long as it is a valid question (like this was) and not just a 'what is the best [X]', we should try and get the questions rephrased so that they are answerable and don't look at first glance like a recipe harvesting question, as this will then set the standard for what people can and can't ask. They will learn be example. Good examples of what constitutes off topic for 'Too localized' though.
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 27, 2010 at 15:58
  • @Sam: I really don't see any problem with the phrasing of the question. You seem fixated on the title, but I think it would be hard to come up with a more descriptive title without making it ludicrously long. If you read the content of the question, it's abundantly clear that it's not a generic recipe request. Of course, your vote to close was valid, because it's your vote; others (myself included) simply don't agree.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 27, 2010 at 16:01
  • Fair enough. So if the question about the teriyaki chicken (which was closed) had said 'I really miss an awesome Teriyaki restaurant near Eastgate on the I-90 which served chicken thinly covered in a sticky dark sauce which was salty and sweet and cause small threads between your fingers and the chicken when you took your fingers off it. How can I make teriyaki chicken like this' then it would have contained enough information to make it answerable, and so then would have been ok?
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 27, 2010 at 16:17
  • @Sam: I probably would have edited out the restaurant reference if the question didn't actually name the restaurant. The rest is borderline; the description definitely helps, but hobodave's also had a picture, ingredients, and a frame of reference (there's a "standard" Tso recipe he was comparing to, it may not have been explicit but it is easily inferred by anybody who's ever attempted to make it). Give me all of those things and I'll definitely consider it on-topic.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 27, 2010 at 18:33

Thanks for starting this Sam. This is much better than going back and forth in comments.

Aaronaught has made several points that I wanted to make, so I won't rehash those here. I will touch on the localized thing a bit though. Here is an example question:

How do I make osso bucco as generally found in the Lombardia region of Italy?

This is a classic Milanese dish originating from this small region of Italy. Assume the body of said question was similar to mine: ingredient list, examples of what you've eaten that were not a true osso bucco, etc. Would you vote to close this? I certainly wouldn't. The point I am trying to make is that lots of food is specific to very localized regions. Italy is likely most famous for this, but so is France with significant differences in Parisian cuisine and the cuisine of the south of France (is there a name for this region?).

In this section I'll give some polite criticism regarding your statements and my interpretations of such on this topic. Please do not take this as an attack on your person, but as a criticism of your statements.

While I don't believe this is intentional, your statements come across as biased against American cuisine. This annoys me a little. Take your example of the Eccles cake. I've never heard of this. I followed the link, read and looked at it. I've never seen one of these in America. This doesn't mean that I should vote to close it. As I pointed out above regarding regional differences in food, those same principles apply here. Just because a dish is only 40 years old and American doesn't put it in some special class of things to be marked as irrelevant. There are lots of regional foods in America that possibly have never been tasted or heard of by anyone outside of America: Cincinnati chili, Chicago style pizza, New York style pizza, New Haven style pizza, Texas chili, New England clam chowder, Manhattan clam chowder, northeastern cornbread, southern cornbread, and hundreds (thousands?) of others. I'm sure there are regional differences in food found in the UK too. Not being familiar with your cuisine I can't give any examples, however I'll bet that a shepherd's pie as made southern England is different from one made in Scotland.

Regarding my specific question, there are experts in American-Chinese cuisine. Said experts would have a definitive answer to this question. In my question I went into specific detail regarding the regional differences in my experience. I also noted the origin of the dish. Even if you had never heard of this dish, or had any clue that there were regional differences, after reading my question you would be more informed. I explained exactly what I meant by Eastern USA General Tso's chicken.

In closing this section I'd like to stress again that I'm not attacking you. Nor do I believe that you intentionally have anything against America, it's people, or it's cuisine. I just feel that your statements regarding my question reflect a bias against it.

I would hate that it was perceived that there was 'its ok if its in America' thing going on, which is another of my concerns, as a non American.

That isn't going on, but please don't make it seem like, "It's ok unless it's American".

The second nit I have to pick about your statements regarding this topic is your judgement of my question as asked by a person with high reputation. One of your comments in the question is:

Also part of me feels that as you are highly reputable, it may be seen as favouritism for 'the in crowd' and maybe that is clouding my judgement.

You reinforce this above with your statement:

I must confess that I had concerns about question from the point of view that is seems like a 'give me teh recipeez' question on the surface, but was by hobodave, a reputable member of the site and i did not want new users who had had their 'I want recipe for X' questions closed to perceive (rightly or wrongly) that there was a 'one rule for some and one rule for others' going on.

You are correct that favoritism is bad, but so is reverse favoritism. Please don't judge my questions, or anyone else's based on who is asking, but by the content of the question. Your concerns that this is too localized are valid, and discussion regarding them is appropriate. However the implication that because I am 'reputable' reinforced your decision to close-vote me is just wrong. As someone who has been nominated for moderator status you should be fair in all your judgements, and that includes not having a bias either for or against another member of this community with or without high reputation.

Finally, addressing your question:

Would a question like 'How can I make my chicken balti more like a Bradford chicken balti?' be acceptable?

Of course. (Assuming it came with a description of what "my chicken balti" was.)

  • Great reply. I don't take any of it personally, I just want to be clear in my own mind what is and isn't acceptable in the communities view.
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 27, 2010 at 16:52
  • You are right that I did have some concerns about favouritism, and that reverse favouritism is just as bad, which is precisely why I felt that the questions could maybe have been rephrased along the 'I tried this recipe and expected [X] but got [Y] what can I do?' lines. this would have made it look much less like a 'give me the recipez' question, which I accept it wasn't, but I still believe that it appears on the surface to be that, and will not be obvious to new people who have had their questions closed, and might put them off. And I think this appearance could easily be avoided.
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 27, 2010 at 16:53
  • it is the perception that new users might have upon seeing the question in its current form, that its ok for some to ask those questions, but not others. I was more angling for the question to be reworded, than to actually close it I suppose, but it seems I stand alone in thinking it is an issue, which is fair enough. We will see how it comes out in the long term.
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 27, 2010 at 16:56
  • As for the 'its ok if its in America' comment. I do not think this is happening, but just want to ensure that we have consistency across the site and that there is not an assumption that as some (the majority?) of our users are USA [Insert majority country] based, then some things will be let slide as they will appeal to a large proportion of the site. The criteria should be similar for all, that the requirements are specified, not some assumption on local knowledge. Your question had this information and the reference to eastern seaboard was somewhat redundant.
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 27, 2010 at 17:04
  • @Sam Holder: Regarding close votes, read the responses to my question here: meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/308/… Since asking that I've come to realize that a close vote should be used as a last resort. Perhaps you will too. Also bear in mind that if you become a moderator then each of your close votes bears the weight of 5 normal close votes, thus instantly closing any question. Knowing this has led me to rethink carefully when I decide to close-vote.
    – hobodave
    Jul 27, 2010 at 17:40
  • @hobodave, yeah I have also re-assessed the criteria used to vote to close a question, particularly after using it on this question. I suppose there is an element of trying harder to define the rules of the site during the beta, as any practises which are left to slide now will be much harder to bring back in to line in the future, which has maybe resulted in me being 'more enthusiastic' than I need to be. These discussion have been invaluable to me though, and if its of any interest, given the same question now, I wouldn't vote to close.
    – Sam Holder
    Jul 27, 2010 at 18:33
  • Does Canada count as America? Because I eat Cincinatti Chili at least once a month. :P
    – Aaronut
    Jul 27, 2010 at 18:36
  • I think it's clear that this site doesn't apply the rule "if it's not American, then it's not OK". I asked something about polenta, which is a typical Italian dish (you can eat it in other places, but it's an Italian dish as the word used to refer to it); my question has been accepted, and I got some answers as well.
    – apaderno
    Jul 29, 2010 at 19:38

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