Food and Cooking SE has only existed for 65 days, but they've been contentious days. Every SE site has problems working out just how much subjectivity will be tolerated and where the on-topic/off-topic line will be drawn. That said, it seems like Cooking has had much more brouhaha about this than other sites.

Illustrative related questions (there are plenty more just a quick search away):

The root of the problem is that food and cooking have to do with an inherently subjective issue; it's called taste, after all. I firmly believe that what makes Stack Exchange special is that it promotes objectivity and strongly discourages discussion. Some people think that this site's topic justifies an exception to the rule; others think that the rule is flawed and shouldn't exist on any SE site.

I have a new proposed compromise/solution. Even Stack Overflow, the granddad of SE sites, never got the subjectivity issue fully worked out, and as a result, the Programmers SE (formerly known as the Not Programming Related proposal) was created. It seems to me that Food and Cooking is well-positioned to fork it, too. Inspired by this answer, I've created the Chefs SE proposal; check it out (referral link)!

  • This has already been proposed by others: area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/11202/recipes
    – hobodave
    Sep 13, 2010 at 6:48
  • @hobo, they're similar, but that one is -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- too narrow. My proposal encompasses all chef issues, rather than focusing on recipe swaps and suggestions. Thanks for the note though, Recipes didn't come up in my search. Its description somehow managed to avoid mentioning "food," "cooking," "cook" and "chef"!
    – Pops
    Sep 13, 2010 at 7:32
  • 4
    I didn't realize that the debates were still going on. Other issues have come up recently but that one has been pretty quiet for a few weeks now, especially now that the official FAQ has been updated and we've added meta FAQ questions clarifying the subtleties.
    – Aaronut
    Sep 13, 2010 at 14:28
  • 4
    This would not be something I'd look forward to. It is enough work to keep up with one of these sites, and I'm sure I'd have interest in both. Sep 13, 2010 at 15:44

2 Answers 2


The programmers site was originally dubbed "Not Programming Related" and was intended to hold the questions which didn't fit on Stack Overflow - in other words, questions about programmers, not programming, all of the soft topics like workflows, career advice, language speculation, etc.

And indeed, looking at the front page of programmers.SE, there's not a single question that is actually about programming. People aren't asking questions there that they could otherwise ask on Stack Overflow; virtually every question there would be closed on SO.

You appear to be proposing a superset of this site because, as Sam points out, several of those questions would be just fine here. That, to me, serves no real purpose other than to splinter the demographic between the "inclusionists" and "deletionists", with one going to the site where subjective questions are allowed and the other staying here. That was not the point of programers.SE, and considering how young cooking.SE still is, a broader proposal could only end up hurting both sites if it actually made it to beta.

I'm sure that wasn't your intent and don't wish to downplay your effort, but it seems to me that you've partly misunderstood either the scope of this site, or the purpose of programmers.SE, or both, and as a result, you've created a proposal that claims to be a sister site but is in fact just a duplicate with a slightly expanded scope.

The most common off-topic questions we get here, bar none, are recipe requests, and there's already a proposal for that. In the meantime, we're doing our best to sharpen up the blurry borders and politely nudge newbies who ask these questions in the right direction.

The second-most-common kind of off-topic question are the low-level "food" questions, and it's unfortunate that our name is still "food and cooking" because it was never our intent to support questions like "What are some good snacks for the car?" or Sam's example, "What's your favourite pizza topping?" That subject doesn't have it's own proposal, and if you created one, it would have little if any overlap with this site.

  • However, that subject also has an inherent problem, which is that there's no expert audience; programmers.SE is essentially a subset of the SO demographic, but everybody eats and therefore a "food enthusiasts" site, if it survives the Area 51 process at all, would be doomed to become yet another crummy yakkity-yak site occupying yet another dark and dusty corner of the web. I believe, as Sam says, that it would be better to try to fit those into the recipes proposal, as they are basically the same sort of question (food polls).

Aside from those subjects, question closings are really quite rare. I think we've had one question about career advice in the entire 65 days; we've had a very small number of brewing/winemaking questions (which also has its own proposal), and in the early days we got a handful of health questions, which we thankfully don't get much of anymore, and if you want to talk about that, check out and support the nutrition proposal.

The site that you're proposing, if it were truly defined analogously to the programmers.SE, would cover an area that we don't actually have yet. That's when we reach critical mass and have hundreds of actual chefs (or at least really hardcore home cooks) actively participating and wanting to talk about other aspects of the profession than cooking itself; career advice, shopping and brand recommendations, war stories, quotes and jokes, "best music to cook to" recommendations and so on. We might get there some day - hell, I hope we do - but right now, I don't think we're even close.

If you want to go ahead and define that proposal anyway then be my guest, but please do it properly so that it doesn't overlap so much with this site (unless those questions were intended as off-topic examples). Good "Chefs" questions, in addition to the few examples I gave above, might be:

  • What hobbies tend to attract chefs?
  • How do you organize your kitchen?
  • What's the [weirdest/hardest] dish you've ever prepared?
  • What made you choose to be a professional cook?
  • Which culinary schools are the best for [...]?"
  • Describe the worst kitchen you ever worked in?
  • What was the first thing you ever learned to cook?

And so on and so forth. These are the kinds of questions that are (sort of) targeted at culinary experts but don't actually have anything directly to do with cooking. I don't see people asking these questions left and right - quite possibly because we set the standard early on that these weren't appropriate - but if you have a burning desire to talk about that stuff, you should adapt your Chefs proposal accordingly.

  • +1 said exactly what I wanted say with me realizing that that was what I wanted to say :)
    – Sam Holder
    Sep 13, 2010 at 16:47
  • Wow. That is a lot of text, and please believe me when I say that I appreciate every word. The crux of the problem here seems to be in paragraph three. By the current rules on this site, those example questions are okay. I think the rules should change such that they're not okay, and I hoped to lessen the pain of that by giving them a place to go. I had high hopes for this site, and there's no question that those hopes were colored by SO and the other sites in the network. I've been very disappointed at the proportion of questions here that are [continuing to another comment, out of chars ...]
    – Pops
    Sep 13, 2010 at 21:44
  • [cont'd from prev comment] subjective and/or in one of the abundant exceptions to the "no recipes" rule. I have plenty of questions of that caliber, but I haven't asked them because I truly believe in the mission of SE to create communities of experts, and questions like "Any techniques for making a grilled cheese sandwich?" (which I pulled randomly off of the above-the-fold main page) simply aren't expert-grade. You suggest that I've "partly misunderstood ... the scope of this site," but I do get it; I just think the wrong choices were made. [continuing one more time ...]
    – Pops
    Sep 13, 2010 at 21:56
  • [cont'd from prev comment] When I came across the meta discussions yesterday, I didn't realize that they were old and settled. At this point, I can see that things have been set in stone. I've witnessed enough MSO discussions to realize that, in this case, I'm the minority guy whose only remaining option is to stop participating. You can see from my profile that this won't exactly be a crushing loss for the site. So, thank you again for your time, effort and pleasant demeanor.
    – Pops
    Sep 13, 2010 at 22:10
  • @Lord Torgamus: Just as with Stack Overflow, not every question is going to be an expert-level question, and that's OK as long as it legitimately helps someone be a better cook. If your claim is that we have too many subjective/recipe-like questions then I'll have to see examples; the only notable ones I can point to are the "culinary uses" questions and we've worked to prevent those from degenerating into recipe polls (and still many of us have grave concerns about them).
    – Aaronut
    Sep 13, 2010 at 23:35
  • Regardless, the line between your proposal and this site seems incredibly blurry at best and it'll take more than a few example questions to explain what you're really trying to do. What you still haven't explained is how, from a logical standpoint, you are choosing which questions belong here and which belong on "Chefs" (because the criteria does not appear to be whether or not the question is about cooking vs. cooks, as it would be if we took your SO:Programmers.SE analogy literally.)
    – Aaronut
    Sep 13, 2010 at 23:37
  • FWIW: there was a snacking SE proposal as well, but I can't find it now.
    – Shog9
    Sep 14, 2010 at 3:25
  • @Lord I don't really understand why, if there is already a site which will answer the questions you have, you would not just ask them rather than (and I'm summing up your position so excuse my if I get it wrong) say This site should be for more 'expert' questions and I'd rather start a new site for the questions I have which are a bit too trivial
    – Sam Holder
    Sep 14, 2010 at 7:26
  • @Lord, also there is not a 'no recipes' rule. There is a 'no recipe requests' rule. These are different.
    – Sam Holder
    Sep 14, 2010 at 10:11
  • @Knives: I suspect it would have been closed as too narrow... or too plebeian. I'm sure somebody will prove me wrong but I just can't see that topic as becoming anything more than a swelling mass of polls (which I guess is fine in its own way, but kind of a waste of the SE software...)
    – Aaronut
    Sep 14, 2010 at 14:15
  • @Aaronut: well, that's what I thought about Programmers.SE, but...
    – Shog9
    Sep 14, 2010 at 15:42
  • @Sam, in reverse order: 1) you're right, "no recipes" was a typo on my part, sorry; 2) I won't ask because I feel that it would lower the quality of the site. That wouldn't be too bad if the site were standalone, but it's not; I feel that those questions would reflect poorly on the Stack Exchange network.
    – Pops
    Sep 15, 2010 at 0:01
  • @Aaro, yeah, a direct analog to Programmers would not be the way to go. My criteria are simple: objective vs. subjective. Objective questions would be like "what nutrients are lost when you prepare [food] with [method 1] instead of [method 2]"; subjective would be "so I have brussels sprouts, what can I do with them?" I know not all questions will be expert-level, but we should try to keep to the better questions during the beta. We're still trying to attract experts, and unlike SO, we don't have a bunch of Coding Horror and Joel on Software readers as seeds. [cont'd...]
    – Pops
    Sep 15, 2010 at 0:21
  • [...cont'd] Well, okay, actually we do, but they're programmers, not chefs. We don't have... whatever site is the food analog of Coding Horror... funneling us its community. As for the examples you requested: one, two, three, [cont'd...]
    – Pops
    Sep 15, 2010 at 0:38
  • [...cont'd] four, five, six, seven of the top ten questions on the new questions page at the moment I happen to be writing this comment.
    – Pops
    Sep 15, 2010 at 0:39

I applaud your intentions but of the 4 questions you posted in the proposal I think 3 would definitely be answerable here already, and the 4th might be ok as CW, but I'm not sure, its on the edge. The main focus of the brouhaha has been on the recipe request (and some alchohol/food wine pairing) which is why I think that the existing recipe exchange could be a place to house the more discussiony elements. I think this would mainly be recipe swaps, but may also be questions like 'Whats your favorite comfort food?' or 'Wierdest pizza topping?' which would be closed here.

Adding your support and proposed questions to the existing proposal to broaden the scope might entice more followers, but we should be careful to try and keep the 2 sites from overlapping too much, as that just dilutes the user base, which doesn't help anyone.

  • Thank you for the answer; I rolled up most of what I wanted to say into a megacomment on @Aaronut's answer. My only additional comment here is that I think you guys are using Community Wiki improperly, but since it seems to be an intentional change of the meaning of CW -- rather than something done out of ignorance -- it's just an "agree to disagree" situation.
    – Pops
    Sep 13, 2010 at 22:14
  • @Lord Torgamus: Care to explain that position? I think that if anything we've been less permissive than other sites with the CW polls, so you must mean something else.
    – Aaronut
    Sep 13, 2010 at 23:38

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