WEAVING A WEB OF OATMEAL CREAM PIES

BY JUSTIN COOPER

I love Websites about food and drink. It’s great knowing that you can find restaurant reviews for virtually any city in the world in five minutes. I recently spent the better part of a week in London sitting in a pub I had read about using a computer in Langdell Library. As the website had promised, it had a clean bathroom, several good beers on tap and a friendly pub dog. Ten years ago, it would have been near impossible to get detailed information about an obscure pub in an obscure London neighborhood while sitting here in Cambridge.

With that triumph in mind, I assembled the following collection of sites, most of which are tied together by some connection to food and drink. Others made the cut just for being funny or interesting.

www.littledebbie.comIt could just be my computer, but when I go to this site, I am greeted by a photo of an angelic little blond kid with the top part of his head missing. It’s a beautiful image. It looks like you could just top-load the Little Debbie treats right into his cranium. Other than the weird kid, this is a great site. It tells you everything you need to know about McKee foods and their Little Debbie products, past and present. It’s fast, easy to navigate and visually pleasing, which is not hard, since those Little Debbie snacks cut a fine figure. A

www.cavemandiet.com“The premier online resource for information on Caveman Dieting, Paleolithic Nutrition and Primitive Lifestyles.” If “primitive lifestyles” meant not changing your sheets very often, I’d be a natural. But these people take things way further. This site is a resource for all those who aim to achieve good looks, longevity and sexual prowess by eating nothing but meat and raw fruits and vegetables, as our pre-agricultural ancestors did before us. The links page gives you lots of other threads to follow, and the discussion forum offers tips on how to control diarrhea and other side-effects of going caveman, among other things. Unfortunately, the site left me longing for more detailed information about the diet/lifestyle it advocates. Decent graphics and easy to navigate. Also, these people are clearly crazy. B

www.jesus-diet.comOK, these people here are really crazy. They atone for their sins by eating only one or two pounds of food a day, nothing but raw fruits and vegetables. They fast one day a week. They also support ‘breatharianism,’ which involves not eating at all, and drinking your own urine to prolong life. (I imagine their social calendars are wide open.) But, they do have a kick-ass website. It is packed with information, with links stacked upon links, and lots of books to order. Best of all, when you move from one page to another, the new page slowly spreads over the old page, from the outside to the middle, until the old page is just a small circle, then a dot, then it’s gone, just like in Star Wars. Trust me, it rules. A

www.fat-guy.comFat Guy bills himself as a regular guy (a lawyer, in fact) who spends a lot of time and money at fancy restaurants, and who shares his dining experiences with the world. His detailed and honest reviews of New York eateries, written from the point of view of a true foodie, have brought him much attention and well-deserved respect. Fat-guy.com readers feast on piles of information about food and wine in New York, along with somewhat less comprehensive coverage of France, Montreal and rural America. The site is charmingly low-tech and still looks homemade, even though some ads have crept in around the edges. Less charming are the dead links to some of the reviews. A-

www.mustardweb.comThe creator of this site founded a mustard museum in Wisconsin which houses over 3,500 mustards. He also sponsors mustard poetry and fiction contests. This sounds like great website material, but, in the end, the whole thing seems too self-aware and forced. The true Website lover must be suspicious of any site that is too slick or that relies too heavily on catchy puns. Take, for example, the “Poupon U” section, depicting a fictional mustard university, which manages to be silly but not at all funny. C

www.catsupbottle.comSomewhere in Illinois, there is a huge water tower dressed up as a catsup bottle, and this website honors that water tower. I love Americana. The time-lapse photos under “Catsup Bottle Restoration” are great, and they even have a fan club. The only problem is, who ever heard of Brooks catsup? Can’t we get some Heinz? A-

www.brunching.comThis online magazine actually has nothing to do with brunch or even with food, but it’s a gem. They rate everything from the new state quarters (hilarious) to the members of the A-Team (good for nostalgic purposes), and the movie reviews are also excellent. Be sure to check out the Porn Star or My Little Pony quiz, highlighting the erotic/equine ambiguity of names such as “Ruby Lips” (pony), “Cherry Treats” (pony) and “Honey Rose” (porn). Another winner is the ratings of Stuff in the Airline Catalog. The search function is decent. All in all, one of the funniest sites I’ve seen. A

www.vermontshepherd.comThey have a section called The Cheese Cave. Need I say more? This is actually a beautifully-designed site, with frames, telling you everything you ever wanted to know about the delicious cheeses made by the people at Vermont Shepherd. They have nice pictures of their cheese and a highly informative section on milking equipment, complete with order form. For a cool $1,325, one of their crowd-pleasing Six-Unit Headgates could be yours. (Note: you have to pay in advance for orders of $2,650 or less.) Only the natural limits on how good a cheese site can be prevent a higher rating: B+

www.wine-advocate.comPretty disappointing, given Robert Parker’s importance in the wine industry and his consciously-crafted image as the populist wine critic. Wouldn’t the internet be the obvious place for him to establish a presence? Very little information at the site and no obvious way to get an online version of the newsletter, even for subscribers. To be fair, Parker takes no advertising money and therefore has limited resources. But why does he have to put the link to the English language site under a Union Jack, with a URL that reads “UK”? Stop pretending; we know you’re from Maryland. C-

Bonus Sitewww.smalltime.com/nowhere/dictatorThink of your favorite sitcom character or dictator, and play twenty questions against the computer. It asks you yes or no questions like Do you have a job? and Are you European? and tries to guess your identity. It got me with Hawkeye Pierce, but I was sad to find it stumped by Idi Amin. Other people have confirmed that it’s weaker on the dictators. I know there are a lot of them, but can’t we get a little love for the man who named himself His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular? Worse yet, the site is slow and confusing to read, and the graphics are terrible. Still, the idea is so weird that you can’t help liking it. Also, when the computer wins, it insults you. B

Please direct any tips on interesting or amusing Websites to Justin Cooper at jcooper@law.harvard.edu.

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