This November I am on the hook for hosting Thanksgiving again. Thanksgiving, when I didn’t spend it at my parents, merely meant that I had a few days off to catch up on chores and watch some college football (Go Blue!). And in the last few years, I’ve chosen not to be one of the 46.3 million people traveling during Thanksgiving. Now, I host Thanksgiving or “Friendsgiving” dinners, and to my good fortune, attendance has increased each year. I am deeply thankful and grateful to be able to share a hearty meal with more guests at Thanksgiving dinners, year after year.
The more guests, the merrier, also means that I need to expand my entrée selections beyond the typical turkey, gravy, and smashed potatoes menu. As my guest list grows, I need to take a changing set of criteria into consideration before finalizing my game plan.
Key criteria – A fully connected assistant
Deciding what dishes to make should be simple enough so that I can ask “Hey [name of preferred Smart Assistant], which Thanksgiving dishes should I prepare?” Then my Smart Assistant would give me a brief summary of Thanksgiving dishes that it found on the web. While it’s a great start, it’s rare that the types of recommended dishes would cater perfectly to my guests and their specific needs.
So, wouldn’t it be great if my Smart Assistant could provide the customized dishes and recipes I was seeking? If my Smart Assistant had more context around the type of dishes I would consider, then maybe I wouldn’t fuss (as much) over my Thanksgiving dinner preparations.
The key factor in having my Smart Assistant make contextual recipe recommendations is to be aware of my menu prep criteria – ranging from my guests’ dietary preferences, number of guests, restrictions to my cooking skills, and other factors.
Below are some essential factors that would help Smart Assistants go a long way toward making better recommendations:
- Dietary preferences and restrictions – I am not going to lie. It’s difficult to satisfy everyone, especially when trying to feed large crowds with specific dietary restrictions and guests that include children or vegans. If the Smart Assistant had the entire guest list along with their food preferences and dietary restrictions, then it could suggest more fitting recipe recommendations.
- Use what’s in the pantry – The last thing I want to do is buy ingredients to make specific dishes only to have leftover, unusable items that need to be thrown away later. While there are smart fridges that help keep track of food items stored in the fridge and offer recipes, they do not have a complete view of the dried goods I have in the pantry. Rather than buying a handful of spices for a Thanksgiving appetizer or dessert, I’d like to be able to repurpose the ingredients I already have at home.
- From Sous Chef to Top Chef – Cooking is not my forte and I usually treat cooking more as a science than an art. Even though I follow recipes line by line, the final product doesn’t usually meet expectations. (I secretly think that there is a hidden code in the recipes that I have to crack in order to successfully cook what the recipe is telling me). Thanksgiving dishes come in different levels of sophistication, which can take more effort since they involve multiple complex steps over a long period of time. If my Smart Assistant knew my cooking skill level, then it would recommend relatively easy Thanksgiving-related recipes that I can whip up. It would know whether I am skilled enough to cook Beef Wellington, make a Baked Alaska, or simply ask me to bake a cake with a ready-mix.
- Cooking ware and Bakeware – Property space is a premium in the San Francisco Bay Area, which restricts me to owning a limited number of cooking ware and bakeware, and prevents me from trying recipes that require special kitchen tools. As a result, I spend a lot of time browsing the web and turning down recipes that I can’t cook simply because I don’t own a special tool. The Smart Assistant could potentially remove all the recipes that require special tools so that I can quickly go through the recipes that I can actually use.
Contextual information now
So what’s the common thread for the criteria mentioned above? It’s data. Some Smart Assistants can offer more than five million recipes. While informative, the results encourage people to explore recipes but are not customized to the individual.
Cooking a feast for a large crowd would be much easier if the Smart Assistant had linked the data or parameters to suggest relevant recipes and disregard recipes not suited for an individual. Although we are not at the stage where Smart Assistants or other platforms can contextually combine dietary preferences, ingredients, cooking skills, or available cooking tools to help provide relevant recipes yet, I believe that when the right data is connected it’s definitely a possibility for the near future.
And when this happens, I for one will be one of many who do not have to pull out their hair trying to plan meals for Thanksgiving and other major holidays. Having a smart little helper to do most of the legwork would allow people like me to focus on cooking the actual meal, rather than spend my time wading through recipes and deciding what other ingredients I need to purchase.