Yikes. Are there more than there used to be of "recipe developers" who specialize in having things as tasteless as possible? I can understand if a recipe is meant to be totally therapeutic, made to deliver some medicinal ingredient, but none of the recipes about which I'm talking were that. I've never seen these problems in old cookbooks, though I've certainly read a lot of those.
Here are a few clues I need to keep in mind for deciding if a cookbook or other source is for me:
If they say they're going to do something to an ingredient so you can't taste it, I would skip that recipe. (I just saw this for a recipe for fennel that actually says to boil the taste out of it before adding it to a recipe, and I've seen it over and over for garlic and for fresh herbs, to boil out their taste first!)
If they say that if you actually want to taste an ingredient, you should double or triple etc that ingredient, I would skip that recipe. (I just saw this in a recipe that has one clove of garlic but says if you want to taste the garlic you would need at least four.)
If they say in a non-soup/curry/etc type recipe to add say a cup of water, especially near the end, I would skip that recipe. (I recently saw this in a recipe that seemed quite nice, and indeed was tasting nice when I tested it, and then suddenly they wanted me to pour in a quart of plain old water, simmer for four minutes, then serve! That would've totally ruined the recipe, so I skipped that step and didn't try any other recipes from that source -- like many recipes, they didn't list the water in the ingredients, and um I hadn't read it properly obviously! so didn't know.)
If they call for only about 1/8 to 1/4, or even 1/2, teaspoon of some dried herb, I would skip that recipe. That very rarely does anything for the taste, or at "best" can make a recipe taste weird. In fact, most dried herbs come so far short of fresh herbs that I extremely rarely try any recipe that calls for them. (I've seen this a lot in recipes in the last year.)
If they say it really doesn't matter what herb or spice you use, I would skip that recipe. It makes a huge difference -- if you're using enough to taste it at all (see the last point). (I've seen this a lot in recipes in the last year.)
If they say they just had fun with their spice/dried herb cabinet to develop this recipe, I would seriously consider skipping it. If you're using a spice/herb just to use it, you may not be using enough, or you may like combinations I don't like. (I saw this in a source that had most of the above problems.)
Also, if I've found a typo? in a source, like a sudden instruction to Add the Tomatoes when no tomatoes were mentioned up to that point, I skip that source in the future, for I've lost faith in anything's even working, let alone tasting good, from it.
Any other clues you've come to recognize? Hope you've not had this problem -- I think I've been too gullible! It's really helped that I'm finally following a newish rule for me -- if a source has had 3 dud recipes, I donate that source/don't revisit that site/etc.!
My thoughts on why I haven't see these problems in old cookbooks: Were ingredients more precious? especially spices when it was harder to import? And re typos, I know that when I was in publishing suddenly there was a push to proofread as little as possible -- which shocked me and which of course I refused to go along with in my line of books...