You do what…?!

September 20, 2015


Some people are very pedestrian in how they approach the world of cooking. Chilled….laid-back…unconcerned….which is not a bad thing as I am finding I am leaning that way a bit more in certain aspects of my cooking. I mean do we really NEED 47 steps on how to oven roasted butternut squash? Do we really need to read a doctoral dissertation on how to clarify butter? I’m thinking not so much…

Now as those of you who know me IRL you know I find amazingly large amounts of satisfaction in spending HOURS building a mushroom sauce or playing with The Magic Purple Pot. I geek out to the Nth degree when pulling apart a recipe to see how I can put the WikiJan stamp of approval on it. I’ve found my school of thought in quilting has been bleeding over into my cooking….”why use 5 different ones when 15 will be better!” Now granted I will willingly admit I can go just a tad overboard at times but all those layers of flavors…sssiiigghhh…..sometimes I just can’t help myself and that “look” I aim for every time someone takes that first bite-the flash of anticipation followed ever so quickly by the look of bliss spreading across someone’s face…the sigh of satisfaction in knowing it was as good as they hoped….who wouldn’t want that?

Well I found a new to me foodie site ( that I have been devoting far too many hours to if you ask SOME people. I think you can find just about anything over there-well written articles, great recipes merchandise…etc….I stumbled across a piece that set me to thinking about how I write-up my directions and I paused to wonder – do those of us who create the instructions that accompany our dishes assume too much in the instructing or worse too little. Do we assume those reading will know without instruction on how long egg yolks should be tempered before adding to them it lemon pie filling? Do we just consider it common knowledge that one knows when to chose Basmati over Jasmine over Arboreal rice so that the dish performs correctly? Do the readers of our recipes know the differences between shallots and red onions other than the size? …and why the difference in purple basil and sweet and which to use when?

So my annoying mental gymnastics (quite H.N…) have been in over drive because this piece has provoked me to stop and look at what and how I give for directions. The great and mighty Alton Brown has been going back and taking a fresh look at some of his iconic recipes tweaking them and improving upon them…making them better. So I have felt provoked to look at what I put together to critically determine if I am making my directions useful or “as clear as mud?” When giving a direction that needs a judgment call am I giving a parameter that is easily translated or is it just an overly generalized “cook until done?” What is “done”? If we are talking steaks, done for me is as rare as you can get it but for someone else it may be cooked until it is grey and lifeless. If left up to this kind of ambiguity a dish can taste radically different from my kitchen to the person creating it in the hinterlands of Russia, if you will.

While I do understand that some assumption has to be made by those who are writing the instructions, finding that happy middle between coming off like a recipe in “The Art of French Cooking” and a kids cookbook really is  as much of a balancing act as perfecting the seasoning in an awesome pot of chili…not hot just to be hot if you will. Finding the balance between assuming too little and too much is where I sit now. Am I writing instructions overly simplified for the level of those I am sharing with or have I assumed too much and hitting too far over the collective “cooking heads” of those who populate the world of WikiJanCooks… I sit here this Sunday morning It may be a mixed bag and I need to become more consistent…be one or the other. Challenge but not overwhelm so the person cooking who is on the less skilled side is challenged but not discourage by a selection being overly complicated and still engage the more skilled cook…..

Now go play with your food



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