I first saw the link on Facebook about two weeks ago, which I cannot find now, that lead me to an article about how recipe measurements have changed over the years and that in fact, those who have mastered the art of cooking seldom use measurements at all. This statement would of course have to exclude any reference to modern gastronomic cuisine where chemicals and scientific techniques are used in precise ways to change the food completely. I would argue that in fact “Modernist Cuisine” is a marriage of exacts and ethereals. You may need an exact temperature to sous vide the perfect piece of fish, but the seasoning, flavors, and cuts are all up to the chef, with no predisposition.
The article went on to talk about how replicating ancestral recipes can become difficult, or impossible, as the way we define measurements has changed and we have lost reference to many of the “old ways”. To 90% of the country that like to cook this means game over. Without measurements, many home cooks (and even some chefs) feel that attempting the recipe would be a waste of time as it would not be the way it was meant to be. What is often overlooked is that this is the beauty of being a cook, and not a handicap.
See, scientific theory tells us that if I follow recipes to a level of exact measure, then the dish will always turn out the same. The flavors would be the same, the texture would be the same, and the dish will always look the same. This is a common misunderstanding. You see, even if you always measure to exact specifications, the recipe will never been the same as how you made it last time. There are so many environmental factors that can affect the results of a recipe which are out of your control that an attempt at exact duplication is a fools errand (in my humble opinion)
As you can see, this article had me thinking, and appreciative that I am in the 10% who don’t follow recipes, rather I use them for inspiration. I was once a member of the 90%, as we all have been and most still are, but through frustration and self actualization I have migrated my style to the 10% who see recipes as sources of inspiration, measurements as a rough guide that must always be adjusted, and rely more on our palate then on the exactitudes and specificities that lead to an attempted duplication.
Here is an example: One place my wife and I love to go when in Nashville is The Loveless Cafe. They are widely known for their pulled pork and southern style biscuits. I wanted to be able to make their pulled pork at home, as well as their sausage gravy. So I bought their cookbook, went home armed with the recipes I needed, and ventured to make these delicacies that we love. Each dish will be shared in other posts, however I can tell you that my pork tastes nothing like their pork and my sausage gravy is not even a close semblance of theirs. The first couple of times I followed the recipes but found that I would adjust based on my taste. I don’t smoke the pork and it can be said that my sausage gravy has more “kick” than any other gravy tasted. You see, the recipes went from gospel to inspiration. When this starts to become the norm, then you know you are now in the 10% and no longer see recipes as mandated gospels that must be followed.
So from this point on, use the recipes in this blog as inspiration, and the measurements will be variable, meaning not meant to be followed exactly. You may see something like, use double the amount of this than you did of that, or somewhere between 1-3 TBS. This is not meant to frustrate, rather to allow you to make every recipe your own, bring your own flavor to dishes that I have made and love, and allow you to make it your own. They say mimicry is a form of flattery, but I have to say that the biggest form for me is to know that my recipe was an inspiration and not a gospel on how to make a dish. To know that you were able to make it your own, perfect for your own palate, and that you are able to build out your own variations.
Because, at the end of the day, life should be lived as an adventure… by Food!!!