Read Modern Recipes: A Case of Miscommunication by Peter HertzmannPeter Hertzmann (dl.hertzmann.com)
Chef and food instructor takes a look at the history of recipes and how they're frequently misinterpreted.
(Hat tip to Jeremy Cherfas and his excellent Eat This Podcast episode Making sense of modern recipes: It’s not your fault; even professional chefs encounter problems for directing me to Hertzmann’s paper; some of my favorite episodes feature Jeremy interviewing him.)

Keep in mind that the paper which is highlighted and excerpted here is a draft version and not for direct citation or attribution.

recipe is simply ‘a statement of the ingredients and procedure required for making something’.2 There is no guarantee implied or stated that the cook will understand either the statement of ingredients or the procedure.

–November 24, 2019 at 02:41PM

Fourteenth-century recipe collections that have survived to today, such as Viandier pour appareiller toutes manières de viandes, Libre de sent sovi, Daz bûch von gûter spîse, and Forme of Cury, were written by professional cooks to use as an aide-mémoire for themselves or other professional cooks.

–November 24, 2019 at 02:42PM

Le Ménagier de Paris, written near the end of the century was arguably the first cookbook written as a set of instructions for a second party to use when managing a third party, in this case, for the young wife of an elderly gentleman to use as a guide for household management including supervising the cook.

It’s not indicated well here in the text, but this was written in 1393 according to the footnote.

Le Ménagier de Paris, 2 vols (Paris: the author, 1393; repr. Paris: Jerome Pichon, 1846)
–November 24, 2019 at 02:43PM

The suggested alternative cooking technique ignores that braising is performed slowly, with low heat, and in a steam environment.

–November 24, 2019 at 03:15PM

Lincoln suggested that all volumetric measurements required an adjective such as heaping, rounded, or level.2

I’ve heard of these, but not seen them as descriptors in quite a while and they always seemed “fluffy” to me anyway.
–November 24, 2019 at 03:25PM

Kosher salt: This salt should in practice be referred to as koshering salt, its original purpose. U.S. chefs started using Diamond Crystal-brand Kosher Salt in the 1990s because it was the only coarse salt commonly available to them. Rather than specify a brand or coarseness in their cookbooks, they chose the unfortunate term of ‘kosher salt’. Kosher salt is not purer than other salts, and all kosher salts are not equal. When measured volumetrically, all kosher salts have different amounts of salt. Nonetheless, many authors insist on specifying a volumetric amount of kosher salt—‘1 teaspoon kosher salt’—but do not identify the brand being used.36

The only author I’ve known to differentiate has been Michael Ruhlman, but even he didn’t specify the brand and essentially said that when using “Kosher salt” to use twice as much as specified compared to standard table salt, presumably to account for the densities involved.
–November 24, 2019 at 03:38PM

This is to say, the ingredients and the quantities thereof are indicated by pictures which most illiterate persons can understand and persons with poor vision can see; and which are readily grasped by the minds of those who are not in the above classes.

an early example of accessibility UI in a cook book.
–November 24, 2019 at 04:00PM

Further, as stated, by merely glancing at the pictorially indicated recipe of the present invention the cook can ascertain at a glance the required ingredients, can ascertain whether such ingredients are on hand, and, if not, the needed articles will be more easily remembered in purchasing the days supply of groceries, etc.

an example in the wild of visual memory being stronger than other forms.
–November 24, 2019 at 04:02PM

The book goes closer to teaching the reader to cook than most modern books.

My thoughts as well. Ratio is a fantastic cooking book.
–November 24, 2019 at 04:04PM

At least one, somewhat successful, cookbook has been published claiming to teach cooking without recipes.40

Bookmark to read in future: Glynn Christian, How to Cook Without Recipes(London: Portico Books, 2008).

The numbering of the annotations is slightly off here….
–November 24, 2019 at 04:05PM

Most modern cookbook authors claim to meet the conditions for a ‘good recipe’ as described by Elisabeth Luard:42

A good recipe is one that first encourages the reader to cook, and then delivers what it promises. A well-written recipe takes you by the hand and says, don’t worry, it’ll all be okay, this is what you’re looking for, this is what happens when you chop or slice or apply heat, and if it goes wrong, this is how to fix it. And when you’ve finished, this is what it should look and taste like, this is what to eat it with. But above all, take joy in what you do.

In reality, most authors fail to meet the above conditions. It would probably be better if authors tried to match the writing of earlier recipe authors from the first half of the twentieth century when less space was given to fancy illustrations and more words were given to how to cook.

–November 24, 2019 at 04:09PM

Mount: A cooking technique where small pieces of butter are quickly incorporated in a hot, but not boiling, sauce to give bulk and a glossy appearance.

A definition I don’t recall having ever seen before.
–November 24, 2019 at 04:17PM

The technical term for the zest is the flavedo.

flavedo is a new word to me
–November 24, 2019 at 04:27PM

👓 Limits, schlimits: It’s time to rethink how we teach calculus | Ars Technica

Read Limits, schlimits: It’s time to rethink how we teach calculus by Jennifer OuletteJennifer Oulette (Ars Technica)
Ars chats with math teacher Ben Orlin about his book Change Is the Only Constant.

Finally, I decided to build it around all my favorite stories that touched on calculus, stories that get passed around in the faculty lounge, or the things that the professor mentions off-hand during a lecture. I realized that all those little bits of folklore tapped into something that really excited me about calculus. They have a time-tested quality to them where they’ve been told and retold, like an old folk song that has been sharpened over time.

And this is roughly how memory and teaching has always worked. Stories and repetition.
–November 11, 2019 at 09:56AM

Read Memo palaces without any preparation? (Art of Memory Forum)
Yes, I found it works for long term recall too. There are a lot more tricks to imaginary locations that make them work better. They aren’t as simple as normal locations because you can make them better or worse than normal locations. Some of these tricks dive into how memory works too, the most common issue I see people having with imaginary memory palaces is interference and linking. These issues appear because normal memory palaces do not really deal with interference because they have been ...
Read Why Do People Move Their Eyes When Trying to Remember Something? (Today I Found Out)
Lori asks: When you ask someone a question where they have to remember something, everyone seems to look up and off to the side. Why do we do this? Down and to the left, straight-head but unfocused, and, of course, up and to the right, when asked a tough question or to recall a long-buried memory, most of us shift [...]
Read Speed Reading Apps: Spritz, Spreeder (Art of Memory Forum)

I’m really excited about a new speed reading app called Spritz 24. The only drawback is that it only allows readers to go up to 600wpm at the moment.

Spreeder 11 also looks good. I can read at 1,000 wpm there without it feeling too much like “skimming”, though it’s possible to miss an important word like a number when blinking – edit: see below. I think it would be better if the full text were written below it so that one could look up any words that were missed.

Those apps seem to break the speed limits mentioned in this article 5.

Check them out and let me know what you think…

Edit: I did some searching online and found some more apps, which I’ll link to below. I think the words are missed at 1,000wpm speed not because of blinking, but because certain kinds of text don’t work at this speed. I just tried it with some text from the wiki and I think that it’s too fast for lists and numbers in general. One improvement that could be made is to automatically slow down half or quarter the speed when encountering things like numbers and lists. Maybe it would also help readers if the apps would slightly pause at punctuation.

Edit 2: on further experimentation, I think the 1,000wpm speed is skimming. When using their simple-English examples, it works, but nothing beyond “skimming” when using normal text, like this random example 2 from Wikipedia.

Read Moving Your Eyes Improves Memory, Study Suggests (livescience.com)
If you’re looking for a quick memory fix, move your eyes from side-to-side for 30 seconds, researchers say. Horizontal eye movements are thought to cause the two hemispheres of the brain to interact more with one another, and communication between brain hemispheres is important for retrieving certain types of memories.

👓 rapid eye movement from dominique o’brien | General Memory Chat | Art of Memory Forum

Read rapid eye movement from dominique o'brien (Art of Memory Forum)
Hi, in a TV-show about all kinds of crazy world records I saw dominique o’brien memorising 50 objects that were placed on some kind of running track. When he was doing this, his eyes moved from side to side in a very fast pace. This reminded me of an incredibly smart IT-guy (I felt like Forrest Gump in comparison) that came to our warehouse to implement a new computer system. If he was asked a very difficult question he would look up in the air and his eyes would behave precisely like those o...

Possibly tangentially related:

  • If you sit on a swivel chair (safer than doing the same thing standing up) and gently place your fingertips on your closed eyes while you turn around and around, you’ll be able to discern that your eyes will still exhibit saccadic movement even though you can’t “see” anything. (Not sure if this is true for the blind, but it’s worth considering who this may not be true for and why.)
  • Rapid Serial Visual Presentation methods for speed reading (Spritz and related apps) work well primarily because they limit saccadic eye movements which take up a proportionally large portion of your reading time. (Ultimately I think there is an upper limit to how fast one can read and comprehend and retain information.)
  • The visual systems of chickens are responsible for their odd walking manner in which they throw their heads forward and then move their body underneath them while their head remains stationary. Essentially while their head is moving, they’re “blind”.

Is it possible that saccades of the eye are tied into our visual processing and memory systems in a manner deeper than we’re consciously aware? Does reading on a page help our comprehension or long term memories more because the words have a location on a page versus RSVP reading methods? Do our mental visualizations (imagination) change depending on these visual/reading methods? What effects to these have on our memories?

Some interesting questions worth pondering/researching.

👓 Humane Ingenuity 8: Ebooks: It’s Complicated | Dan Cohen

Read Humane Ingenuity 8: Ebooks: It's Complicated by Dan CohenDan Cohen (buttondown.email)
In this issue, I want to open a conversation about a technology of our age that hasn’t quite worked out the way we all had hoped—and by we, I mean those of us who care about the composition and transmission of ideas, which I believe includes everyone on this list. Twenty years ago, literary critic Sven Birkerts reviewed the new technology of ebooks and e-readers for the short-lived internet magazine Feed. They sent him a Rocket eBook and a SoftBook, and he duly turned them on and settled into his comfy chair. What followed, however, was anything but comfy:
Image from a deck of cards by Rene Descartes

René Descartes designed a deck of playing cards that also functioned as flash cards to learn geometry and mechanics. (King of Clubs from The use of the geometrical playing-cards, as also A discourse of the mechanick powers. By Monsi. Des-Cartes. Translated from his own manuscript copy. Printed and sold by J. Moxon at the Atlas in Warwick Lane, London. Via the Beinecke Library, from which you can download the entire deck.)

My immediate thought is that this deck of cards was meant as a memory palace. I’m curious what training in rhetoric/memory methods Descartes must have had?
November 06, 2019 at 08:49PM


We are beginning a renovation of our main library at Northeastern University, Snell Library, and have been talking with architects (some of them very well-known), and I’ve found the discussions utterly invigorating. I would like to find some way to blog or newsletter about the process we will go through over the next few years, and to think aloud about the (re)design and (future) function of the library. I’m not sure if that should occur in this space or elsewhere, although the thought of launching another outlet fills me with dread. Let me know if this topic would interest you, and if I should include it here.

Dan, this is definitely interesting. Please include it here or on your main site!!!
November 06, 2019 at 08:43PM


But wait, there’s more. Much more. We generally encounter four different acquisition models (my thanks to Janet Morrow of our library for this outline): 1) outright purchase, just like a print book, easy peasy, generally costs a lot even though it’s just bits (we pay an average of over $40 per book this way), which gives us perpetual access with the least digital rights management (DRM) on the ebooks, which has an impact on sustainable access over time; 2) subscription access: you need to keep paying each year to get access, and the provider can pull titles on you at any time, plus you also get lots of DRM, but there’s a low cost per title (~$1 a book per year); 3) demand-driven/patron-driven acquisition: you don’t get the actual ebook, just a bibliographic record for your library’s online system, until someone chooses to download a book, or reads some chunk of it online, which then costs you, say ~$5; 4) evidence-based acquisitions, in which we pay a set cost for unlimited access to a set of titles for a year and then at the end of the year we can use our deposit to buy some of the titles (< $1/book/year for the set, and then ~$60/book for those we purchase).

Nice to see this laid out. I’ve never seen a general overview of how this system works for libraries.

I’ve always wondered what it cost my local public library to loan me an e-book whether I read it or not.
November 06, 2019 at 08:40PM


It is worth asking why ebooks and e-readers like the Kindle treaded water after swimming a couple of laps. I’m not sure I can fully diagnose what happened (I would love to hear your thoughts), but I think there are many elements, all of which interact as part of the book production and consumption ecosystem.

For me, and potentially for a majority of others, our memories have evolved to be highly location specific. It’s far easier for me to remember what I’ve read when I read a physical book. I can often picture what I was reading at the top, middle, or bottom of the left or right page. This fact in addition to how far I am in the book gives me a better idea of where I am with respect to a text.

These ideas are very subtle and so heavily ingrained in us that they’re not very apparent to many, if at all.

See also Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture by Lynne Kelly (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
November 06, 2019 at 08:32PM

🔖 Mind and Memory Training by Ernest Egerton Wood

Bookmarked Mind and Memory Training by Ernest Egerton Wood (Theosophical Pub. House (Reprint by Occult Research Press))
Saw a reference to this obscure memory text from the 50’s on the Art of Memory Forum. Looks interesting to check out for the state of the art then, particularly in comparison to Bruno Furst’s work, and who could resist the quirky book covers for this and its reprints?
Replied to Constantly building new memory palaces is annoying by Ywan MüllerYwan Müller (Art of Memory Forum)
Hello, I have a problem and I hope, you can help me. Is there a way to just memorize information with mnemotechniques without doing much work beforhand? My problem is, that I am tired of having to constantely building new memory palaces before I can memorize something. (Reusing memory palaces does not work for me, unfortunately.) Is there a technique where I don`t have to constantely memorize new loci, a technique where I can just put the infos somewhere and review them later? And if so, how does this technique work and is it efficient (a good way to memorize things)? Thanks.
In many modern descriptions of the method of loci, they’re often (unfortunately) described as places that are frequently reused as they would be for memory competitions. This makes them much tougher to use for remembering more useful things in longer term memory. As a result I use a small handful of very specifically selected places for these sorts of short term memory-based journeys. When I’m done with the specific task at hand, I mentally travel back through the journey and wash out all of those short term memories so that I can come back to them in rotation and they’re fresh and clean with many of the memories having faded out with the advance of time. Alternately peg-systems or linked story-systems can be used depending on the items being memorized.

For longer term memory, I prefer to use more everyday locations such as my home (or previous residences, schools, college, etc.) or walks around my neighborhood. This way, as I’m moving about my house, neighborhood, or other frequently visited quotidian places, I’m seeing the accumulated images and regularly re-firming them in my memory. This regular revisiting of them makes them stick in my long term memory much better. For things you want to keep for longer term, revisiting them at an hour, a day, a week, a month, and then three months with occasional annual revisits helps to keep them stored permanently in your long term memory. This method also allows you to add additional information via images over time so that when you’ve read that biography of Abraham Lincoln, for example, you can add any additional information to the loci where you stored him when you may have memorized all of the U.S. presidents in order. Lynne Kelly has a reasonably good description of this in her book The Memory Code where she discusses the timeline of history she’s created in a journey around her neighborhood.

In short, one should carefully consider the type of information one is trying to memorize, the length of time one wants to remember it, and then choose from one of the many methods for remembering it. Experience in doing this takes some time and advanced thought, but in the end will give better results.

👓 Constantly building new memory palaces is annoying | Art of Memory Forum

Read Constantly building new memory palaces is annoying (Art of Memory Forum)
Hello, I have a problem and I hope, you can help me. Is there a way to just memorize information with mnemotechniques without doing much work beforhand? My problem is, that I am tired of having to constantely building new memory palaces before I can memorize something. (Reusing memory palaces does not work for me, unfortunately.) Is there a technique where I don`t have to constantely memorize new loci, a technique where I can just put the infos somewhere and review them later? And if so, ho...

Expanding Ekphrasis to the Broader Field of Mnemotechny: or How the Shield of Achilles Relates to a Towel, Car, and Water Buffalo

If Lynne Kelly‘s thesis about the methods of memory used by indigenous peoples is correct, and I strongly believe it is, then the concept of ekphrasis as illustrated in the description of the Shield of Achilles in Homer’s Iliad (Book 18, lines 478–608) is far more useful than we may have previously known. I strongly suspect that Achilles’ Shield is an early sung version of a memory palace to which were once attached other (now lost) memories from Bronze Age Greece.

The word ekphrasis, or ecphrasis, comes from the Greek for the description of a work of art produced as a rhetorical exercise, often used in the adjectival form ekphrastic.—Wikipedia

While many may consider this example of Homer’s to be the first instance of ekphrasis within literature (primarily because it specifically depicts an artwork, which is part of the more formal definition of the word), I would posit that even earlier descriptions in the Iliad itself which go into great detail about individuals and their methods of death are also included in a broader conception of ekphrasis. This larger ekphrasis subsumes all of these descriptions in an tradition of orality as being portions of ancient memory palaces within a broader field of mnemotechny. I imagine that these graphic, bloody, and larger-than-life depictions of death not only encoded the names and ideas of the original people/ancestors, but they were also quite likely to have had additional layers of memory encoded (or attached) to them as well. Here I’m suggesting that while an actual shield may or may not have originally existed that even once the physical shield or other object is gone or lost that the remembered story of the shield still provides a memory palace to which other ideas can be attached.

(I’ll remind the forgetful reader than mnemotechny grows out of the ancient art of rhetoric as envisioned in Rhetorica ad Herennium, and thus the use of ekphrasis as a rhetorical device implicitly subsumes the idea of memory, though most modern readers may not have that association.)

Later versions of ekphrasis in post-literate history may have been more about the arts themselves and related references and commentary (example: Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn), but I have a strong feeling that this idea’s original incarnation was more closely related to early memory methods at the border of oral and literate societies.

In other words, ancient performers, poets, etc. may have created their own memory palaces by which they were able to remember long stories like the Iliad, but what is to say that these stories themselves weren’t in turn memory palaces to the listeners themselves? I myself have previously used the plot and portions of the movie Fletch as a meta memory palace in just this way. As the result of ritualistic semi-annual re-watchings of classic and engaging movies like this, I can dramatically expand my collection of memory palaces. The best part is that while my exterior physical location may change, classics movies will always stay the same. And in a different framing, my memories of portions of history may also help me recall a plethora of famous movie quotes as well.

Can I borrow your towel? My car just hit a water buffalo.—Irwin M. Fletcher