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

🎧 Sugar and salt: Industrial is best | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Sugar and salt: Industrial is best from Eat This Podcast
Henry Hobhouse’s book Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Transformed Mankind (now six, with the addition of cacao) contains the remarkable fact that at the height of the slave trade a single teaspoon of sugar cost six minutes of a man’s life to produce. Reason enough to cheer the abolition of slavery, I suppose. But that doesn’t mean that everything is sweetness and light in the business of sugar. Or salt. A photo gallery in The Big Picture made that very clear, and inspired Rachel Laudan, a food historian, to write in praise of industrial salt and sugar.

Sugar and salt: Industrial is bestSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS | More
Support this podcast: on Patreon

🎧 Sugar and salt: Industrial is best | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Sugar and salt: Industrial is best from Eat This Podcast
Henry Hobhouse’s book Seeds of Change: Five Plants That Transformed Mankind (now six, with the addition of cacao) contains the remarkable fact that at the height of the slave trade a single teaspoon of sugar cost six minutes of a man’s life to produce. Reason enough to cheer the abolition of slavery, I suppose. But that doesn’t mean that everything is sweetness and light in the business of sugar. Or salt. A photo gallery in The Big Picture made that very clear, and inspired Rachel Laudan, a food historian, to write in praise of industrial salt and sugar.

Industrial food processing sketch

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Support this podcast: on Patreon

 

 

 


We often don’t know how lucky we are to live in the modern highly linked world. The concept of industrialized foods like salt and sugar and their prior histories will certainly bring our situation into high relief. The history here and its broad effects could certainly be fit into the broader category of big history as well.