From paper into a pot
by Peeter Pihel
I’ll start off with a question this time – how many different ways can you recall for chopping a carrot? Slicing, cubes, julienne, brunoise etc. But how thick should be the slice in case of slicing? What does ‘gentle boil’ mean, but ‘lively simmer’? How long should be the side of a carrot when making cubes? These are the questions I often run into after I’ve sent a recipe to an apprentice or for a womens’ magazine.
People who are using recipes when cooking can be divided in to two – people who follow the recipe word by word and people who are more creative and change things on the go. Either one can not be condemned for their methods – far from that! Although I feel a bit sorry for people with their nose all the way inside the recipe book, but their sauce has still as a ‘split’ texture instead of ‘silky’. One that’s sure, every recipe consists of cooking aspects that are hard to put in words and no matter how hard you try, it is hard to mess up without a sensitive touch and understanding. Without that special gut feeling.
The style of writing recipes has changed quite a bit over time. During the preparation for the culinary event ’20 by 8′ I worked my way through an ancient book that came out from the walls (and that’s no lie) during the restoration of Pädaste manor. A cooking and household book by Lida Panck was printed in 1896 – the wording of recipes there are strict and have a practical feel – no illustrative or overemotional expressions like golden brown or silky sauce. The style of John Evelyns’ book ‘Acetaria: A Discourse of Sallets’ is even more strict, without a single illustration, just plain text and preparation manuals. Recipes like in professional kitchens nowadays – a lot of numbers and names, but no word by word manual of how to prepare a particular dish, as the cook must now the techniques by hard.
To sum it up, I think that one must be careful with the recipes overloaded with shiny pictures and overwhelming words, because, not to be forgotten – in the end of the day, everything is still up to you – your skills, desire and creativity! Sometimes it is better to go with your gut instead of the recipe!