(Or: How Laura cooks from recipes in the kitchen)
(Also known as: the last thing you ought to know about Laura before she finally starts posting some frackin’ recipe reviews)
So, one of my first cookbooks, back during the summer after freshman year of college was the Joy of Cooking. Actually these days we have 3 copies of the Joy of Cooking on our shelves – the 1997 edition I brought to the marriage, the 1974 edition Adam swipped from his parents and brought to the marriage, and the 75th Anniversary edition we bought because it was on the shelves of a used book store, $15 and gosh darn it, we needed a better version than the 1997 edition.
Loved ones do not give or use the 1997 edition of the Joy of Cooking. Not when there are better editions in the universe.
Any rate, so there I am in my parents’ kitchen trying to learn something about cooking. But… but… the ingredients aren’t at the front of the recipe? Shouldn’t you get everything together on the counter before you start? What if you don’t have something? Or not enough of something else?
Apparently, I had imprinted on my snickerdoodle recipe’s method of presentation. Because my brain just would not process the double column, ingredients (with measurements) embedded format from the Joy of Cooking.
So, I leafed through the book (yes, the entire book), noting what looked interesting, and then copied out/rewrote the recipes I wanted to try, moving the ingredients to the head.
I wasn’t stupid, I used a computer and typed (luckily, my high school wouldn’t let you pass computer class without a 40 wpm typing speed).
Except, I still couldn’t process the recipe while I was cooking. Didn’t matter that I had read it over twice before starting. Didn’t matter that the ingredients were sitting out, ready to be measured. I just could not keep what I was supposed to do in my brain long enough to actually do it. Led to quite a few burnt and overcooked dishes.
So I copied the recipes out again. By hand. Yes, I wrote out the recipes in cursive (do schools even still teach that anymore?) And I’ve been doing it ever since.
I’m up to three binders – main entrees, desserts, and everything else (appetizers, side dishes, vegetables, bread, etc.). Well, plus the binder of random cooking and food related information. Oh, and the one of Great-Grandma Helen’s collection of recipes from her friends. One of these days, I really need to start working through that binder, figuring out cooking times and/or temperatures. Great-Grandma would record the ingredients and either oven temperature or cooking time, never both. And no instructions on how to combine the ingredients. Because why would you need those?
Any rate, 3 binders in regular use, each divided into various sections. The Entree binder is divided by protein type, mostly: Vegetarian, Beef, Pork & Lamb, Poultyr, Pasta, Fish, Agnostic, and finally Sauces, Rubs & Marinades. The desserts are by end result type: Cookies, Cupcakes & Brownies, Dessert Breads, Cakes, Pies, Frosting, and Custards. The Miscellania binder, otherwise known as the black binder, has, well, everything else: Breakfast, Appetizers, Side dishes, Drinks, Vegetables, Pantry staples, Condiments, Snack Food, Dinner Bread, and Sandwich Bread. Yes, I have enough bread recipes that I separated them out by purpose.
I still copy out new recipes I’d like to try by hand – from new cookbooks, random ones off the internet, etc. I tend to build up a backlog of recipes waiting to be copied, work through those over a couple months and then let the backlog build back up while I try to cook my way through the untried, newly copied recipes. New recipes go in the front of their section, with the oldest on top. Every time I use a recipe it goes to the back of the section, allowing the things I haven’t made in a while to work their way to the front of the section, where I am more likely to choose them while meal planning. Or admit that I don’t particularly like that one and recycle it. I do have a rule – if I haven’t tried a new recipe within one year of copying it out (two years for desserts), into the recycling it goes. Rule two – I am allowed, at any point, to look at a recipe and toss it upon thinking ‘what was I smoking?’ – usual prompts for that: 2 hours in the oven, random ingredient I will never use in any other recipe, allow bread to rise for 24 hours, and such like.
So, how many recipes do I have to try, you ask? (You totally should, you know. Not as much fun around here without the call-and-response. )
Excuse me, I’m… I’m gonna go weed that a bit…