The Art of The Recipe

Very few people read instructions. People even brag about it! “I don’t need the instructions”, “Who even reads these?” “I’ll figure it out”. There’s a culture of opening the box, throwing aside the instructions and seeing what happens… except for when it comes to food.

You know the drill: you take food out of its packaging, read the instructions, throw them in the bin… then sheepishly fish them back out because you’ve forgotten what they said. Don’t lie, it’s happened to all of us.

And that’s the difference between recipes and instructions- we don’t trust ourselves to figure it out on our own. We can’t even adjust Fahrenheit instructions for Celsius (or vice versa) without Googling it! Cooking is a precise art that we’re sometimes afraid to mess with, for fear of spending all night in the bathroom. And that’s a very legitimate fear.

Luckily, any recipe you want is just a few taps away. Well, if you choose the first result you get. If that first recipe doesn’t sound quite right or (more likely) you don’t have all the ingredients for it, you’ll be scrolling down all of the search results to find a recipe that suits you.

It’s only then that you realise how many recipe websites are out there.

Anyone can put a recipe online. They don’t need a qualification, they don’t even have to have ever made the recipe they’re giving you! But Google gave it to you, so you trust it. Of course, the best way to know if a recipe’s good is to check the comments underneath it. “This worked great for me, I just changed two thirds of the ingredients!” If you’re seeing comments like that, I’d move along.

A lot of people complain about the long stories people put before their online recipes. Yeah, that’s great that your aunt’s cat almost knocked over a vase and it reminded you of a trip you took to France fifteen years ago, but I’m just here for the cake! While this kind of thing does annoy me, I just scroll down past the long meandering anecdote until I see the recipe- it’s easy to notice because it isn’t a huge block of text. I have two things that annoy me more than that: every recipe being “the best” and every recipe including a blender.

Does anyone else get more and more annoyed every time they google a recipe and every result claims to be the best? Once upon a time, I didn’t mind it so much; now it drives me up the wall! You don’t know that your recipe is the best! You have no way of measuring if your recipe is the best! Your recipe can’t be the best if there are fifty other recipes also claiming to be the best! I know these people are just trying to say that their recipe is really good, but there are better ways of doing that. Use an adjective instead! Delicious, mouthwatering, unbelievable, all very good words to describe food! I think the way to decide which recipe is the best is to have a huge worldwide competition. Either a taste test or a giant battle, I don’t really mind which.

I have a blender, but this is a recent addition to my kitchen. I’m glad I have one because the last five recipes I’ve looked up have just been a list of ingredients and the instruction “blend the ingredients”. The last recipe that said this was a brownie mix, and brownie mix is for too thick to blend. I tried to just blend the wet ingredients in the blender and it was too thick! I knew it would be too thick because it contained avocado (yes, I’m on the avocado dessert bandwagon) but apparently the recipe author didn’t. When it came to adding the dry ingredients, the mixing bowl came out straight away. Blenders are great for making sauces and soups but if the end result of your recipe isn’t liquid, then your recipe should not just say “blend the ingredients”!

Very few people rigidly stick to a recipe; more often that not, you adjust it to suit your tastes or make up for ingredients you don’t have. We don’t do this with any other instructions- well, maybe with the exception of IKEA furniture when you can’t find that last piece…

We’ve reached a point where people are more likely browse a few recipes and pick their favourite, or just use one as a starting point and see what happens. Whether or not the finished product is “the best” is up to you. Unless you post your recipe on the internet, because in that case I’ll have something to say about it.

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