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advoca 05-05-2006 10:29 PM

Some cookery books irritate me. Mind you, I am easily irritated, but even so, there are cookery books which, in my view, commit unforgivable sins. Take, Leapfrogging, for example. This is a disease which seems to afflict the bigger type of cookery book, the ones that come dangerously close to being an encyclopedia — Larousse Gastronomique, for example. Admirable as it is, it has some horrible examples of Leapfrogging. If you look up the recipe for Mussel Fritots it calmly says “Finish as for oyster fritots. But when you turn to oyster fritots, it equally calmly says “Finish as for frogs’-legs fritots.” Well! I ask you.!

Another irritant is Indexitis. This upsets me quite a bit. Frequently when planning the evening meal I will skim through my books and will see a recipe which sounds interesting. By the time six o’clock comes around I have forgotten where I saw the recipe, so I have to hunt through the index to try and locate it. The other day I saw a recipe for mussels which seemed worth trying. Could I find it under M? No! Not a whisper of any recipe for mussels. I was convinced I had the right book, and so I had no alternative but to go through it page by page. It was a book on Fish and Shell-fish, so I couldn’t track it down in a particular section, so page by page it had to be. Eventually I found it. It was called Spanish Mussels. I turned back to the index, and sure enough, there it was listed under S.

Indexitis is a disease spread by lazy production managers, usually those who have a computer program which will automatically generate an index. The computer, however, is an unthinking beast, and if you ask it to list the recipes alphabetically it does just that. Therefore, it puts Spanish Mussels in the S section. You can blame indolence on the part of the managers, and editors, when you find this unforgivable sin in cookery books.

Take Decimalitis, too. So many recipe book producers have not understood the extent of decimalisation, and they insist on putting in the book, usually at the front, an explanation for those of us who are presumed to be ignorant of its complexities. Fluid ounces, ounces, pints and gills are considered to be easy, but we we are believed to be ignorant when it comes to decimals. And when it comes to spoons, life gets really complicated. No two countries have the same sized spoon, from what I gather. However, back to decimalization. In the early days, around the 70s, the producers had to pay lip service to this new-fangled idea, and I clearly remember seeing an Australian cookery magazine where the measures were to the exact whole figure, and the recipes called for such as 28 g of butter, and 226 g of flour. Oh, how I wish I had kept that magazine. As the idea of decimalisation grew, many cookery book publishers, rather than re-set the books were wont to include a “Guide to Metrication.” I have one book which “worked out a plan for converting recipes from British measures to their approximate metric equivalents.” It was a very complicated set of instructions, and contained such gems as “1 oz. is 28 g to the nearest whole figure but is only 25 g when rounded off to the nearest number which can be divided by 25.” To make life easy, tables were given, which showed ounces against the approximate g, and ml, to the nearest whole figure, and also to the nearest unit of 25. But since every recipe gave the measurements in British measures only, clearly the producers imagined that those who worked in decimals would do their arithmetic before starting cooking.

British cookbooks, these days, give both British measures and Decimal measures. Apparently there are many who stick to the old measures, so I suppose that it is appropriate to include both. But why, oh why, is there a fear of mixing up the two systems? It is surprising how many times one still comes across a warning such as this:

“Note: When making any of the recipes in this book, only follow one set of measures as they are not interchangeable.”

Where, oh where, did they get that idea from? It is absolute rubbish! Just pick on any recipe, and see whether it makes one happorth of difference whether you use ounces or grams, fluid ounces or millilitres, especially where the recipe calls for 1-2 leeks, 2 onions, 1-3 celery sticks, 1 small green pepper. Will the dish be ruined if you use 450 g of pork fillet and 8 oz tomatoes? I will concede that if you are making a cake it is wise not to mix up the measures, but it is by no means essential — just try it and see. I challenge anyone to make three cakes, one with all British measures, one with all decimal measures, and one with mixed British and decimal measures, and and I defy them tell the difference between them. (Incidentally, have you noticed the measures are now British? In my day, they were Imperial measures!)

This nonsense of warning against mixing measures dies hard. In a BBC publication which first came out in 1997 it blithely states “Follow one set of measurements when following any of the recipes. Do not mix metric with imperial.” What utter nonsense! The book is a book of Barbecue recipes, and is full of recipes which call for “3 garlic cloves, 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, a green pepper, a stick of celery, and a carrot. It omits to say whether the peppers, celery, and carrots should be imperial or metric. (Incidentally, notice that the BBC firmly sticks to ‘imperial measures’! Do I detect a bit of jingoism?)

jkath 05-06-2006 02:47 AM

Delightful to read, and equally correct!

Karma will be to you in a click!

Horab 05-12-2006 07:41 PM

It's good to know that this confuses other people as well.

I never understood why they weren't interchangable, good thing they don't have that sort of attitude on foreign currency markets.

But I have noticed that it's prevalent in cookbooks that have to be translated from, say, French to English.

Snoop Puss 05-13-2006 03:14 AM

Well, that's news to me. I've never heard of "British measures". I always thought it was imperial and metric.

I agree about the weight conversion absurdity. It's ridiculous to make such a fuss about it and then not do the calculations accurately. A pound in weight is usually given as 450 g, when in fact this would be 18 oz if calculated at 25 g per oz. And some recipes could be quite sloppy as a result of too much liquid to dry ingredients.

There's one British TV cook who claims her recipes are infallible, even when cooked by the absolute novice. Her cookbooks annoy me tremendously as there are quite a few that do not work and any experienced cook can tell from the outset, just by reading them. She is one of the worst, as well, for prescribing precisely how you are supposed to do something. No creativity allowed at all. This defeats the whole purpose of cooking for me.

KellyM 06-13-2006 09:37 PM

Oh boy, a rant! I love it! I thought I was the only person around here prone to these!

I don't buy a lot of cookbooks, and must admit I have yet to fall victim to "Decimalitis", and I hope I never do. Sounds extremely frustrating to me!

However, for me, "leapfrogging" is quite annoying enough. I have a Mexican cookbook which is authentic and quite excellent, except for this frustrating tendency. Something as simple as a recipe for tacos will first refer you to another recipe for Salsa Mexicana, and then to another recipe for the meat filling. The taco recipe itself is just instructions on how to fry tortillas, and basic assembly. I don't even want to think about how much I'd have to jump around to find everything I'd need to make something that is complicated!

There really is no excuse for Spanish mussels being listed under “S” for “Spanish.“ I mean, how hard would it be to file them under "Mussels, Spanish"?

Then there are the cookbooks I've encountered lately that don't even have an index!

Is it too much to ask that people who write cookbooks be literate?


cookbook 06-27-2006 02:46 AM

cooking styles
i need a cookbook that wud give me new styles and delicious recipes. anyone can help me?

daisy 06-27-2006 05:52 AM

Well, there was Imperial measures, then there was American Imperial measures, and then there was Metric. Having been reared on on a solid diet of Imperial, then introduced to Metric as an adult, and mastering it within maybe 10 minutes, I'm happy to say that Metric wins hands down. Then, with the advent of computers and international communication becoming easier, I discovered American Imperial. I am still figuring out the mysteries of that one several years later, though I'm fairly fluent in it by now.

BTW, when translating ounces to grams, 30g is 1 ounce. There is such a thing as 'rounding to the nearest 5' and it works like a charm.

My personal gripes about recipe books include:

Recipe titles that read like entire chapters.

Being told that my frypan must be 'xcm big, heavy-bottomed, non-stick....'. Or that I MUST use such and such sized saucepan.

I smoke from the ears and grind my teeth when told to 'set aside'. Especially when they add insult to injury by saying 'in another bowl....'.

I hate recipes that get personal. 'Take your meat, put it into your frypan, add your onions....'.

And as for 'remove from oven'!! Nah, I'm gunna leave it there for eternity!

Ishbel 06-27-2006 06:04 AM

Or in some of the newer cookbooks 'remember, the oven door may get very hot....' etc!:smile:

Sue Lau 07-06-2006 11:00 PM


Originally Posted by cookbook
i need a cookbook that wud give me new styles and delicious recipes. anyone can help me?

There are so many!
What kind of food do you like or want to prepare?

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