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Old 08-15-2008, 08:35 PM   #1
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Question A question about recipes and those who use them.

Let me begin by saying that I don't know if this is the right place for this, and if it is not please feel free to move it to the appropriate place.

When I was a small child and was first getting interested in what the big people around me were doing, my mother taught me a interesting lesson. She let me bake a "cake". She let me pick and choose the ingredients that I thought made a cake, mix them up and add some food coloring and then she baked it for me. It came out a little hard pink mass that in no way resembled real food that one would put in ones mouth. Then she got out a little card and we went through a series of steps which ended up producing a real cake that one would indeed enjoy eating. This little adventure taught me several things but the reason I share this story is that this was my first introduction to the concept of a Recipe.

Fast forward some twenty something years and I am a adult who enjoys cooking, baking and spending time in the kitchen. I make meals for my DW and for my friends and have fun doing it. I like to come on these forums and read about all of your exploits and read your wonderful recipes. I spend time looking up recipes for dishes I am interested in making and planning meals.

Ok all of that was to say this. Twice in the last few weeks (most recently this morning) I have been talking cooking with customers in the store I work at (jewelry repair), and when I mentioned looking up recipes or finding a new recipe I wanted to try they made a face or scoffed. As if to say "Oh well sure you cook but you use recipes, pansy." I can honestly say that I hold neither of these particular people in any kind of esteem as I do not really know either of them but all the same I felt a bit bruised afterwards.

So tell me, am I less of a cook for starting from a recipe? Should I be able to put things together without a reference and just know that the will turn out? Or do I just talk to nutjobs at work?

Thank you for letting me vent all that. What do you think DC?

-Josh hart

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Old 08-15-2008, 08:39 PM   #2
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You are most certainly no less of a cook because you use a recipe. The people you were talking to were snobs IMO and I bet your food turns out better than theirs anyway
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Old 08-15-2008, 08:43 PM   #3
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Hi, Josh. I think you have a lot of nutjobs at work I also think it depends a lot on how much cooking experience you have. I have a reputation as a very good cook, but I often use recipes because I don't want to mess things up, or because I enjoyed something and want to have it again.

With Italian and even Mexican cooking, I feel pretty confident making up a recipe and adding seasonings till I like how it tastes, but I don't think I can always duplicate it. So then I kind of regret not using a recipe, because I won't be able to make the dish again. And I don't do that with most other cuisines, like Thai or Indian, because I'm not as familiar with the flavors.

I think there are lots of ways to be a cook. Try not to worry so much about what others think. It seems that so few people cook at all these days, I wouldn't be surprised if some of those scoffing customers don't cook many of their own meals. HTH.
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Old 08-15-2008, 08:47 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by josh_swinehart View Post

So tell me, am I less of a cook for starting from a recipe?

Should I be able to put things together without a reference and just know that the will turn out?

Or do I just talk to nutjobs at work?

Thank you for letting me vent all that. What do you think DC?

-Josh hart
No. Not in my opinion, but I'm not a "real" cook.

In all honesty, I think once you get the gist of it all, you should be able to deviate from a good recipe and feel pretty secure it will be edible.

You are from So Cal, right?

Besides, what difference does it make if the recipe is written down or in your head? It's bound to be somebody's recipe
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:04 PM   #5
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Thank you all for your comments on the matter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pacanis View Post

In all honesty, I think once you get the gist of it all, you should be able to deviate from a good recipe and feel pretty secure it will be edible.

You are from So Cal, right?
You calling me a deviant? Oh well if the shoe fits.

I do change things as I cook, especially if I have made the recipe before and made some note to myself to change something the next time. But I feel more comfortable having a recipe as a foundation that will at least in theory work as is.

GotGarlic you bring up an interesting point. The two most recent people to scoff at recipes were both cooks who tended towards their own ethnic cuisines. One Italian and one Venezuelan, perhaps they are so used to cooking the same litany of dishes that they do not need recipes any longer but do not make new dishes.

Their culinary upbringing may not have involved recipes but rather a grandmother who measured by handfuls and pinches. Mine was all about recipes handed down from one generation to the next written in great grandmothers neat cursive script. It takes all kinds as they say.

-Josh hart
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:16 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by pacanis View Post
No. Not in my opinion, but I'm not a "real" cook.
Are you a "fake" cook?

From the pics I've seen, I think you're a pretty good cook, Pacanis, especially since, if I recall correctly, you're a single guy who lives alone. A lot of people in your situation would have cereal with milk for dinner, but you actually cook an entire meal for yourself! I think it's great.
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:22 PM   #7
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Recipe or not, cooking can be an enjoyable experience. Not to toot my horn, but I'm a good "exact" cook. By that, I mean I can take a recipe and duplicate it perfectly. However, I much prefer to use a recipe as the foundation or suggestion and take off from there.

There are cooks who are just like me and I've become more adventurous in my older years. Who cares? If all else fails, we'll just call "out."

Buck was one of the other cooks I respect beyond bounds. He was an intuitive cook. He could open the refrigerator and gather what appeared to be the most unlikely combination of ingredients and produce the most awesome dish.

He had a second sense about flavors and I'm sure I'll never achieve the talent he had. It was a God-given and natural thing some people possess.

No reason to beat yourself up about using a recipe as your base. Go for it and keep on. You already seem to have a sense about what goes with what. As for noting what changes you want to make to a recipe, don't forget to write them down. Your memory will play tricks on you.
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:24 PM   #8
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Next time someone tells you you're less of a cook for using a recipe, ask them to whip up a classic dish such as Brazilian Feijoada or a French cassoulet or Spanish paella. Classic dishes would be lost forever without a recipe.

Did you ever make a meal for your DW that she really loved? Aren't you happy you can recreate that dish any time she asks for it?

I read and use different recipes. My general rule is to make the recipe as written the first time. Then I can experience what the recipe's creator intended and decide if I want to modify it when I make it again. Sometimes my SO decides I want to change the recipe.

You go to your favorite restaurant and order your favorite dish. It's so good, you order it every time you go there. It's always soooo good. A recipe ensures you will not be disappointed.

As you cooking experience grows, you will feel more confident to experiment with your own creations.

Just trying a dish somewhere and wanting to duplicate it can encourage you to try your own creations.

Stick with recipes if that makes you comfortable and ignore those who are critical. If you feel like experimenting, go for it. And write down what you did so you can make it again if it's a winner.

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Old 08-15-2008, 09:27 PM   #9
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In my forty five years of cooking I do a lot by memory but I still use recipes for guidence when making somethin I have not made in a while. I have 12 extra large 3 ring bunders full of recipes I have used through the years. And I refer to them all the time. Pay no attention to those who snubb recipes, they have a real place in cooking
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by josh_swinehart View Post
...The two most recent people to scoff at recipes were both cooks who tended towards their own ethnic cuisines. One Italian and one Venezuelan, perhaps they are so used to cooking the same litany of dishes that they do not need recipes any longer but do not make new dishes.

Their culinary upbringing may not have involved recipes but rather a grandmother who measured by handfuls and pinches. Mine was all about recipes handed down from one generation to the next written in great grandmothers neat cursive script. It takes all kinds as they say.

-Josh hart

Their culinary upbringing most certainly involved recipes! They were handed down by word of mouth rather than as a computer file or a cookbook.
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:39 PM   #11
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Their culinary upbringing most certainly involved recipes! They were handed down by word of mouth rather than as a computer file or a cookbook.
Agreed, but maybe they do not think of them as recipes.

-Josh hart
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:41 PM   #12
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Agreed, but maybe they do not think of them as recipes.

-Josh hart

That doesn't change reality.
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:44 PM   #13
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when i am baking, i follow the recipe carefully. may change vanilla to almond extract, but that's about it.

guest cooking and everyday cooking, i have a rough idea what i want and do that. as time goes on you will be more comfortable in changing things up. however if it is new to me, i follow recipe pretty close.

more experience will tell you when you need a recipe and when you don't.

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Old 08-15-2008, 09:48 PM   #14
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Nobody who prepares meals enjoyed by others is a "lesser" cook!

I'm good a savory cook but if I go to sweets I hunt up a recipe. I also follow a recipe the first time I make a dish but may make subsequent changes to suit my own taste.

When my son was small I used cooking to teach him fractions and reading and he is a great intuitive cook!

Recently while on vacation my Grandaughter (age 4) was turned loose in the kitchen to make her very own cookies without any recipe...well the cookie (as it turned out) was horrible - I'm not sure what she learned from this but she had a good time!

So long as your heart is in your cooking you can't go far wrong - it's just another word for love!
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Old 08-15-2008, 09:59 PM   #15
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I have total respect for those who use recipes. My son-in-law is an executive pastry chef and uses recipes. And I don't want to re-invent the wheel. I love cookbooks and shows like America's Test Kitchens because you get the food science behind why yogurt might work better in a banana bread recipe than sour cream, for example. I might fly without a net making soups and frequently made dishes, but when I'm baking or cooking something I don't often do: recipe, scale, temp gauge in the oven, the works. I like consistency when I'm producing a dish and my memory ain't what it used to be

I have a sensitive palate and good food sense for flavors and what substitutions would work well. But for something I've never cooked before, I would look up lots of different recipes to see what people have done, then choose a recipe that I think will work for me, the equipment I have, and the time I have.
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Old 08-15-2008, 10:35 PM   #16
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Different people work differently. That's all it is.

Personally, I am probably worse when I use a recipe than when I don't! I have been known to convert a teaspoon into a tablespoon by the time I have turned from the recipe book to the stove!! (If I do it all from my head though, I would know that there was no way a tablespoon was going to be the right amount!!)
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Old 08-15-2008, 10:59 PM   #17
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I started out using recipes, and now I can look at one and know if my family will like it as is or if i need to change some of the herbs and cooking times..And so what to that..You cook your way I cook mine one is not better than the other in our eyes...I enjoy changing and making thing my way, I love going out to a restaurant and then trying to make the dish my way..For me cooking is fun and an adventure..Anyone who dares to insult me or make me feel foolish, is in for a there's the door..I don't take well to insults, nor would I ever insult anyone for the way they prepare their food..I would just admire you for giving it a try..
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Old 08-16-2008, 02:37 AM   #18
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I always use recipes for referrence, and for creating and making dishes. In a professional kitchen, it's one of the most important factors in ensuring that food is consistent no matter who's working that station. When I'm creating a special, I always create a master recipe so that I can recreate it in the future if need be. When cooking at home, I may not always use a specific recipe, but there are proportions for base recipes that I have memorized which I follow. It's the only way to produce consistent food.
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Old 08-16-2008, 05:51 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
Are you a "fake" cook?

From the pics I've seen, I think you're a pretty good cook, Pacanis, especially since, if I recall correctly, you're a single guy who lives alone. A lot of people in your situation would have cereal with milk for dinner, but you actually cook an entire meal for yourself! I think it's great.
Thanks, GG.
I guess I meant I don't know much about the different foods and all the terminology involved with cooking. I don't know the difference between sliced onions, chopped onions, or diced onions. Nor the difference between folding, stirring or incorporating. Other than it sounds fancier to say you incorporated the diced onions into the dish, rather than you stirred in the chopped onions
And I never have any idea what Vera Blue is having for dinner when she posts, but it sounds like something I would order

Food on a plate, that's me.
I should really start buying cereal again. I love cereal I could be eating some now.
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Old 08-16-2008, 02:40 PM   #20
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That is really weird that people would turn up their nose at using a recipe. I guess though, if you make the same things over and over and over you don't need them. Trying new things sometimes doesn't require a recipe if you know what proteins, veggies, and flavors go together. It's still nice to use a recipe to break out of a routine and try a tried and true recipe.

I don't get that kind of thinking though...very shallow.
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