Friday, February 19, 2010

the tyranny of the recipe

I often draw write notes in my cookbooks, so I can tailor recipes to my taste. Veganomicon is no exception.

When London food writer and domestic goddess Nigella Lawson talked about "the tyranny of the recipe," I related so strongly that included her quote in the introduction to my cookbook. Now, I'm not saying that [ahem!] cookbook authors are tyrants. But it's important to remember that cooking is both an art and a science. Recipes document the science of cooking – and the art of writing. Recipes are usually the result of several experiments, and they list ingredients and processes needed to attain a consistent result when making a dish. It's always a good idea to follow a recipe exactly the first time you try it.


Dreena Burton's hummus recipe in Vive Le Vegan is my all-time favorite. As you can see, I renamed it "Yummus," and included notes detailing my personal preferences.

But the art of cooking is the expression of the individuality of the cook. Take 10 cooks, and ask them to make the same recipe. Mark my words, you will get 10 different results, depending on the cook's experience, mood, ingredients, and comfort with improvisation.


Even my own cookbook did not escape my pechant for scribbling.

I included variations with many of my recipes, because I consider them a springboard to creativity, and not end-all, be-alls. Nothing makes me happier than to read someone's blog and learn how they tried one of my recipes but added "a little of this," or "less of that." That's what cooking is all about!. Recipes are merely inspiration. Each recipe you make is a building block in your own culinary architecture. So go ahead, write in my cookbook!

19 comments:

KleoPatra said...

GREAT read here, Dynise! And so true... now i feel free to write in your book. i need to meet you in person one day to get it autographed, though. That's the only writing in there that i REALLY must have...

kittee said...

I love this post. I am a chronic jazz cook, but I never write in my cookbooks. I might give it a try just for you.

xo
kittee

Amy said...

I always write in my cookbooks, it is a habit i picked up from my mom. We write 'good' 'excellent' 'horrible' and the such, then notes on how we improved the recipe. Like "omit crushed candy canes"

The Vegan Snorkeler said...

I totally agree! There's always a little variation in everything I make, and I too like to experiment here and there and record the results in my cookbooks. Fun post!

The Big Blogger said...

Mortimer Adler, American philosopher education guru, and founder of the Paideia Program, writes about how important it is to take 'ownership' of your texts--even cookbooks. This personalizes the text and makes it inherently 'yours'. These marks stay in our books forever, and we can use them as a barometer for testing the growth of our thoughts and intellect. Excellent piece, Urban Vegan.

madeinalaska said...

ha I too make notes in my cookbooks.. additions, subtractions, substitutions and most importantly if the kids liked it or not..
ps my hubby absolutely loves that hummus recipe too..

vko said...

Ah, FCat needs to see this post- being the virgo that he is, it takes a lot to get him to substitute & veer away from a recipe- I love the scribbling in your cookbooks. They are like little love notes! Are you in town this week? overdue lunch!
xVKO

Virginie Péan said...

A recipe depends of so many creteria (type of oven, type of flour, type of pans, cooking with gas or ceramic...) and it is so easy to blame the cookbook writer when something is going wrong... I like your idea that a recipe should be inspiration. Maybe it is also an excuse for me to always change this or that in a recipe, just for the fun of experimenting...

lauren lanza osias said...

i always try a recipe first, exactly as is, before trying variations... i flipping love writing in books...it makes me feel artistic and accomplished...you know, i made this and it tasted great or it was disgusting...learned.

oh, and i made your cauliflower/chickpea tagine tonight! holy bananas, it was amazing, my meat loving hubby looooooved it! so yummy.

http://laurenlanzaosias.blogspot.com
be a follower, not a fighter

JENNA said...

I'm always writing in my cookbooks. Sometimes I put a big X through the whole thing if it didn't work out at all.

Jess - The Domestic Vegan said...

This is a great post!! I so agree with you, and like you, I write in my cookbooks all the time. I love going through my mom's old cookbooks & seeing her notes in there, as well! Just makes it so special.

I love the term "yummus." Haha. So cute.

buffalodick said...

I pooched a meal last night that should have worked. I woke up today knowing what I did wrong, and can actually repair the leftovers. I have become very mistrustful of recipes on the Internet... Cookbooks are tried and true!

Vegan Deluxe said...

Awww! This post makes me nostalgic :) My mom and I both notate all of our recipes. My most "marked up" cookbooks are Veganomicon and Nonna Italian Cooking. I love flipping through my cookbooks and seeing the date I tried something and what I thought of it. It's like a gustatory biography!

yari said...

I usually don't take notes on my cookbooks, but I have a notebook where I religiously write down my remarks on the recipes I try. You have a beautiful handwriting!

Maria said...

I enjoyed reading some of the recipes on your site. Your "tyranny" of cooking post reminds me of the film Julie&Julia, but the vegan version. Keep up the great posts. I blog about vegan world travel. Please feel free to add me to your North American Vegan blogs section on your website. I will add your site.

mamapasta said...

I never write on books , maybe because one said not to do that in childhood ..

Jenn said...

I have my mom's original Moosewood Cookbook complete with notes like "Peggy brought this to dinner. Fabulous!" I don't usually write on mine. I just spill stuff on them so I can find the pages with the recipes I like a lot.

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Jenni said...

I did a search for "the tyranny of the recipe" to find a post that I had written in 2009. I had no idea that Nigella or anyone else had used the same phrase. Interesting. I hate to post links w/o an invitation, so if you'd like to read my take, just do a search for that phrase. My post it as The Balanced Pastry Chef. I appreciate your take on Recipe Tyranny as well. Thank you!