Tuesday, 22 October 2013 21:52

Can I get the recipe for that?

... a very common and simple question at Mary's Dinner Club and yet, such a difficult one to answer.

The beauty of recipes

My mom owns (and uses!) a tattered old note book with recipes glued in from all sorts of ‘sources’ including the backs of baking powder packets, rice boxes and other food wrappings. After all, there was no internet when she started a family that she had to cook for. Not finding that recipe book with her mother’s Christmas cookie recipes in December probably feels to her like a crashed computer in the middle of an important project to us.

And to think beyond our mothers' and grandmothers' recipes, recipes have actually been around since about 1600 BC, found on tablets in southern Babylonia – imagine a recipe written in stone! The proverbial meaning of this sounds to me like such a serious culinary restriction that it makes me panic: How to cook like that?

Don’t get me wrong, recipes are a beautiful thing, and some of my favorites have been with me for years. I know writing them really is an art form and many highly talented and meticulous people do it for a living. I am just afraid that if they could see what I do to their carefully thought out work, they’d ban me from their readership for lifetime.

How to mess up a recipe

My recipe creation for Mary’s Dinner Club usually goes a little like this:  I flip through some cookbooks with pretty pictures for inspiration, I get an idea, browse the internet, check in my kitchen what I have, then go to the shop. At the shop I see a wonderfully fresh looking fruit or vegetable or a particularly good deal on something and I start thinking how I’d replace this with that and that with this… and there goes my recipe.

I get back home, often taking some photos of my beautifully fresh ingredients, then browse the internet some more. Then on the way back to the kitchen an idea crosses my mind…. and there goes my recipe again.

Sometimes I do print out a recipe, start cooking with all the good intentions and then get to a point where I think: Now that doesn’t sound right. Now that is surely boring. Now that is clearly too much work…. and there goes my recipe again.

Sometimes I open the pantry and discover a long forgotten ingredient and I start thinking: Now that would surely go well. Now I could surely use that instead of this… and there goes my recipe again.

And if you do ask me for a recipe…

Usually when people ask me for a recipe I’m obviously in a bit of a bind as it’s generally an adapted version of an adapted version of something. Sometimes I can’t even answer the question ‘How did you make that’ because I frankly can’t remember was it plan B that failed and I went to plan C or was plan C the one where I ended up with too much liquid/sugar/salt…

The amazing thing is that my food usually turns out a treat, sometimes so good that even I am surprised by how fantastic my creation worked out. I just can’t follow recipes.

There are however, lots of good honest people out there who do follow recipes. And there’s also awesome people out there who write them – if you want to find out more about them or even be one of them, here’s how: The Recipe Writer’s Handbook 

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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