The vagary of a recipe

A recipe is a set of instructions for preparing a particular dish including a list of the ingredients required.

Vagary is defined as whim, fancy or fad.  There is nothing enduring about a whim. 

Why is it that most recipes today look like they came out of a science lab and feel about as friendly?

In learning to cook, most of us have asked an older relative how to make a favourite dish only to be told to take a pinch of this or a cup – an old cracked t-cup – of that.

Our bubbies managed to cook without recipes.

Their kitchens were contained.  Every pot and utensil had a purpose and you knew what it was just by looking at it.  There were only so many ingredients you could find in a grocery store with only so many ways to cook them.  Nothing was a secret.  If you knew how to make a dish, you’d tell your friend.  and anyone with a lick of experience could figure out what you were talking about.

The American Dietetic Association asked its registered dieticians what skills they wished more consumers possessed.  Many answered “confidence and creativity”.  One wrote; “Consumers are afraid of cooking and fear comes from lack of experience.”  All the cookbooks in the world won’t give you that. 

Recipes do have their place in our kitchens though.  The cozy feeling I get from my old hinged box filled with handwritten recipes, stained and discoloured, helps me remember why I take the time to cook.

My daughter says she thinks of her grandmother sitting at the kitchen table of yesterday writing out a recipe as gentle guidance.  It reassuringly says; this is what my years have taught me and now I’d like to share it with you.  It’s not an instruction, it’s a warm invitation.

Some recipes are ancient.  One comes from the Babylonian Talmud that is a riddle;

“Boil a fish with his brother (salt), Plunge it into its father (water), Eat it with its son (a sauce made of smaller fish), And afterwards drink it’s father (fish broth).”  Would that a recipe could inspire and live on long, long after the dish is eaten?  Imagine the dinner table discussion served with that dish.

At mykosherkitchen@cor, let’s work together to each create our own legacy, our own culinary thumbprint that lets whoever walk into our kitchens remember they are happy to be home.

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

One thought on “The vagary of a recipe

  1. Conscious of his parents’ mortality, my father once followed his mother around as she made her eyer-kichelach… hoping to preserve the recipe so my mother could recreate it. She never could; I swore at the time you needed the aged, sugar-encrusted pans, but more than that, you needed my bubby’s “seichel” – the little intuitions that made her baking unique. Notice I said “unique,” not “wonderful” – she was renowned for her heavy pies and breads. But a bubby’s baking is a bubby’s baking, right? 🙂

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