Now that I’m going to be a food writer and publisher, I have to decide whether to go with the casual and imprecise mode of recipe writing – “add a dollop of crème fraise,” “bake until done” – that is most congenial to me, an inveterate adaptor of any recipe. Or will readers demand the chemistry-lab precision of Cooks Illustrated?
There’s a good argument for precision in the fact that most people do not learn to cook while growing up, and may never have seen much home cooking being done. They don’t know what changes a cake goes through as it bakes, or that fresh green vegetable become much darker green as they cook (only later, if cooked too long, do they become sludge green and dank). Simple instructions like “fold in two egg whites whipped until stiff” will confound a novice who has never hung out in a kitchen with a skilled home cook.
On the other hand, precise recipes with detailed measurements, methods, and ingredients are daunting. A compromise that I really dislike is cookery books that offer recipe “templates” with dozens of substitutes and alternatives, so no dish is coherent. It’s like turning culinary arts into a frozen yoghurt shop where you can pile your cup of strawberry yoghurt with gummy bears and peanuts and toffee bars. Yuck.