What’s cooking?

I love to cook and I love words, so it makes sense that one day I would find the intersection of my two passions. Today, my friends, is that day.

Out of the blue, it struck me that nowhere is the power of words–syntax, structure, language–more fundamentally apparent than in cooking. Think about it. If I misinterpret a recipe, I could get some pretty unexpected results. Ambiguity in recipe-writing can be disastrous. In addition, not only does the recipe need to be clearly communicated, but the cook also has to have at least a basic understanding of “kitchen language.” Until my kids started to cook, I naively assumed anyone could read and follow a recipe right out of the gate. I had to take off my colored glasses to realize that terms like “double boiler” and “chiffonade” and even “broil” don’t come standard with everyone’s mental inventory of vocabulary.

As with any language, the beauty of a recipe is that when I have mastered it, I can start playing with it. I can tweak measurements and cooking times to soften the flavor or change the consistency. I can add herbs and spices to punctuate the taste. I can make subtle changes here and there to alter the character of the result. I can even leave something out and watch it fall flat.

I’ve lost track of whether I’m discussing language or cooking. Measurements, adjectives, ingredients, adverbs, temperature, punctuation, spices, words, herbs, syntax, flavor, order, vocabulary. Combine all ingredients and mix well.

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2 thoughts on “What’s cooking?

  1. If I’m supposed to mix words and meanings then why did someone we both know give me negative marks when I had her as a teacher??? Susie is fair but maybe my meaning was lost on her…

    Har. Every endeavor we enter into has it’s own language. When I started at WANE-TV in the operations department (even though my primary job was SUPPOSED TO BE as a maintenance technician) I thought I could run the equipment as needed; first thing I had to master was the director’s DIRECTIONS. To be able to turn a piece of gear on and off is one thing; knowing how to cue to “first video” when you’ve never touched a high end tape deck…it’s menacing. It’s frightening actually when you have to do it in maybe 3 seconds from loading the tape. Now it’s automated and the operator just loads the tapes as the already run tapes are done. Must be nice.

  2. Master the metaphor and be nice to Mrs. M.; she has always been my favorite teacher. I wonder what kind of grade I’d get in her creative writing class today. I’m a little afraid to find out!

    And YES! Everything has its own language, and that’s so easy for people to miss. Learning it is like cracking a code. It makes everything after that so much easier.

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