Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipes VS Formulas

So my friend Kim Ode gets a cookbook deal with the Minnesota Historical Society right? This was a couple years back, and she was commissioned to write a book filled with stories and recipes told to her, and submitted by the members of the Saint Paul Bread Club.

I'll never forget the conversation that ensued after I e-mailed her my entries....

Kim Ode - "Hey Klecko, thanks for sending these recipes over" pause-pause-pause "But I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but they don't have mixing instructions, bake times or any helpful hints that will explain the process to the reader."

Now I love Kim Ode as Christ loves the Church, but "recipes" have always been a sore spot of mine.

Klecko - "Yeah, I know....I gave you the formula's, not recipes."

The only way you can detect when Kim Ode gets pissed off is through silence, and she was currently displaying a full jag of not saying a word.

Klecko - "Seriously, how do you expect these people to get any better if we water down every last component? Do you want me to place it in their oven as well?"

Still....more silence.

Klecko - "Think about it, my grandmother, and yours too never needed weights or measures in their recipes, just an ingredient list, and they knew how to turn it into something you could build traditions around. Furthermore my granny wasn't even considered proficient by her click, but she understood how to cook and bake from repetition."

More silence, and more........and more - lol, now I was getting a little scared.

Klecko - "Today's generation is getting jipped Kim. Woman who were born in the 60's lost their connection to food for the first time in history because they needed to emancipate their gender. Now this is a good thing, but part of that meant that they had to feel liberated, and part of that liberation came from stepping out of the kitchen. they didn't want to be Stepford Wives, the modern woman could outsource through fast food and Swanson's frozen meals. She could be a "player." But alas my friend, now we have an entire generation od soccer moms that is repentant because they can't bake a single loaf of bread for their kids PB&J's or a sheet pan of brownies for the church basement.....ARGH, don't get me started on church though, kids don't know their scriptures anymore....this entire nation is Biblically illiterate. The only way you can master anything thing in this world is through repetition and assessment of failure."

The silence continued as you can imagine, and hit the same levels as the Edgar Allen Poe's heart in the "Tell Tale Heart"

Like the stories protagonist, my logic, my train of thought, my own voice droning on...well it too almost drove me to insanity!

Kim - "Shut up and send me the recipes."

I did, and her book "Baking with the Saint Paul Bread Club" ended up being nominated for book of the year.

Sigh.....I LOVE Kim Ode


  1. I'm glad one of you relented. Question: If people have forgotten the basic steps to baking, isn't it all the more important to flesh in the instructions?

  2. Maybe Mike & sometimes Rachel, but I have found that if you do it for them, they will never think for themselves, much like me taking my kid to and from college in Decorah Iowa. I use a GPS, and I'm telling you flat out, if it broke. I could possibly get myself into Amish country, but I'd have to pay one of them off to bring me to the doorstep.
    Why....I just take the instruction and don't put an ounce of thought into it.

  3. Mike, in a word: Bingo!
    Klecko, among the various ways in which people use glove compartments, one is as a place to store road recipes, er, maps.
    Knowing how to read a map, or a recipe, well builds confidence so that one may someday go off only armed with a fistful of flour or the angle of the sun.
    But you know, of course, that a seriously love you back!!!!!

  4. I agree that discovery is great, character-building, and the best way to learn. Nevertheless most people are afraid, and want to be told, or shown, how to do it. And some people never make it beyond that state -- but they still get something out of baking. Even with a mix.

  5. I have to say, it takes a lot of courage to stand up to one of the giants in the baking consortium in the upper midwest. It's not easy to stand one's ground in the face of one's obvious betters, to speak one's own personal truth to that which has passed the test of time and reputation. What's your real secret, Klecko?

  6. Klecko, what you wrote about recipies VS formulas is SOOOOO true. My Grandma taught me how to bake and cook without using measuring spoons, just by the way I cupped my hand I could effectly measure out 1/4, 1/2. 3/4 & 1tsp and 1 TBSP. She owned a bakery when my Dad was a teenager (needless to say, I was never even thought of at that time!) and none of the grandkids except me saw the need to learn how she cooked and baked without measuring anything. Just by looks, taste and touch did she teach me.
    The adults born in the 60's and later have had everything either "instant" or "boughten". They missed out on the most important thing in their to cook/bake. all this fast food and obesity go hand in hand. We learned that everything wasn't just "handed to us", but we had to learn how to be self-sufficient. And I'm proud to say that it didn't hurt me one bit, but started me on the road to a lifetime of using the knowledge that was learned so long ago.
    Keep up the GREAT reflections/perspectives, love reading your posts!