Recipes, and Clash of Methods

Recipes are pouring in from all over the globe for the new book I’m preparing – The Winemakers’ Cooking Companion. Recipes from winemakers and winery owners are pelting my email from France, Australia, Vietnam, Ireland (truly – Irish wine!), the USA, Italy, and Chile. They include Candied Figs in Red Wine, Rack of Lamb with Marmalade Crust, Basque Chicken and Salsa Sauce, and Slow Cooked Veal in Barolo Wine (‘slow cooked’ meaning eight hours; yes, this is from Italy, the country that created the wonderful Slow Food Movement).


Photos never show the mess

I’ve catalogued each recipe, including my own notes from practicing each (though am way behind). Still, ‘tis is a labor of love.

As recipes pour in, each is in a different style. I convert units to volumes and weights, put each in a consistent format, then confirm there’s a recommended wine match, as well as a few other, to be revealed, ‘add ons.’

In doing this it has become obvious that there are some fundamentally different schools of thought regarding cooking.

School One: prepare all ingredients, then begin to cook.

School Two: prepare ingredients while you cook.

The more we master a specific recipe, or hone our general culinary Jedi Knight abilities, the more we’ll follow School Two, perhaps eventually yawning as we dice and lob onions onto a sauté dish while simultaneously inspecting a rising soufflé through the oven door.

For this book, we’ll follow the general French cooking advice of Mise en Place – getting everything in place before launching ahead. In other words – School One.


Beautiful meal – with no cooking involved.

Speaking of units, Americans generally use volumes such as cups and quarts and teaspoons, whereas Europeans use weights such as grams and milliliters (except some Italians, who can be very general about quantities, except wine – which I notice that they identify – to two decimal places – how many bottles to add to each recipe; I can’t wait to practice). Australians? They considerately show both units. Some recipes prefer cups as a primary unit, others grams, but most show both. Still, inconsistencies appear: a recipe may convert grams to cups for flour and crushed cornflakes, but not for, say, sugar. Fortunately converting units is only a few internet clicks away.


Market fresh: the pasta on the right was hand made (by an Italian artisan) and includes butternut squash. Mmmmm.

Here’s another intriguing aspect about recipes – regardless the source. How many people is the recipe for? Some are for one person, others for six. Or ten. Which is also true with cookbooks – there’s zero consistency between covers, which is actually reassuring: imagine if every recipe in your book was for four people. Four. That would limit the social situations the book is useful for. To solve the problem of any mismatch between a recipe and the amount of people to cook for, we often just double, or triple (or halve) the ingredients (not always a good idea with yeast. Truly). Which becomes more complicated when the recipe is for three, and we’re cooking for seven. Which is actually the point: we choose the recipe and adjust quantities – not always precisely. That leaves room for creativity. And that, after all, is part of the pleasure of cooking.









Share Your Thoughts