What is a recipe? And why do we need them?

We all have seen those commands disguised as a question under a social media posts: Recipe?

Even if the poster had given some guidlines how they made the dish.

So, then what is a recipe?

And moreover: why do we need them?

Hallo, I’m Edie and I was a super picky eater that couldn’t cook. Now I coach people who want to make cooking a more important part of their life.
In this article, part of a series for beginning cooks, I will help you become a more creative and confident cook too.

When it comes to recipes, there seem to be 2 sides. One group is adamant a recipe should contain all the information someone needs to make the dish. Others are more loose about it.

To be clear in advance: I belong to the latter group and am encouraging and coaching my students to take that approach too.

But let’s start at the beginning:

What is a recipe?

A recipe is a written, drawn or oral instruction of ingredients and actions needed to make certain dish.

A dish can be anything, from a salad and a sandwich and a chicken stew to a simple side of boiled or otherwise cooked carrots. Recipes can be about making everything from scratch, like making the sheets for potstickers like we do in our classes, or include fully made storebought potstickers into your new dish. Recipes can be about a pan sauce, or your salad dressing.

It just depends what the recipe writer wants to tell you.

And more and more important in our age and time: what they think their readers need or want to know.

my first recipe notebook

Why do we need recipes?

To learn, someone else needs to teach you. We don’t learn a language if we are not spoken to. We learn to drive thanks to an instructor in the seat besides us. We know one plus one is two, because that’s a convention we teach each other.

And the same goes with cooking. From the time we collected leafs and berries to the discovery that meat cooked over or near a fire taste so much better, we learned from the elders. And continued to do so with every new discovery, from pottery to steel (knifes, pans). By watching, particpating and slowly taking over the job. Then we started to add writing into the mix, with the oldest cookbook be written ca 1700 BC in Mesopotamia.

Nowadays, the skill of cooking is mostly transferred in writing (cookbooks, recipe blogs, reddit) or watching (youtube, instagram, tiktok) as culinary knowledge is often not taught through our family systems anymore.

I mean, when I left home for college, I knew 3 things about cooking:
* I was the pickiest eater,
* I knew how to make a mean grilled cheese, and
* potatoes had to boil for 20 minutes.

And look at me now!

I learned a lot from reading recipes, following them, and later teaching them.

Can you really learn to cook by just following recipes? Nah, we don’t think so. But you can get pretty far.

< Next post: What recipes do YOU need? >

Yeah, learning to cook takes time

But you definitely can speed up the process by cooking consciously and learning why you do what you do. The more you cook and learn about it, the better you can connect the dots and see similarities between dishes. On this site and in my classes, I will help you with that.

This article is part of a series for beginning cooks. Instead of adding more recipes to the internet or giving superficial tips about stocking your pantry, this series will provide a more philosophical, coaching approach. Here’s the list with all the articles.

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