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Improvisation, or abomination?

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 25 October 2017 at 11:05
As we all know, peasant cooking is often more about the method and using what you have than anything else; because of this, variations on even iconic foods can occur from region to region, village to village, or even house to house.

But then again, there is this:

Quote Author Unknown

I didn't have potatoes,
so I substituted rice.
I didn't have paprika,
so I used another spice.

I didn't have tomato sauce,
so I used tomato paste.
A whole can, not a half can -
I don't believe in waste.

My friend gave me the recipe;
She said you couldn't beat it.
There must be something wrong with her;
I couldn't even eat it.


So, the question becomes, when do adaptations change the recipe so significantly that it is no longer the original, for better or worse?
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HistoricFoodie View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 October 2017 at 17:30
Cute poem, Ron. But there’s a message in it.

Anyone who hangs out at cooking sites has seen the claim, “I never follow recipes exactly!” Personally, I have no patience for people who make that claim. Far too often cooks make radical changes to recipes, and then complain that it didn’t work out. Must have been something wrong with the originator, right?

get me wrong. There are, to be sure, lots of bad recipes out there. They are either poorly written, or, sadly, were never actually prepared by the author. But, compared to the thousands of recipes published every year, those bad ones are distinctly in the minority. But how do you know, unless you make it as it appears?

More to the point, if you correct, or modify, or improve a recipe, then what are you talking about when it doesn’t work? The author’s recipe? Or your own?

Even cookbook reviewers are guilty of this. When I ran the review section at another cooking site, I had a rule that the reviewer had to make at least two dishes from the book. I had to constantly stress that the recipes had to be followed exactly. Later on they could adapt and modify. But if the recipe was prepared other than as written, then they’d be reviewing their own recipe, not the author’s.

This is especially important with chef-written cookbooks. We assume that a chef knows what he or she is talking about. And that might be true. Except there is many a slip twixt the pen and the lip, as somebody once said. Most chef-written cookbooks do not get the editing they deserve, particularly when it comes to the recipes. Ingredient amounts get changed. Ingredients get left out. There are radical differences between the ingredients list and the directions. Etc.
I reviewed once cookbook that was so rift with these errors as to render it almost useless. After panning the book I got an email from the author, in which she said, “If they bothered you, just think how I felt about those errors….” The difference is, she signed-off on the proofs, and had no basis, other than laziness, for letting them appear.

Sometimes it’s hard to follow a recipe exactly, because experienced cooks do modify. Especially if there’s a perceived problem. They automatically correct it; might not even be aware they’re doing it. Or they change the amounts of ingredients, or substitute others, or just leave some out. Long term there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s how dishes evolve. Just don’t blame the author if things go awry.

On the other hand, less experienced cooks can often learn from badly written recipes. If they make it as written, and it doesn’t come out well, they have a tendency to blame themselves. They’d be better served by analyzing the recipe, trying to identify what led them astray, and correct for it the next time.

That’s one way, btw, we learn how flavors work with each other.

I’m sure others will have a different opinion. But that my two cents.
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Hoser Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 October 2017 at 03:48
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

 When I ran the review section at another cooking site, I had a rule that the reviewer had to make at least two dishes from the book. I had to constantly stress that the recipes had to be followed exactly. Later on they could adapt and modify. But if the recipe was prepared other than as written, then they’d be reviewing their own recipe, not the author’s.

I couldn't agree with you more Brook. If one does not prepare a recipe exactly as it is written, how in the world can they presume to review it!?

I always, always prepare a new one to the letter, then if I want to play with it later I will.
Go ahead...play with your food!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 October 2017 at 08:44
Originally posted by Hoser Hoser wrote:



I always, always prepare a new one to the letter, then if I want to play with it later I will.


This is what I do as well, the first time, unless there is an obvious, glaring error. After that, I feel free to play around with it a little bit, but almost always strive to keep it within the context of the cuisine or method that it is meant to be, as far as I can tell.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 October 2017 at 19:06
I mess up recipes all the time,but accept the blame for my own experiments.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 October 2017 at 20:18
Maiden voyage I always follow a recipe to the letter.  With one exception.  I always add more garlic. I can't help myself.  >I have a problem< Wacko
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 October 2017 at 06:30
There's a 12 step for that, G-Man.
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gracoman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 October 2017 at 18:16
Originally posted by HistoricFoodie HistoricFoodie wrote:

There's a 12 step for that, G-Man.
I am happy to report that I am not the only one Big smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 October 2017 at 03:54
Hello! My name is Brook. I'm a garlichead.

Boy oh boy, G-man. You're far from being the only one.

Whenever I see a recipe that includes things like "1 small clove garlic" I'm immediately suspicious. I mean, really? Did the author ever make the dish?

Before is all too soon passing, Darrel Merril, out in Tulsa, used to sponsor the annual Garlic Is Life symposia. Some of the happiest culinary moments of my life were attending those meetings.
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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