Recipe Literacy?

I bought a bunch of fresh methi (fenugreek) at the Farmers Market. This evening I chopped off the ends and put them down the garbage disposal. (I don’t recall seeing a garbage disposal in India.) Now we are waiting for our drain guy because I didn’t know that the stems are more fibrous than celery. Now I know: always check before putting new foods down the disposal. This added a new dimension to recipe literacy.

A while back I glanced through a book about writing cookbooks. What stuck in my mind was the fact that 65% of the adult population is recipe illiterate – they don’t know how to read a recipe. Teaching someone to cook is like teaching someone to knit or to garden – learn the vocabulary and what the instructions mean, then it’s a short step (and practice) to learn how to execute the instructions.

When I lived in France, a friend suggested I buy a French cookbook so I could shop in French grocery stores and ask the butcher for specific cuts of meat. It was a great way to learn the nouns. The verbs were another issue. Melt the butter and dore the lamb chops. The dictionary translated the verb as to gild. I coated the lamb chops with melted butter. Later my friend had a good laugh when I asked about this. If my dictionary had included a cooking instruction definition, I would have browned the meat.

Fast forward to Indian food, cookbooks purchased in India and recipes I take off the Internet where many Indian women post great recipes and I’m at a loss.

This blog will be an international conversation with recipes. Some friends and I want to learn to cook great Indian foods like those that I ate in India (on and beyond what we see on menus in the US) because I miss the rich spicy flavors and the diet was great for my gastrointestinal tract. Some Indian friends want to learn to cook European foods. In Nilgiri’s the grocery store where I shopped in Chennai people would ask me questions about European ingredients and recipes. Some American friends want to learn to cook.

We can purchase authentic ingredients anywhere in the world. Now we need authentic instructions and some coaching.

About Meredith: I love to cook. My grandmothers taught me to cook and my mother taught me to clean up as I go along. My father taught me to make popcorn and about reproduce-able results. I’ve been called fearless in the kitchen because I’ll try to cook anything. My pallet is not quite so fearless: I won’t gulp down a fish eye as my spouse did in Taiwan. I fulfill my sense of adventure in the kitchen. I love to travel because I love to try new foods, go to markets, watch people cook, and then understand the similarities and differences across cultures.

Friends: Please introduce yourselves in a comment


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