There are two ways to cook --
from a recipe, or from intuition --
and I learned how to do both.
Grandma would bake hot rolls
or make biscuits, roll out dough
for noodles or drop it into a pot
by the spoonful for dumplings.
I learned how to measure things
by the pinch or the palmful, and
I learned how much a cup looked like
when poured into a mixing bowl.
We would read recipes
and make them together.
Some of them were printed,
others handwritten. Some
had notes written on them.
I learned how to cook
by taste, by smell, to see
how things looked when done.
I learned how they sounded
in the pot when the texture changed
and they were ready to take out.
There were timers to set,
clocks to read, and I learned
how to use those too.
It was only later that I realized
there were two ways of cooking,
not just one all run together --
and that most people could do
only one or the other, not both.
I discovered that they could not
simply switch from one to the other,
translate a recipe into handfuls
or record a successful experiment
to be reproduced on a future occasion.
But to me it's not different
than two sides of one kitchen,
all sunshine yellow and
warm with memory.
* * *
Family cooking brings people together. There are instructions for teaching children to cook and cooking for kids. I was surprised to see how many of the things my grandparents and parents set up for me -- like pouring rice or water with measuring cups -- have appeared in classroom exercises.
Intuitive cooking involves the freestyle production of tasty things. You can learn to cook without measuring cups or recipes. Here are some tips on intuitive cooking. People high in wisdom or emotions often do better with intuitive cooking.
Structured cooking requires an understanding of basic cooking techniques and recipe concepts. You need to know how to read and follow a recipe in order to cook this way. People high in intelligence or logic often do better with structured cooking.
Once you can do these things, you can invent original dishes and write recipes. When writing recipes, DO pay attention to structure. Your style can be formal or casual, but certain aspects are crucial to success. List ALL ingredients required, and also mention all equipment needed. List ingredients in order of use. Include ALL steps of the recipe. Put them in a logical order -- this make take a few tries to see what works best. If you're writing for experienced cooks, you can name a process ("scald the tomatoes") instead of itemizing the steps ("First wash and core the tomatoes ..."). When in doubt, explain.