What gets in our way between the recipes in the cookbook and making them?


I don’t know about you, but I have cookbooks that I have yet to make a recipe from after years of having them. Don’t get me wrong. I love receiving the books as presents: I pore over the pages of recipes and I’d like to make something. But then I seem to put the book away on my bookshelf, with a rather wistful sigh.

I was thinking about what gets in the way between the recipe in the book and the making of it? We salivate over the food photos and we love to ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaahhh’ over recipes in a magazine. But what is it that stops us from making the dish? Is it the long list of ingredients? The lack of self-confidence that one could make it look as good as the one in the photo? The assumptions that are in the methods section, such ‘whip the eggs until they form soft peaks’ – what do soft peaks look like, before they’re stiff?

I’m sure that we can identify deeper reasons within ourselves. When I give some of my issues a wee bit longer thought time, I can easily trace their origins back to my parent’s cooking habits or my fear of failure… and that’s only two of a long list. I could go on. So, without further ado, here is my list of things that act as a barrier between the recipe in the book and the making of it. The list is not finite by any means:

  • a long list of ingredients
  • an unfamiliar ingredient
  • a piece of cookware/bakeware that I haven’t got
  • too many steps in the method section
  • patronising language
  • rubbish index
  • complicated techniques
  • the lack of occasion
  • lenghty preparation or cooking times
  • using yeast
  • no photo of the finished dish
  • too much of something that I don’t like, such as cream or cheese, or …. as the americans call it, ‘frosting’

This next reason, however, is the primary one for why I don’t make a recipe:

I can’t be bothered to.

I think that it looks pretty good in the photo and I’d try eating it in a restaurant. But I can’t be bothered with the effort of trying out a new recipe. Reading a step, doing it, re-reading it to check that I’ve not missed something etc., requires a lot of mental energy. I don’t think that I’m alone in not wanting to try out a recipe because I think it is going to be tricky and complex. And then on top of that, there’s nothing more disappointing than putting a lot of effort into a dish and it tasting… alright… but not awesome. I’ve had plenty of those experiences before. So, I’d prefer to potter around inside my comfort zone and serve up dishes that I know are tasty.

But then, how do we expand our repertoire as cooks, bakers, chefs, if we aren’t trying new techniques? How do we become adventurous in our cooking, if we don’t experiment with new ingredients? How can we just gaze on cookbooks that groan heavily on our bookshelves, when there are so many new dishes hidden in them?

Therefore, I made a new year’s resolution to try 12 recipes this year that you can’t describe as ‘simple and easy’. Recipes that I’d class as complex or tricky, but will force me to face up to and press on, past the mental obstacles between the paper and the plate. This is my way of pushing myself to attempt recipes that I would previously look at and dismiss as way too difficult for me. Or to put it simply. Get over the faff and effort.

Why 12? Well, there are 12 months in the year and I thought that I could make a recipe that stretched me each month, so that it was a continuous thing. But it’s only a number and what’s in a number? What’s more significant is that I want it to be a lasting change in attitude, so that I am more adventurous with my cooking and bother with all the faff and effort.

Which also means one more thing. Because there is one thing that moves me to cook and bake and create. Much more than a new cookbook or a new year’s resolution. Being with people who love food and use recipes and cookbooks. I’m always inspired by these people.

Published by

Han-Na Cha

English Language Teacher, Academic and Personal Development Skills Trainer, Baker.

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