Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Spoonful of Silliness

Remember those antique cookbooks with spurious measurements? "Take up some meat and put with it a goodly portion of flour..."
How much is "some"? What is a "goodly portion"?
Remember "a knob of butter"? Or butter "the size of a walnut" (or an egg)?
Very cute. Vivid, even. But just the kind of recipe writing that puts the qualms in an uncertain cook. An uncertain cook brought up in the 20th century.
Because after the loosey-goosey recipes of the antique books, came the scientific purity, the home-economist accuracy of the Mrs. Beetons, the Fannie Farmers, even the Irma Rombauers. Wow. Way to make a cook feel uptight. Get it right, or be wrong!
Are you comfortable with the quantity "a little"? How about "enough"?
The hardest one for insecure beginners is "to taste." As in "salt to taste." Maybe even harder is "correct the seasonings." What? Grade them true or false? Send them to the time out room?
That's what measuring spoons are for.
But jeepers, what a drag to rely on them so blindly.
Finally, I believe, we've gone past the obsessive reliance on mechanized portions. I mean, it wasn't that long ago that cookware catalogs were flogging their scientifically machined measuring spoons, lest we accidentally get one grain too many of paprika in the stew. Aren't we over that yet?
We are.
Now we cook by glugs (thank you, Jamie), dribbles, gloodges, blurps, sprinkles, and the ever-reliable dash, pinch and smidge.
Dr. Biggles invented his own portion, called the "once around" or the "twice around." It refers to how much oil he wants in the skillet, and how you get it in there. Pour, circularly. Get it?
You'd think we were now in a free-for-all zone, anything goes (as long as it's good, moderate, and reasonable).
Well. The tablespoons have turned.
We once again have a tool to measure our madness, it seems.
Zoomie found these measuring spoons on a recent trip back East, and couldn't resist bringing a few home.
She is a consummate host. The spoons were party favors at a simple, sumptuous lunch she held for me and Moonbear a little while ago (and how do you measure "a little while"?).
I know Zoomie meant the spoons as a spoof.
But. Isn't it comforting somehow to know how much of a dash to add?


Dagny said...

I always knew that a dash was more than a pinch but never knew where a smidgen fell into the spectrum. Thank you for clarifying that for me. ;-)

Nikki Miller-Ka said...

These are hot. For real. I need some. Just for novelty's sake. I thought a dash was less than a pinch. Well, it depends on how big the holes are (if you're dashing from a shaker). Oh good Lord, now I have to go home an contemplate this.

cookiecrumb said...

Agreed: I thought a dash was one shake of a shaker, and a pinch was one thumb-finger grab (which *could* be heftier). Sigh. How much is a smidgen? This is where the measurements DON'T matter, and your sense of taste does. xxx

dancingmorganmouse said...

we use all those lovely non-specific measurements round our house, except for baking, we are a little anal and scientific with the baking.
We also "womp" stuff together, its a slightly more aggressive kind of mixing.

Heather said...

I don't see a measuring spoon for the amounts of "squonch", "skosh" or "dribble".

Hey, at least we don't hafta measure everything by weight like those wackos across the pond, eh?

ChrisB said...

I hope sam reads this because I was telling her about these~ I've never seen them in the UK but I found them online!

Jennifer Jeffrey said...

I hate to be the first one to say this, but doesn't the smidgen look a skosh too big? The pinch, though - that looks about right. The dash looks a tad on the large side, but then my dash might be more generous than most.

Love these. What a fabulous idea.

Kevin said...

I ran across those somewhere and was highly amused.

cook eat FRET said...

wonderful gift
wonderful post

cookiecrumb said...

Morgan: I have to agree with you on the anal baking measurements. It's science. I'm much more squonchy...

Heather: A squonch is a huge pinch, right? Maybe even a handful. (Wow, this sounds all slap-and-tickle all of a sudden.)

ChrisB: I'd never seen them before, myself. They make me happy.

Jennifer: I thought of one more term: a few turns of the pepper mill. (Heh... "skosh.")

Kevin: Probably not the kind of thing you'd buy for yourself, but a real hoot to be on the receiving end!

Cook Eat Fret: Good gift, yes. (xoxo!)

Rev. Biggles said...

I got me a set many years ago, I use'm!

Yup, they right here.

xo, Biggles

Michelle said...

I totally love this post, Cookie! But I have to tell you: I don't remember those antique cookbooks. They were before I was born! xoxox (oh man, I know I'm in trouble now!)

el said...

I envy you your local lunch-eating ways. Great gift Zoomie! Reminds me of the first time I went to Rome and the Vatican gift shop: I bought a round of Popeners (swear to Jah, JohnPaulII on a bottle opener) for all who'd appreciate them.

namastenancy said...

You know, a dash, a tad, a pinch and a handful never bothered me because my grandmother (born 1893) taught me how to cook. It's them darn new-fangled, fancy-dancy measuring spoons and cups that confuse me. On the other hand, I am an artist and easily confused.

cookiecrumb said...

Biggles: You're making fun. I bet you just use Budweiser caps to measure your chili powder.

Michelle: Go to your room, young lady!!

El: Popeners! Oh gah, better than an Elvis spoon (and I got one of those).

NamasteNancy: To have your grandma give you confidence, in person... that's how to cook.

Sam said...

oh this reminds me - i think I was commanded to buy these for my mother. Or maybe she bought some. or something.

cookiecrumb said...

Sam: Well, at least you showed up.

Zoomie said...

How did I miss this post? Must have been daydreaming! Guess I need a dash of brains, or was that a pinch?

cookiecrumb said...

Zoomie: You need a pinch. Ask Buzz for one. :D
Thanks for visiting! And thanks again for the cute spoons. You can see that everybody (except for wise-ass old Biggles) likes them.

Marie said...

I think those measuring spoons are darling. What nice party favors!

Rev. Biggles said...

Yeah, check your email. I just sent you a picture of my set of smidge spoons. Besides, I drink Schlitz.

xo, Biggles

cookiecrumb said...

Marie: Super nice. I don't even *have* a party favors instinct, so I was really impressed.

Biggles: I can't believe I doubted you. Great photo.