About Measurements

Artichokes at Robin's House
Artichokes: About… this many…

Recipes are important, there’s no doubt about it. But at the end of the day a recipe is a reflection of an idea and a technique. All cooking involves a certain amount of judgement as do nearly all measuring techniques.

More to the point, every measuring technique has its faults, even weighing in grams. How good is your scale? How much does a pinch of salt weigh? A sprig of parsley? And really, does it matter?

Reach into your drawer and grab a regular spoon that you would eat stew with.

Woman hand holding an empty spoon, composition isolated on white
Not a measuring tablespoon, a spoon that goes on the table.

Now pile chopped parsley onto it. Now sprinkle that parsley over a platter of hot, delicious food. Does it really matter how much parsley was there? A cup would have been too much. A pinch would have been too little. But pretty much any table-type spoon is going to give you a good result.

And really, quantity is not everything. How strong is your garlic? Your basil? Different cultivars are found in different places, so where do you live? What time of year is it? Did it rain right before the harvest? Do you like garlic? Can you even find fresh basil? The answer to each of these questions affects the outcome of a dish.

I’m not immune to this either: I live in Germany. I visit Sicily and Southern California often (and cook there). Even though the climate of Southern California is more like Sicily than Germany, the artichokes there are not. There are different varieties of fish available. This adaptation why this blog exists.

For these reasons (and because it is how I annotate recipes for myself), most of the recipes on this blog will be given with general measurements. When I say a tablespoon, a perfectly level measuring tablespoon will work; but so will any spoon that could reasonably be described as a tablespoon (cucchiaio da tavola, Esslöffel, cuillière à soupe, what-have-you). What I will give, however, is precise instructions and detailed smelling and tasting notes, to help you to recreate that dish as best you can from some words on a screen and the ingredients available to you. And it will be great, even if not exactly the thing that I made (which, as we’ve noted, is also different depending on when and where I made it).

Go, cook, and don’t think too much about the measurements.

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