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September 23, 2007

Cooking style: Empiricist

Halo Effect, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Amanda asks: What is your cooking style?

I love cookbooks and recipes. I'm especially fond of family recipes.

I love America's Test Kitchen because they are models of evidence-based cooking. They aren't afraid to experiment, but they subject their results to blind tastings and test their recipes exhaustively. If I make something out of ATK book, I can be confident that it will actually turn out the way it's described.

If I'm cooking from a recipe, I always follow it exactly the first time. If I like the results well enough to replicate the dish, I may repeat it exactly several times in order to make sure that I really know how to make it. Then I'll start tweaking it, one variable at a time, to get it exactly the way I want it.   My pad thai recipe is a very slight variation on the ATK pad thai. (I found I liked more shallots and a little less oil than they called for. I omit the beansprouts.)

It drives me (irrationally) crazy when people neither follow, nor write down their own recipes. I applaud innovation. There's no reason anyone should be bound to someone else's recipe. But if you don't write down your own procedure, how can you duplicate your results next time, or systematically improve on them?


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» She'll slice them with Occam's razor from The Ethical Werewolf
If the dish photographed above the post is any indication, Lindsay's cooking is remarkable for its parsimony. In keeping with the Quinean emphasis on ontological simplicity, very few objects are involved. [Read More]


Cut the crap.

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