Food Writing

Recipes as embodied writing and care

Replied to On Recipe Writing by Alicia Kennedy (From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy)

These are the biographical and explanatory headnotes so bemoaned on social media, with people seeking free recipes begging writers to “get to the recipe.” But these are the recipes: The personal narrative is inextricable from the suggested amounts of salt. The narrative is where the voice comes in, providing as much citation and background as possible, to establish that this recipe hasn’t emerged from a void—could not have emerged from nowhere, has a range of influences and inspirations, and is indeed the product of this person’s experience in their kitchen.

I think of Lisa Heldke writing in “Recipes for Theory Making” in 1988, that cooking “has never really been the subject of philosophical consideration,” and that one reason for this is that it’s “women’s activity.”

I think, looking at Johnson, Heldke, and Colwin, that it is radical to insist upon the significance of the writing, the body, and the philosophy of a recipe in a cultural situation where recipes are more accessible than ever and many readers feel entitled to them.

To insist that a recipe is more than a list of ingredients and a set of instructions is to assert the significance of cooking as thinking and recipe development as labor—labor and thinking done by the body and the mind, both as significant to its creation as all the eating and experience that has led to the moment of inspiration.

This is an interesting perspective; I’m personally not bothered by lengthy introductions to recipes, but admit I only read them sometimes. The introduction can be helpful in providing extra context or details — but sometimes it’s a recounting of toddler playtime. It depends on both the source and the situation whether I’m likely to read the intro: is the recipe from one of my go-to websites that I’ve been following for years, where I’ve built up trust in the creator and appreciate them as an individual and creator — or am I vetting a dinner concept and only looking for a spice profile, ingredient ratio, or technique while I’m in a rush trying to make dinner? I can’t say my approach is good (it’s certainly stressful), and maybe I’m missing something by not better vetting recipe sources.

Culture Food Learning Technology

The mindset of innovation

Liked Better eats – Works in Progress by Nick Whitaker (

The kitchen of 2020 looks mostly the same as that of 1960. But what we do in it has changed dramatically, almost entirely for the better—due to a culture of culinary innovation.

The change has come in the form of things we cannot touch or feel, but nevertheless matter: new ideas, recipes, and techniques. And that tells an equally important story: of how intangible capital has grown in importance in our lives and the wider economy — a less visible, but just as valuable, form of technological advancement as the advancements in tangible capital we made in the half-century before.

Ooh I like this framework. It’s not just the physical technology that matters, but how people use it and what they use it for.

The central thesis of Anton Howes’s Arts and Minds, a history of the Royal Society of Arts, is that the Industrial Revolution was driven by a new “ideology of innovation.” This ideology held that everything could be improved by careful tinkering and experimentation. And this ideology spread from person to person. People become more inclined to experiment when they see others doing it and succeeding.

It’s interesting to contrast the movement of advancement in cooking with the recent reports of stagnation in scientific progress and the boringization of culture. How can this mindset from the realm of the home cook expand to other disciples?


Knife sharpening video

Bookmarked Knife Sharpening (

In this class, you’ll find all the information you need to learn to hone and sharpen like a pro. Which pro? How about blade sage Daniel O’Malley, owner of the epic knife emporium the Epicurean Edge in Kirkland, Washington, and a foremost expert on selecting and maintaining the world’s best chopping-and-slicing tools. Through video demos and clever tips and tricks, O’Malley walks us through the theory and technique of sharpening knives using Japanese waterstones—the badass little blocks that master bladesmiths have used for hundreds of years.

Food Shopping

Read (part of) The Food Lab

Read The Food Lab

Ever wondered how to pan-fry a steak with a charred crust and an interior that’s perfectly medium-rare from edge to edge when you cut into it? How to make homemade mac ‘n’ cheese that is as satisfyingly gooey and velvety-smooth as the blue box stuff, but far tastier? How to roast a succulent, moist turkey (forget about brining!)—and use a foolproof method that works every time?

As Serious Eats’s culinary nerd-in-residence, J. Kenji López-Alt has pondered all these questions and more. In The Food Lab, Kenji focuses on the science behind beloved American dishes, delving into the interactions between heat, energy, and molecules that create great food. Kenji shows that often, conventional methods don’t work that well, and home cooks can achieve far better results using new—but simple—techniques. In hundreds of easy-to-make recipes with over 1,000 full-color images, you will find out how to make foolproof Hollandaise sauce in just two minutes, how to transform one simple tomato sauce into a half dozen dishes, how to make the crispiest, creamiest potato casserole ever conceived, and much more.

This is a tome so I only made it through the first 200ish pages in the three weeks I had it from the library: the breakfast chapter and the tools / supplies sections. There were a few more chapters I wanted to read but much of the book is about meat so I don’t need that info. And lbh, right now I’m basically just cooking breakfast anyway so good thing for me to read.

I failed at his poached and soft-boiled eggs but his fried egg technique and biscuit recipe were both great if annoyingly a little more hassle. He includes sour cream in his biscuits…and laminates the dough. Tender and flaky, not overworked at all.

His kitchen recommendations I want to get, assuming I decide I want to start cooking again:

  • 12-15″ carbon steel flat bottomed wok (look for 4-5″ flat area)
  • 2.5-3 quart saucier
  • 7″ Wusthof hollow ground santoku (his rec for small hands) or MAC Superior 6 1/2″ santoku (budget)
  • 1000-1200 grit water stone and fixer
  • rice cooker
  • stainless steel prep bowls
  • spider
  • fridge thermometer (keep coldest part of fridge at minimum 34, keep whole fridge below 39)
Featured Personal Growth Reflection

The Burden of Dinner and Learning to Say No

I cooked dinner for the first time in a few months today: boxed mac and cheese and sauteed veggies. Even a mostly-boxed meal has been beyond the energy I’m willing to spend making a meal.

Not cooking dinner has been a huge change for me. I used to make a hobby of cooking (although I’ve always prefered baking). I borrowed cookbooks from the library, read cooking blogs, and experimented with new recipes and ingredients from specialty grocers. I’ve spent years learning different cooking techniques, how to season and taste, how to pair ingredients and dishes. I created my own meal planning sheet and meal planning guide. I suspect a lot of people who know me would be shocked to hear that the only thing I’ve cooked lately is scrambled eggs. I still like baking on the weekends, but I just can’t bring myself to care about dinner anymore.


Watched Salt Fat Acid Heat E4

Watched Heat from

Heat is an episode of Salt Fat Acid Heat starring Samin Nosrat. Samin travels back to the restaurant where her cooking career began in California to explore the importance of mastering heat in cooking and even includes her mother in…


Watched Salt Fat Acid Heat E3

Watched Acid from

Acid is an episode of Salt Fat Acid Heat starring Samin Nosrat. Samin travels to Mexico to explore the many sources of Acid in cooking and learns how to make fresh corn tortillas, harvest honey, and to use acid in both sweet and…

Apparently honey is acidic!


Watched Salt Fat Acid Heat E2

Watched Salt from

Salt is an episode of Salt Fat Acid Heat starring Samin Nosrat. Samin splits her time between home and Japan to learn (and teach) about the many layers of flavor added by salt; including traditionally made soy sauce, miso, and sea…

Cool to see how salt is made, and traditional soy sauce. I want to eat some!


Watched Salt Fat Acid Heat E1

Watched Fat from

Fat is an episode of Salt Fat Acid Heat starring Samin Nosrat. Samin travels to Italy to explore the importantance of fat in food; including olive oil, dairy fat (in the form of parmesean cheese), and animal fat (pork).

Entertaining – I didn’t learn a lot but her perspectives on fat were interesting – like the weight she puts on choosing which fat to cook with since that’s the foundation of the flavor. She also points out five distinct textures that fat creates. I would have liked a little more of the science behind it but overall enjoyable.

It’s interesting which foods she chooses to highlight fat – pesto makes sense but focaccia isn’t what I’d jump to first in showcasing oil.


Menemen and Turkish Breakfast

Watched POV Menemen (Turkish Eggs with Peppers and Tomato) by J. Kenji López-Alt from

Menemen is a Turkish dish that should be more famous than it is. It’s one of my favorite breakfast (or lunch, or dinner, or whenever) dishes ever. Tomatoes, peppers, good olive oil, eggs, and a little magic. Your mouth won’t know what hit it.

Or maybe it will know exactly what hit it: Tomatoes, peppers, good olive oil, eggs, and a little magic.

You can get a written recipe (that I never actually follow) here on Serious Eats:

This looks pretty easy to make, and tasty! Summer dish when you can get good tomatoes. Never tried grating tomatoes like that, seems easy enough.

We went to Turkey and never had this, but the traditional Turkish “spread” with hard-boiled eggs, bread, cheese, cucumber, olives, tomatoes, and tea. We liked it so well for years I’d re-create a version for us in the summer. I’ll still have tomatoes with breakfast if I’ve got them around and we’re having eggs.