A Funny Thing I Do (A Tip & A Recipe for Vanilla Bean Pudding)

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What you see here is documentation of a very strange practice, a funny thing I do each time I pull a recipe from the internet. What I do is: instead of printing the recipe out with my printer (which is totally hooked up and ready to use), I grab a piece of paper and write the recipe down off the screen. It occurs to me now that the reason I do this is so that I’m aware of all the steps of the recipe before I go into the kitchen to see the recipe through. Writing it down allows me to synthesize everything–the ingredients I need, the prep I need to do, the oven temp (if the oven has to go on)–and I think that this funny thing I do accounts for the frequent success I have with recipes. By the time I begin the actual cooking, I’m well aware of all the steps and what has to happen to make it all come together. That’s way better than printing the recipe and winging the recipe step by step only to hit a wall when you realize you have no smoked paprika.

The recipe you see above is a New York Times recipe for vanilla bean pudding which you can read by clicking here. The pudding came out great, though the picture didn’t:

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Trust me, though, it’s one of the simplest most rewarding things you can do with a vanilla bean. It takes just minutes and after an hour or so in the fridge, dessert is done. So do what I do: click the recipe, write it down off the screen and get to it. You may want to buy a vanilla bean first, though that’ll occur to you once you’re writing it down. You’ll never print a recipe from your printer again.

…and for your entertainment, while you’re eating, a pudding video I suddenly remembered from the TV show The State:

38 comments

  1. I do the same thing! I think I adopted it from school. To study, I write extensive summaries of the chapters, basically rewriting the book in bullet form.

    hahaha I forgot how much I enjoyed The State.

  2. I do it too, and Joseph, I also did it to my textbooks.

    “Who’s got something for me?”

    “I do!”

    “What is it?”

    “Baba ghanoush!”

    “I WANNA DIP MY BALLS IN IT!”

  3. Ditto! I think I’ve developed that exact same habit because most of the time my laptop is in the kitchen with me, while the printer is in my office. Having to lug my laptop to the office, hook it up to the printer, wait for it to load then print (which only happens 1 out of every 4 times), then take the recipe back to the kitchen is too much work!

    Thanks for sharing the video, it’s hilarious!

  4. I do the same exact thing! It’s definitely because of school – I have always written things down in order to fully understand the implications of what I’m reading and (ideally) learning. It gets you to really think about it.

  5. I do the same with recipes in cookbooks that I own. So, now I have a stash of my favorite recipes and don’t have to worry so much about getting the cookbook dirty, or trying to find something I’ve done before

  6. I, too, prefer to hand-write my recipes.

    LOOOOOVE the video clip! Hilarious! I’ll be quoting it all week: “Twoooohundredandforty dallahs worth of puddin’ babaaaah!”

    Pudding recipe looks good, too.

  7. I have been a reader and lurker, but never a poster (as far as I can remember). I’ve always LOVED your blog, AG, but now? The State? You’ve sealed the deal. Can you share a muppet recipe?

  8. I don’t recall ever actually writing a recipie down from a webpage but I do write notes all over the printed pages (or photocopied if from book) and stash it in binder. It’s a thing I picked up from Alton.

  9. At least I know I’m not the only one who does that :(

    I think I do it because subconsciously I’m aware that printer ink costs more money than human blood. Or crude oil. I don’t see the point in printing it the first time I cook it and being wasteful. If I like it, it goes in my personalized cookbook, but nothing enters that until it is tried and true.

  10. Right when I saw the pic of the “recipe” I knew what the funny thing you do was going to be. I do the same thing. Of course, sometimes it has me running back into our office because I’ve realized I’ve forgotten to write down the temperature or something.

  11. It makes sense that writing down the recipe would help in the making of the food. I should try that. Actually, I should try making all of the recipes I print from the Internet, or that I save from this or that magazine or whatnot. My recipe book looks like the staging area for a victory parade.

    The State clip was genius, natch. But I really liked the wine stain next to the paper. :) And your lawyer’s handwriting. :D

  12. Strange, I have the same habit … adapted, I think, from years of jotting notes from textbooks and readings.

  13. It would SEEM to make sense to WRITE the recipe down to help you remember it. But there has been a couple of times when my printer was not working that I did this and my terrible hand writing,cryptic short-hand, ommision of ingredients or thinking…I don’t need to write that step (it is understood)…. Led to less than sucessful dishes. I have better success with Printing off the reicpe and then taping it to my kitchen cabinet for reference.

    But maybe that is just me the always rushing, in a hurry, wait till the last minute, run to the store in the middle of preparing dinner type of cook. Sometimes I wonder how anything ever comes out right!

  14. The State!? Adam, you’re the best. I’ve read your blog for quite awhile now, I loved the book, I used your Thanksgiving menu as a springboard to my Christmas menu, but I’ve never been inspired to submit a comment. And then you had to go and post a clip of Barry and Levon.

    I think tonight I may try making vanilla pudding and bask in the glory of the all too few State episodes that I have on iTunes (my bootleg tapes are long gone, sadly). Thanks for the inspiration!

  15. That is a great idea! I don’t know why it never occurred to me to do that, too. I used to write out conjugations of French verbs in order to memorize them and get familiar with them. Why wouldn’t it work with recipes?

  16. Oh, sweet heaven! I don’t even know you but I made the bounce from flutter and here I am and there’s this pudding—-$240 worth of it. MY. FAVE. SKETCH. EVER. you rule.

  17. I love how you draw little arrows to sort of navigate around and follow your own notes – I do exactly the same thing. Rock on AG…

  18. Adam, I do the exact same thing! I have a whole stack of handwritten recipes taken from Epicurious.

    Michy told me about running into you at the Gourmet.com party–I’m glad y’all had a chance to hobnob and rub elbows.

    Hope you’re well!

  19. See, there’s something that has remained with you from law school: outlining! But this kind is boatloads more fun, of course. :)

    I must be extremely lazy – I either print out recipes that I find online (and invariably spill stuff all over them), or I just bring the laptop into the kitchen and follow the recipe off of the screen. Is that weird?

  20. I absolutely love The State! Long live Barry and Levon! I’m still anxiously awaiting The State to be released on DVD.

    Your next post should be about making a dress from bacon: also from The State;)

  21. I’ve always done the copying-by-hand thing, with recipes and with driving directions. It’s definitely a good way to get more familiar with the information, and saves some paper if you write on scratch. :n)

    I’ve been reading your blog for over a year and this might be my first comment! I am finally stepping out of the lurking shadows.

    Kudos. You’ve been endlessly informative and entertaining.

  22. I write down recipes from the internet too. And my printer is hooked up and ready to go as well, but it doesn’t work. This just frustrates me and instead of writing the recipe down properly, I sometimes just write down the ingredients and usually in shorthand. I then proceed to forget key steps and have to run back and forth between the kitchen and the computer. I realize this could easily be remedied, but so far, I haven’t taken the necessary steps.

  23. I just discovered your blog and find it very informative and entertaining.

    This is the first time I have written a recipe off of a website, but I can tall you that it will not be the last.

  24. I thought I was the only idiot who didn’t read recipes straight through before starting to cook :) That has caused many a screw up so I should really take your advice! Nice handwriting :)

  25. I do it too! I write them on index cards and toss them when I’m done. I used to lug the computer into the kitchen with me and work off the screen, but that’s too much work, and I don’t want to print off a whole recipe when I can write the amounts in the recipe instead of printing an outside ingredients list. Apparently, there’s a lot of us weirdos out there….

  26. I do the same thing with recipes!

    I also find it helps me to write them out and group ingredients in order with the general instructions rather than just a straight up list.

  27. Hey. I loved the sound of the pudding recipe so I went home immediately and made my own chocolate pudding. It put happy childhood memories in my head and more viscerally, in my mouth. My mother never did her puddings from scratch, but the mouthfeel was definitely similar.

    I read the recipes obsessively before I make them to make sure I’ve got every step in my head. I know that writing it out would work too, but I just read read read. I think in the end it amounts to the same thing. Great blog, man!

  28. Hey. I loved the sound of the pudding recipe so I went home immediately and made my own chocolate pudding. It put happy childhood memories in my head and more viscerally, in my mouth. My mother never did her puddings from scratch, but the mouthfeel was definitely similar.

    I read the recipes obsessively before I make them to make sure I’ve got every step in my head. I know that writing it out would work too, but I just read read read. I think in the end it amounts to the same thing. Great blog, man!

  29. I do a similar but lazier version.

    Whenever I get a recipe online, I put it into a word doc and then break up and organize the text so each line is one step. Has the same effect and spares me from my own handwriting, where to store and find it in the future and saves the trees.

    Keep on cookin

  30. The funny thing -I- do is use my laptop computer as a portable cookbook. Which is maybe why my j, k, i and r keys are out of commission, ever since I broke their brackets trying to clean food out of the keyboard. I have no printer, so your method seems far more sensible…

    At cooking school they wouldn’t let you bring the textbook to class with you. You -had- to copy them out onto index cards. Using a photocopier to shrink them down wasn’t acceptable, either. They wanted you to copy by hand in the belief that you would absorb something in the process. I always found it sooo tedious.

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