Writing Recipes Out By Hand


If you go into the back of my car, which you can’t really do right now because it’s in the shop (car accident; see my newsletter for details) you’ll notice a layer of paper on the floor. On that paper, you’ll find handwritten directions to various destinations: Little Flower in Pasadena, the airport, etc. Why, in these days of endless technology, do I bother writing out directions on pieces of paper? Hold that thought for a second and come into my kitchen. You’ll notice pieces of paper magnet-ed to the fridge and flattened on the counter with recipes written out by hand. By hand? Who writes recipes out by hand?

Well, I do. For the same reason that I write directions out by hand.

Let me explain. Driving with GPS is like cooking a recipe straight out of a cookbook. Even if you read ahead on your phone what’s going to happen next, chances are you haven’t truly imbibed that information so when you get from the 110 to the 105 and you have to remember the airport exit (Sepulveda? Airport road?) you might swerve into oncoming traffic as you slow down to check with Siri. Same thing if you’re cooking from a cookbook but you’re at the stove and the heat’s on high and you’ve added your chicken wings to the sizzling oil but you forget if the sauce you’re making is supposed to have one tablespoon of Tabasco or two. You swivel around to check the cookbook, knock the oil to the ground, and start a kitchen fire that kills your whole family except your wicked Aunt Susan who inherits your entire cookbook collection which she selfishly sells off on E-Bay. All because you didn’t write the recipe down by hand.

Here’s my methodology: when I find a recipe I like online, I get a piece of paper and I distill it down to the essentials. As you can see with the lead picture, with the Crème Caramel I made recently, that meant mixing 2/3 cup sugar with 1/3 cup water in a pot on medium heat until it turned brown and then pouring it into molds. By writing it down this way, I had that information totally in my head and if I forgot any detail (2/3rds a cup of WHAT?) I could quickly glance over and see.

So that’s the way I go about things. My kitchen’s not on fire, but my car’s in the shop, so interpret all this as you will.