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.

15 thoughts on “Writing Recipes Out By Hand”

  1. I have to completely agree that hand-writing is the best way to make sure information sticks in your mind. I hand write out all of my recipes as I create them before transferring them over to the computer.

  2. I do the same thing! My kitchen has recipes scribbled down on colorful post-its scattered all over the place. I too find it helpful to distill the recipe (after a thorough read-through) down to its ingredients and their proportions. It also helps me visualize where I can add my own spin to the recipe and not mess it up royally. :)

  3. I too prefer the old fashioned method. I jot down recipes in shorthand. cp for cup, btr for butter, brn sgr for brown sugar, bpdr for baking powder, etc. It takes very little time and helps with being more organized. I just clip the piece of paper to a magnetic clip and hang it on the metal exhaust hood over the stove.

  4. This makes a lot of sense. I usually stick my laptop on the counter if I’m baking or making a dinner that calls for specific measurements. Last night I made a casserole and left the laptop on the couch, and I kept running back and forth like a crazy person. I’d run over, memorize 1 &1/3 cups of stock, 1/2 cup sour cream, and 1/4 cup white wine, run back to the kitchen, and immediately forget all of it. Run back, memorize, back to kitchen, repeat, yell at my kitchen Madonna statue with the missing baby Jesus head. All of my cooking blunders are his fault anyway.

  5. I do the same thing! But sometimes my notes are so bad I have no idea what i was trying to write in the first place. Perhaps my short hand should become a little longer.

  6. Pat Machin @AyorkshireCook

    Nice to know I’m not the only one! If I write out a shopping list before I leave the house I don’t really need to take it with me. My main ‘learning gate’ is through writing things down.

    Post its were made for people like us!

  7. While I would love to have access to your cookbook stash, I am not willing for you to perish in a kitchen inferno to do so…and I am not evil, no matter what everyone says!

  8. I do the same thing! and then I stick them to the fridge with a magnet and let the collection build up until my husband can’t handle it anymore and I have to take them down. But it totally helps with following along with a recipe- something about my own handwriting makes it stick.

  9. I use those small pocket sized books to write down my recipes. That way I can pop it in my pocket for whatever I’m dashing out to the shop for and know exactly what I need to get and why (I substitute a lot) and then later I have a roughly chronological record of the new things that I cook.

  10. I do the same exact thing — though my main reason for taking a piece of scrap paper to the counter is so I don’t spill anything on my computer or tablet :)

  11. I do this too – for recipes, studying for class, directions, shopping lists. Sticks way better!

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