Can you eat your words: Recipes and Reviews

Recipes and Reviews – eating your words

food, recipes and reviews


What makes a good recipe?

Do you have to be a cook or have experience in order to write a review of a meal or a restaurant?

These were just two questions we discussed at our WEA Discussion Group.  There were many more!

We’re up to Chapter 5 of the course   ‘Eating their words: The Literature of Food’ and this week we discussed Recipes and Reviews.

As our lecturer states in the notes, recipes and reviews are not usually considered as “literature” but they are both important forms of food communication.  Apparently many food lovers read recipe books like novels!!  Who knew 🙂

Both recipes and reviews invite readers to trust them as an incorrect recipe could lead to a bad food experience.


So what do you look for in a recipe? We talked about the language used in recipes, how they’re set out, how the ingredients are listed, are they easy to follow? I know that I look for recipes which are easy to follow, have ingredients that I have heard of and hopefully have available, and make sense to my limited abilities.

We discussed the early recipe books like Day to Day Cookery which was a school text in the 1970s and also the Commonsense Cookery Book.  We decided these were simple, practical, down to earth, with a no fantasy attitude towards food. They also treated the rise of international food in a special section.

We talked about some writers who use precise measurements and others who use words like a pinch, a splash, a handful to indicate amounts to use.  These are all examples of the language involved in recipes. Which do you prefer?

We looked at books by Julia Child, Simone Beck, Elizabeth David, Stephanie Alexander, Jill Dupleix, Somer Sivrioglu and David Dale amongst many others included in the readings and notes. We also looked at books written by big name chefs which tend to be very stylish and may or may not be functional as recipes books.   Some of these books by chefs are interesting…

I know it’s a chef’s book…but I also know that it is a book for food-lovers interested in the life of a restaurant, who appreciate the great photography, design and feel.  The recipes are just there to inspire you. From Sepia: The Cuisine of Martin Benn

We had all brought some of our favourite recipe books, both old and new, and it was great to share these around and to note how the formats have changed over the years.  It was very interesting to read some of the recipes too!

Many food books these days tell a story, together with the food, complete with gorgeous styling and photography.  Next time you’re looking at cookbook, have a think about the language and story that’s being told.

Boots off Apron On

My favourite recipe book at the moment is Boots Off Apron On from the Outback Kitchens of Broken Hill School of the Air. I bought this book at Henty Machinery Field Day last year and have used it a lot since buying it.  I like the simple recipes, the no-nonsense approach and the lovely quirky inclusions.  It has great photos and personal stories which add to its appeal.  It’s also a fundraiser for a good cause and is a collection of well used and popular family recipes from a range of people involved in the School of the Air.

I made a Mango Fruit Cake for the lunch, from this book, and it was well received 🙂


Our resource notes talk about the rise of restaurant ‘critics’, posting reviews to food blogs, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Zomato and other types of social media.  But who is making these reviews?

Do you use them to make a decision for where to eat or do you rely on friend’s recommendations?

We thought this quote from Jan Hume, an ex-chef, about being a critic was interesting:

“My hunch is that people need to be qualified in some aspect of the hospitality industry, maybe as a cook, or with front of house experience, rather than  just somebody with an iPhone.”

Another question asked about a critic should be – Are the restaurant and the restaurateur succeeding in what they set out to do? But for that to happen we must know what the chef’s goals are in the first place.

We read through some pretty galling reviews and many of us resolved not to write reviews in future due to our limited experience!

It was all very interesting and the discussion generated was far ranging!

Recap of our WEA course 

As a recap, we covered  The Literature of Food in Chapter 1, Comfort Food in Chapter 2, Literary Food in Chapter 3 and Historical Food in Chapter 4.

In this, our latest get-together, we again had a variety of readings provided, notes and discussion activities.  At each meeting one of the members takes notes as we talk and collates these into a report which is emailed to our lecturer.  The report is read and commented on (not marked, it’s not an assignment!) and we always enjoy hearing the lecturer’s thoughts and responses.

This series of posts came about in response to my fellow group members challenging me to write a post about food as:

a) I’m not known as a food blogger and

b) I don’t really enjoy cooking that much

I was challenged to write a post after each meeting to summarise my thoughts and reflect on the discussion that takes place over an extended lunch with the group of friends. I’m actually enjoying writing about these discussions, despite not being a foodie!

In case you’re interested, my first post tells the story of our discussion group through WEA – it’s like a distance education course we undertake with a group of friends while we eat lunch together (quite fitting as this course is all about food).  Other topics we’ve done include Scandinavian cultural greats and Women travellers and writing.  It’s always interesting to read, discuss and learn from each other in a relaxed environment.

Final chapter

The final chapter of the course is all about Food in the Future.  Unfortunately I’ll miss this one but I will be reading through the notes and resources regardless.

I know I say it every post, but it’s amazing how we can all talk for hours on end about food, sharing our thoughts and memories and learning so much in the meantime. It’s been a great course to do.

I’ll finish with this delightful recipe from Boots Off Apron On – we all loved it!

Preserving Children

Some sweet advice from my Aunty Kathy

1 large paddock

as many children as available

several dogs and puppies

a creek


Into paddock pour children and dogs, allowing to mix well in the dirt.  Pour creek over rocks until slightly frothy allowing children and dogs to become almost completely covered. When children have browned to your liking, cool and rinse in bath.  When dry, dress and serve with milk and fresh baked biscuits.

Pixie Moses Mt Westwood Station

I’d love to hear your thoughts on your favourite recipe book.

Deb xx

Sources: Please note many of the quotes used in my post came from the WEA Discussion Group Programme  Eating their words: The Literature of Food,  D224 by Dr Jeannette Delamoir.

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34 Replies to “Can you eat your words: Recipes and Reviews”

  1. I do love your recipe at the end Debbie. I enjoy cooking and although I love looking at cookbooks I rarely follow a recipe. I get a few ideas and then put my own spin on it. Such an interesting course and I have enjoyed reading your notes each week.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That recipe is great isn’t it Sue? I loved it too ❤️ I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the course and unfortunately I’ll miss the last session but I’ll be enjoying myself elsewhere! Thanks for reading and commenting, I really appreciate your support.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Deb great to see you at Midlife Share the Love Party, especially as you are on your way to your big adventure! I love all the old cookery books. My mother made me one when I was a teenager, cutting out recipes and pasting them in or writing them in the book. Alas, I lost it in my many moves and wish I still had it as it is something of her I can keep. #MLSTL

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The only way..tried and tested to preserve children is mud, water, sand, a dog and in any order..just chuck in the mix…Loved it! I don’t have a favourite cook book..just many recipes collected over the years from people I have met, my mum, a book/magazine, on-line, word of mouth…I just collect and then add my own spin …Great post 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My wife was given a general basic covers everything cook book when she left home. Her mum bought it from their milkman. If you need to know how to make a white sauce or a soufflé or a toad in the hole of marmalade suet pudding or any Britis staple it’s there. Battered, sticky and held together by tape we wouldn’t be without it. PS it’s so old all the weights are in ounces.. Not a bloody cup or gram in sight… what’s not to like?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with caution about your comment on restaurant critics. To be an AA inspector or similar here you do need a catering or hospitality qualification or training. I do plenty of reviews on my blog and I am always aware that I am no expert. So, I focus on things which I believe are useful to my readers – background to the restaurant, service, decor and of course food. For many cuisines I try to avoid ‘the xx was overcooked’ type of comments because I don’t know enough about what the chef was trying to achieve. It’s worth noting though, even on TV shows where the critics are meant to be experts, they get it wrong. Our masterchef judges slammed a Malaysian cook ‘because her chicken rendang was not crispy.’ – Now, apparently chicken rendang is a slow cooked dish where the skin isn’t meant to be crispy. I wouldn’t know – but plenty of people did!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh i love my recipe books, I have so many, and I hope to one day produce my own (dreaming big here). That’s a pretty special recipe at the end of this post too, especially in these times where electronics take over! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As you know, my husband is a chef. He hates to read books but devours a cookbook as if it were a must read thriller. I’ve watched him go cover to cover in a cookbook and then go back again so he can add notes. I would fall asleep after the first recipe. He falls asleep after the first chapter in a novel.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. He can’t even last long enough to read a biography about one of his favorite chefs. Zzzzzzzzzz. But we did find that audio books work for him. So we’re now listening to books in the car.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Your discussion sessions sound so interesting. As always this was a great read. When I was younger I spent hours reading cookbooks and then I would find that there was very little time to cook! Clearly I love reading more than cooking!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi, Debbie – I greatly enjoyed your food posts. I am sorry that you’ll miss the last class (but I love your reason why). Although I do read recipes (usually online), I almost never follow one exactly. When making a dish that is not my standard everyday meal (e.g. Chicken Cacciatore), I am more likely to read through several recipes for this dish, figure out what they all have in common and then make my own recipe from there. Usually this works out well for me, but sometimes……not so much! Good luck on your upcoming travels/

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is why I like Nigella Lawson, and Nigel Slater, as well as writing the recipe they write passionately about the food, and their love comes through. I have (and probably will again) read their books like novels, guzzling every detail

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The cookbook text from the 1970’s reminded me of “Cookery For Young Australians” which was my high school cooking text book – I still have it and still cook from it. Plain and simple ingredients (milk is milk – not almond, coconut, rice or whatever milk etc) and things always work out because they’re designed for successful cooking. I loved the little recipe at the end for preserving children – poetically beautiful! Hope you’re enjoying your overseas adventures.
    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx
    Leanne |

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Leanne. I love recipes that I understand, and like you when I see milk I don’t have to wonder -what sort?? That little recipe is spot on isn’t it? We’re enjoying our spring days over here and being with our daughter. 😊


  11. I love to cook and love to read cookbooks. I have to say with Pinterest and the internet I don’t buy cookbooks like I used to. I don’t like recipes that have a lot of steps to them and sometimes I will mix recipes to get what I want to serve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I agree Victoria, Pinterest has really changed the recipe book game hasn’t it? I’m not a fan of many steps involved in a recipe either but I’m not too confident about mixing things up too much. Thanks so much for your comment 😊


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