Recipes and Reviews – eating your words
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
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.
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!
Some sweet advice from my Aunty Kathy
1 large paddock
as many children as available
several dogs and puppies
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.
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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