A Recipe for Success #sol18
April 24, 2018
I’m a home cook. I rarely make a recipe twice. Gleaning recipes from the internet, magazines, and blogs, I cook almost every night, so I’ve followed a good deal of recipes in my time. Recently, I had a run of bad luck with recipes. The recipes were slightly incomplete or for me, more complicated to read that usual. In one recipe, I began to improvise mid-composition, shifting the timing, when I added the ingredients, and cooking time. In another recipe, I had my son come and reread the recipe to see how he interpreted it. My son doesn’t cook except for a few things and doesn’t have any experience with a ‘scratch’ recipe. When I started to go ‘off-road’, he was startled and asked me how I knew that might work.
How does a beginner cook or even someone with singular types of experience read difficult recipes? I’ve read that thirty percent of home cooks go wrong somewhere in reading the recipe. Perhaps it’s akin to this, as with many things, the more your cook, the easier it is to modify or substitute within a recipe. The more recipes you read, the more you see how recipes ‘go’. Two different readers (cooks) can read the exact same recipe in different ways.
Thinking about recipes as curriculum ideas, I wondered about how the beginners. How do they read the recipes or take the ‘tips for cooking’. I began to compare recipes with new curriculum or even new ideas and how they are presented to teachers. Some new ideas come along with a standard cookbook, say, the Calkins’ Units of Study in Reading and Writing. They have kitchen set up (A Guide to the Reading/Writing Workshop) and very lengthy recipes for the daily(ish) work. For some, these recipes can be difficult to read and follow. I think most would say they aren’t for cracking open and starting to teach (cook).
Some ideas are adaptations or additions to recipes. This might be true of ‘add-ons’ such as project based learning or ideas in accountable talk, parts of a balanced diet. Things that take their own sort of mastery. To the curriculum developer, literacy coach, or principal, these ideas seem to mesh or even compliment each other. However, when a cook or a facilitator/teacher comes along these instructions, their fit may not be apparent at first.
So here’s my advice for reading a recipe whatever it might be for:
1. Sit Down: That’s right … sit down at the kitchen table and simply read the recipe all the way through. Don’t make notes, don’t make lists, just read. If you’re actually trying out a new lesson, new unit, new initiative, this will work too.
2. Read It Again: Highlight anything that might change your timeline or require special equipment or more time. I recently took out a recipe for Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos. The recipe title said easy, but when I took out the morning of dinner to cook, it actually requires 24 hours of marinating prior to that quick slow cooking. This is the time to annotate and think it all through. I make a lot of margin notes.
3. Gather Equipment: This is an important early step and not always clearly spelled out. Recently, I found a document camera for a teacher. It’s difficult to read interactively or point out special features in text, if your class can’t see them. Comparatively in a recipe, if I don’t have a mandolin, some recipes are going to be really tricky.
4. Gather Ingredients: Some things can be gotten together early. All of the dry ingredients for example. Some are needed right at the last minute. Some require pre-preparation: chopping, soaking, separating. The same with curriculum, sometimes you need a chart, chart paper, a certain number or type of books for students.
5. Note the Order of the Steps: Heat the oven first. Chop before saute. Sometimes with teaching, we have to get students ready for the learning.
6. Always Triple Note Cooking or Baking Times and their ‘Doneness Indicators’: Your eyes, nose, ears can tell you more than the timer. I can usually smell a finished cake. You can also see brownness. There are mastery indicators for students. They also have ‘doneness’ indicators.
Sometimes, just read a lesson, a book, a recipe, an idea for enjoyment. I am probably not going to make Spicy Tofu Kimchi Stew, but the recipe might give me an idea for another thing I would make.
I slice on Tuesday with the Slice of Life Community. Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for facilitating this effort. Read more slices at twowritingteachers.org