How to purchase cookbooks to match your cooking style

 Recipe precision

As avid cookbook collectors, we're sure that everyone in the EYB community has met with one of two aggravating scenarios. First, there are the recipes that just don't tell you enough. For example, a muffin recipe calls for 2 butternut squash, pureed, but just how much pureed squash is that - after all, squash come in different sizes and using 1 vs. 2 cups will make a lot of difference in muffins. Then there are the recipes that are just a little too precise - is organic blue agave syrup really the only ingredient that will work?

So we enjoyed this very thoughtful blog, How Precise Do Recipes Need to Be, by David Lebovitz. In it he discusses all of the variables that a recipe writer needs to consider - likely audience, the readers' access to ingredients, what types of kitchen equipment are readers likely to have, their level of cooking knowledge. The responding comments also add a lot to the discussion. We particularly liked the scientist who responded that "As an analytical chemist I learned that all measurements are necessarily approximations because all methods of measuring are inexact to some degree," and then went on to discuss why he thinks scoop measuring is just fine.

While there are actually no right or wrong answers, one lesson we learned is that by considering which of Lebovitz's variables truly bother you and which don't (are you OK with being told to "season to taste") it will help you more easily choose the cookbooks that you're likely to enjoy and cook from, vs. those that may irritate.

And we should add that Lebovitz, who's based in Paris, is a noted cookbook author himself, especially on desserts. If you like his style, check out his author page at EYB where you can see a list of his books (all of which are indexed).

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