No Fear And Owning A Recipe

Nachos Rule!In my recipe for Orange Rice, I mentioned my friend Carissa was a good enough chef to
“own the recipe.”  I didn’t talk much about it, but I got to thinking about it later.

I wrote that entire post off the cuff sort since I am between series right now and thought the recipe might come in handy.  Plus, I wanted to warn everyone of the dangers (at least to my taste buds ;)) of over citrusing rice.  Anyway, the term she could “own the recipe” got typed without me consciously typing it.

Later, though, it hit me what I had written and I started to think about what I really meant to own a recipe.

What I have found from my personal experience and from talking with others is that when it comes to how people use recipes there is a range.  On one end is those who will follow a recipe exactly to the letter and on the other are those who look at recipes as a guide or a suggestion.  Then there are others who fall in between.

Before I get too far into these musings, let me say that being at either extreme or being somewhere in the middle is perfectly fine.  No one style is better than the other.  Instead, people who identify more strongly with one style approach cookbooks, food blogs, etc. differently than those who follow the other style.  It’s just a matter of personal preference.

Anyway, what I meant when I said Carissa was able to “own” a recipe is that I felt confident in her ability to take a recipe, make modifications to it, and have it come out good.  In the case of that particular situation (where we modifying the recipe), the ability to own a recipe is a good thing.  Had she followed the recipe exactly, it would have been okay… but like I talked about in my write-up, my fear is that she would have had really orange-y rice.

Part of the reason I wrote this post is that I want to know where you fall along the continuum.  I am always interested to know what my readers want from this blog.  If a bunch of you respond back that you follow recipes to the letter, that means that as a blogger I will start to be far more explicit about what I can do.

The other reason I mention this is that I know myself… and I know that when I am following a recipe to the letter, it’s because I am unsure of myself and my abilities  if I don’t.  (I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know that this happens A LOT when I am baking…)  Fear rules a lot of kitchens.  I know that at least some of you out there look at the recipes in cookbooks and on food blogs and you think “I can never make that…”  (Guess what…yes you can!)

One of the things I would love to do with this food blog, and it’s something I need to work on, is helping you, o hungry reader, fear less in the kitchen.  Whether you have cooked for years or minutes, I know you CAN cook.  Inside every hungry tummy is a brilliant cook waiting to burst forth.

If you do feel that way (the no I can’t feeling…) stay tuned to this blog.  We can knock those fears down.  I promise.

I know that was a strange tangent to go on: Orange Rice->Owning a Recipe->Fear of the kitchen, but I wanted to talk about owning a recipe and I wanted to make it clear there is nothing wrong with following my recipes exactly (that’s why they’re there! ;))  If that’s how you like to cook, great!  However, if you follow recipes because you think you’re not a good enough to experiment… balderdash!

Maybe a little learnin’ will help.  I have been paying attention to those little tricks I do when I cook and I am going to write them down in the pages of this blog so you can play around, too.  Be on the lookout.  I’ll be doing a series on it very soon.

Until then, however you cook, enjoy!


  1. (I know, I’m late to the party on this post.)

    Normally, I wing it in the kitchen depending on what spices I feel like eating and whether it’s hot or cold out and what I find in the fridge. [True, this also leads to interesting moments such as the evening that going to the store was just not. gonna. happen, and I momentarily pondered the condiments and whether jalapenos and black bean paste would have enough nutrition together to count as dinner.]

    If the recipe, main ingredient, or procedure is something very new to me and I’ve not done something similar – then I’ll pay close attention. Otherwise a rough outline with ‘oh, be careful when you add the x, and y tends to overcook easily’ is great.

    • Hey Vicki,

      I think you mirror my process pretty closely. Though since writing this, I’ve started going through cookbooks with the express intent on learning new cuisine (in this case classic Sichuan cooking.) Chinese sauces usually have 8-10 ingredients so I’ve been following the recipes exactly. Hopefully I get the hang of Chinese sauces and then I’ll feel better improvising.

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