Recipes are the patriarchy

Recipes are the patriarchy. Hear me out. 

Have you ever had someone basically Simon-Says you in your own kitchen without telling you why?

Have you then been gaslit when things didn’t turn out well because you must not have been obedient enough?

Sounds like every time I try to make a fancy dinner. Also sounds like patriarchy. Coincidence? (And in case you’re wondering, yes I may be trying to excuse some of my recent oven explosions on the basis of equality.)

I’m not above following instructions. I just like to know why I’m doing it. If you tell me to heat water to precisely 115 degrees Fahrenheit, I might get annoyed and text my friends about it. But if you tell me to heat water to a given temperature range that promotes yeast activation without scorching the poor beasties—at that point, I’m down to follow. 

Think of it as a corollary to that rule about teaching a man to fish. Don’t tell me how to bait my hook; tell me why I need to do it this way. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find a better way to do it. Or maybe I’ll decide to go to the fishmonger instead, or skip the fish entirely. Big fan of informed options.

So that’s my first hot take: go ahead and give a gal some instructions to follow, but at least fill her in on the logic. Let her decide which steps are for her and which aren’t. Maybe she doesn’t want to make barbecue sauce from scratch without being informed that that’s what she’s up to.

Which brings me to you and your ilk, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.

If you aren’t familiar, this many-cleped man is one of several chefs on Serious Eats. He and his co-conspirators are always finding the “best” way to make everything. If you would like to make merely tasty—even merely exceptional—food, don’t bother. If you want the A/B-tested absolute best, go there. You will have to buy four different kinds of chilies, inexplicably, for a recipe that will involve microwaving chili water until you have essentially created poison gas inside your apartment. Your eyes will burn for days. But the end result will taste about two percent better than other bean chili recipes you’ve previously had.

I admit, I’m a little salty (unlike the beef stew I tried to make, which may or may not have called for salt; I stopped obeying at step one when I realized that they were calling for me to use three pots and a baking sheet for a stew.)

Anyway, it needed a lot of salt, but I suppose I have only my rebellious self to blame.

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