cooking and stitching

When I first started cooking with Alice Waters’ book, The Art of Simple Food, I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I loved the book so much. But it started me making souffles and simple salads in a way I hadn’t done before.

Then a few weeks ago I baked Todd a bread pudding from this recipe and loved the experience. And it suddenly dawned on me what appealed so much about these recipes: they explain the process of baking and educate me about why the steps are done in a particular way. For example, the bread pudding recipe instructs, “It is important to create an emulsion quickly or else a chemical reaction that produces heat will occur. If you do not whisk immediately, this heat will cook the egg yolks and cause lumps in the custard.” Ah ha! So now I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

It occurred to me that I like recipes like this so much because they use the same philosophy I use when writing sewing patterns. I think it’s fun and useful to learn why things are done a particular way, and it makes me a better cook (or seamstress) when I understand the process rather than just following a set of instructions.




  1. Before I got to the last paragraph I was already thinking of what I would comment…. "and this is why I like your patterns so much!" 🙂

  2. Makes sense… must be why I love cooks illustrated so much!

  3. I love this about your patterns as well! And i use this as a tool when I am doing my nursing job…if I know why I am doing it, I will always do it correctly!

  4. This is such a good philosophy for various subjects. I was a music performance major in college and it was so hard to convince me of things I didn't really like until someone would explain to me and show me why I shouldn't play it that way. So easy to forget why we do the things we do. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Ditto what April said!

  6. I agree, I love that book and your patterns for the same reason. I am not happy unless I know why something is. It makes you feel like you are intellectually challenged and involved in the process.

  7. I love that cookbook so much! I was just going on and on about it to my brother in law the other day. I think that if you cooked your way through that book from front to back a person could really learn to be an excellent cook and you'd also end up with a pretty good idea of how cooking really works, not just how to follow a recipe…

  8. I got that book as a gift just this Christmas and really like how informative it is, but something about the narrative style in which the actual recipes is written throws me off. If I had to compare the Oliver + S pattern instructions it would probably be to something like Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, which is also very good about giving explanations and variations.

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