Wasting our lives and glorifying God

Wasting our lives and glorifying God
Notice God's unutterable waste of saints, according to the judgment of the world. God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say - God intends me to be here because I am so useful. Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use. God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is. ~Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, August 10

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

They just don't make 'em like they used to.

(This is by no means a judgment on today's homemakers, merely a cultural commentary on the changing times.  Don't take it personally.  Let's laugh at ourselves.)

In the last year or so my sister and I taken to emailing one another links to blogs with "recipes".  I use that word very lightly, because I'm not exactly sure you'd call some of them recipes.  I mean, if I make a bowl of popcorn tonight and I put some butter and salt on it, would you call that a recipe?  Or if tomorrow at breakfast I toast a bagel and schmear it with cream cheese would you need a step-by-step instructions?  I certainly hope not.  But some of the recipes have been that bad  good.

For example:

Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich from The Hidden List.  There are a list of ingredients and directions.  Really?  You couldn't probably come up with the ingredient list on your own?  Or how about this gem: specific instructions on spreading marshmallow cream and peanut butter on bread.  Silly me, I thought that was something we didn't admit to eating, not something we outlined in great detail.

Or how about this: "I knew that taco seasoning had to be something we could make at home.  I have grown tired of looking for Taco Seasoning at the supermarket that doesn’t contain MSG.  It couldn’t be that tricky to mix up, right?"  What?  You mean Mexican women don't use El Paso Taco Seasoning packets in their taco meat?  Taco seasoning always seemed fairly self-explanatory.  In fact, I cannot remember when/if I ever bought any pre-prepared mix.  But in case you get lost somewhere between the onion and the cumin, thankfully, there are detailed instructions here for mixing your own taco seasoning. 

The internet is just full of useful tidbits like this.  Such as step-by-step instructions for tossing cooked boxed spaghetti with butter.  It gets worse, much worse, folks.  For the aspiring cook who doesn't know how to boil water, I present Iced Tea via Allrecipes.com.  It says (I kid you not), "Like real iced tea, but do you hate boiling the water..."  And goes on to describe running hot water from your tap over tea bags.  Yep. 

Yesterday I might have found one to top them all, and of course I email it to my sister: Roast Chicken.  This "recipe" (and I know playing fast and loose with the word "recipe") is to salt and pepper a whole chicken and bake it until juices run clear.  It's explained in not one, not two, but five (that's 5!!!) whole steps!  She doesn't even truss it.  And it still takes 5 steps to explain how to roast a chicken.  No offense, but some food bloggers would be better suited to writing satire.

In extreme contrast, remember this antique book I picked up?  I decided to find something to make from it the other day.  And I found recipes such as this:

Cream Pie
A scant cup of sugar, yolks of two eggs, three tablespoons flour, three cups milk for two pies, teaspoonful butter.  Bake crust first.--Mrs. C.H. Wright.

And this:

Pumpkin Pie
Two eggs, one cup milk, pumpkin enough to thicken, sweeten to taste and flavor with mixed spices.--Mrs. Evert Adams.

Better yet:

Six Minute Cake
Break the whites of two eggs in a cup, fill to one-half with soft butter, fill to top with sweet milk.  Sift together three times one cup sugar, one and on-half cups flour, one and one-half teaspoons of baking powder.  Put all together and stir six minutes.  Bake carefully.--Mrs. W.H. Robinson

I'm not completely sure what it means to "bake carefully."

One more:

Snow Cake
One-half teacup butter, one cup sugar, one and one-half cup of flour, one-half cup of sweet milk, whites of four eggs, one teaspoon Royal Baking Powder.  Delicious

Did you notice there are no instructions for the preparing the pans, preparing the crusts, temperature or length of time to bake, how to check for doneness or how to serve?  I suppose it was just assumed that there were some things that everyone knew how to do.  Any homemaker worth her salt wouldn't need to be patronized with how all the ingredients went together.  They knew how to do that already.

In the antique Home Ec. book it states: "...it is important for a pupil to realize that the thousand and one recipes found in a single cookbook consists of about fifteen basic recipes, each having many variations."  So, it would seem if we knew the basic fifteen or so, we could forgo the annoying instructions about how to boil boxed pasta or make a peanut butter sandwich or stick a whole untrussed chicken in the oven with salt on it.  But then, makers of convenience foods would be out of a job and writers of cookbooks and food bloggers would actually have to learn to cook.

Of course, our other alternative is to zap some PopTarts:


Sue said...

LOL! Those recipes from your antique book read just like one of my dear mother's recipes. She was definitely of a different generation, and I was so blessed to grow up cooking with her!

Happy Elf Mom said...

I WELCOME recipes like this! You know, in college, I threw out an entire very nice pot because I boiled spaghetti in it but it was inedible. Just congealed into a huge gross Jell-o thing. What I didn't know (BECAUSE THE STUPID PACKAGE DIDN'T TELL ME) is that one must drain the noodles in some sort of colander-thingy. And then add sauce.

Barb, sfo said...

Love the recipes from the old home-ec book. I actually have a "recipe cheat sheet" in my kitchen, inside a page protector. One side for baked goods, other side for main dishes. It's nothing but a list of ingredients, and in the case of the baked stuff, time and temp. No steps of how to mix, just the list of what I have to measure to make these.

Karen Joy said...

I'm having similar problems with a recipe on my blog. In gluten-free baking, one must always use a mixture of flours, because no singular substitute flour has the same properties (starch, protein, elasticity) as wheat flour. In order to add some flexibility (as some people might want to only keep 8 or 10 cups of flour on hand while others, like me, want 20-30 cups), I listed the ingredients in "parts", in order to be a ratio... so one could choose a 1 cup measure or a 4 cup measure or whatever for their "part". In addition to that, there are two additional ingredients that one adds, 1 tsp per cup of finished flour mixture. I didn't think it would be that difficult; I thought it was really basic math. FIFTY NINE COMMENTS AND CLARIFICATIONS LATER, people are still confused.

I have found similar to be true in many situations: Flexibility really adds to confusion, because people are then required to think and reason. I blame our broken education system which is all about regurgitating facts, rather than thinking it through.

It's funny but... not.

Or maybe I'm snooty! I'm not sure!!!

Gombojav Tribe said...

I think maybe you have hit on it, Karen. People just aren't taught to think. Very often they don't have basic problem solving skills and need someone to to calculate everything for them. And because we are so dependant on recipes, even if we've made muffins a thousand times we've never really thought about the process, because we are just following the directions. Without the directions we cannot come up with a muffin! Sad, if you really think about it.

I guess we need to teach our children how to cook--really cook. Such as "this is the function of baking powder in a quick bread...." And if they really know what it's for, they won't leave it out or substitute something that would never work--like baking soda.

Hey, Karen! Maybe we should write a cookbook with the 15 or so basic recipes and explain how cooking works! I wonder if there is something like that on the market. :-)

Mrs. and Mama K said...

this one kinda stikes a cord with me. my mom never taught me how to cook. i attempted sloppy joes one time and threw the canned mix in with the raw meat to cook and she laughed at me. it seriously broke my heart...so i never tried the rest of the time i lived there. she acted like sitting me in front of the TV instead of spending quality time with me in the kitchen was going to give me some common sense in cooking.

i can see how others whose mother neglected to teach them the basics (like, say, most men) could use the step by step instructions...

btw - i had to ask Red's mom for her taco seasoning recipe because we NEVER used seasoning...it was always fresh onion and garlic, maybe salt and pepper, and that's it. Not the crazy over-flavored stuff he grew up with.

Linda Stephenson said...

Thanks for sharing, love the old recipes. Kinda like I was taught to cook. One particular recipe say shortening the size of a small meatball.
Like my husband says "it's all part of growing up".

Vanessa Rogers said...

A peanutbutter and marshmellow spread sandwhich? I never thought of that. That sounds like a sugar high likely to take you to MARS!

A party and A HALF said...

Have you seen Rachel Ray's recipe on food network.com on how to make "midnight bacon"? It says "put strips of bacon on a paper towel lined plate and microwave until crispy".
I kid you not!

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