Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Logical Cooking

Commonsensical cookbook
  (+6, -1)
(+6, -1)
  [vote for,

The trouble with a great many cookbooks and recipe books is that they require a degree of knowledge before you start. Phrases like "cook until al dente", "chop the onion into rings" or "whip until stiff peek" are meaningless unless you've cooked before. When my Mum passed away recently, my Dad who has never cooked soon realised that every recipe book they had, provided him with little help when trying to feed himself, which got me thinking.

Flowcharts (or flow diagrams) are used to describe a process by taking the user through the constituent tasks. I propose that a logic cookbook that uses these symbols to describe the cooking process, probably with associated colour patches and pictures to ensure that things are progressing smoothly.

I recognise that experienced cooks/chefs may find this idea reprehensible as it takes out the soul of cooking and the joy of tinkering with a recipe, but this is not directed towards that audience.

jonthegeologist, Aug 12 2004

Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook http://www.amazon.c...0?v=glance&n=283155
[jtg], this might work, but I'm 2 years too late w/ the link. [Zimmy, Aug 21 2006]

How to Boil Water http://www.amazon.c...078-0169405?ie=UTF8
1987 Verson [Galbinus_Caeli, Aug 21 2006]

How to Boil Water http://www.amazon.c...078-0169405?ie=UTF8
Due to be released, um, tomorrow. [Galbinus_Caeli, Aug 21 2006]

The Gastronome Codex The_20Gastronome_20Codex
Heading in the same direction but on a much grander scale. [DrBob, Aug 21 2006]

This might help, too Human_20food_20measurement
Shameless self-promotion. [moomintroll, Aug 23 2006]


       Sounds logical,hence [+]
skinflaps, Aug 12 2004

       Once my mother told me : "Cooking is an art, not a science". I still don't see why she thought this was a good thing, but it explains why cookbooks are so incomprehensible.
Sod the recipe; I want a protocol.
Loris, Aug 12 2004

       I think graphs would help. Lots of graphs. Like pasta softness v. time in boiling water. One line for each type. "Boil untill pasta reaches a Brinell hardness of 2"
Worldgineer, Aug 12 2004

       Any instruction set assumes a certain base level of knowledge. If every recipie had to include all this knowledge every time, the books would take up lots more space, and they'd get very annoying to those with a bit more experience.   

       If you want a book geared towards the beginner, get "The Joy of Cooking". Not only does it have thousands (literally) of great recipies, but just about every term that wouldn't be obvious to a five-year-old is explained in the glossary.   

       Also, a couple examples of how to tell when food is done: Al dente pasta is done cooking when it still has a little firmness but doesn't feel raw. If you want to know how well done a steak is, use your face. Poke your cheek with your finger. That's what rare feels like. Poke your chin, that's medium. Poke your forehead, that's well done.   

       Many concepts such as al dente, rare/medium/well, stiff peak, etc... can be defined, but you can really only get a feel for them by doing. You need to overcook a couple of steaks before you learn exactly what medium rare feels like.
Freefall, Aug 12 2004

       cooking starts out like that:   

       put 4" diameter potatoes into 1 pint of water with 1/2 teaspoonful of salt - boil for 20 minutes.   

       allow to cool and eat.   

       and then people start making variations to suit their individual palette and recipes become born. I am sure you can get very basic cookery books.   

       any surefire recipes for a toothless, hot, tired dog would be most welcome.
po, Aug 12 2004

       Ice cream?
Worldgineer, Aug 12 2004

       hey now that is inspirational. cheers!
po, Aug 12 2004

       UCML* activity diagrams with cooking domain swimlanes.   



       * Unified Cooking Modeling Language
bristolz, Aug 12 2004

       //Many concepts such as al dente, rare/medium/well, stiff peak, etc... can be defined, but you can really only get a feel for them by doing.//   

       This is why you need a clear protocol, so you can get an in-range value the first time.   

       Cooking protocols should be designed such that uncontrolled variables do not affect the outcome in an untoward manner.   

       The conversation with my mother went something like this:
(Long suffering Mum): "Use salted water"
(Loris): "How salty?"
(LSMum): "Oooh, a pinch"
(Loris): "How much is a pinch?"
(LSMum): "<x> teaspoons"
(Loris): "And that is per much water?"
(Mum [exaspirated]): "Just to cover the vegetables!"
(Loris): "So doesn't that change the saltiness dependent on how much I'm cooking?"
(Mum [very exaspirated]): "LOOK! Cooking is an Art, Not A Science!"
Loris, Aug 12 2004

       Cooking is a craft, methinks.
bristolz, Aug 12 2004

       Cooking is a craft, but there are those that have to eat who have no interest in the art of cooking and also no experience. I figured this might just help those people.
jonthegeologist, Aug 12 2004

       Good basic set-up, but for crying out loud lose the flow charts unless you want a joke gift for non-chef geeks rather than something that's actually usable.   

       (Unrelated recommendation: the last time we had a conversation about beginners' cookbooks at the halfbakery, I ended up buying the "Help! My Apartment has a Kitchen" cookbook that is written for a college-student unskilled audience and has served me well at least twice since then.)
jutta, Aug 12 2004

       Not only is this a viable commercial success for its comedic value, but also for the amount of people it may eventually get experimenting on their own dish permutations. What engineer/scientist do you know that after following the instructions once, doesn't "experiment" with the variables.

This gets a big + from me.
silverstormer, Aug 12 2004

       I have a college cookbook, something on the order of "meals that you can cook in a single pot so you don't have to wash many dishes"   

       Everything is really simple. I like flow charts though, they would make a cookbook more geeky and fun.
eulachon, Aug 12 2004

       I'd never heard of that "poke your face" method to see how done your steak is thing before [freefall] I've always used the "poke the drumstick part of your thumb as it lightly touches each finger tip" method.   

       Delia Smith's last TV series was a bit like this, only more so. It started by explaining how to boil water, then went onto more difficult stuff like boiling eggs. I think the woman's running out of ideas.
I like the idea though. There must be many people - students, for example - who never cooked at home and get thrown into it at college, and I understand that cooking at home is far less common in US than in UK.
angel, Aug 13 2004

       I think you mean over-cooking.
Worldgineer, Aug 13 2004

       //I think you mean over-cooking.//
This from the nation that invented Spam and the Hostess Twinkie.
No over-cooking in my house.
angel, Aug 13 2004

       This is sooooooo baked. There are about 48 squillion gazillion skadillion books (many of them, not surprisingly, are cookery books) and online resources out there that explain cookery terms.
lemon tetra, Aug 13 2004

       show me one that uses flowcharts to explain the process, with associated colour patches? Sorry... that was a tad defensive!
jonthegeologist, Aug 13 2004

       Best would be if you start learning to prepare 'salted water'. Don't measure but taste. If you don't taste the salt, it is not enough, if you don't like it, it's too much.
miazzina, Aug 13 2004

       A "Cooking for Idiots" sort of thing, Jon? I don't think that one's been done yet. And, [angel], I shall refrain from listing all the nasty culinary atrocities you British have invented.
lintkeeper2, Aug 13 2004

       that's the sort of thing [lint], but with a leaning for the logical.
jonthegeologist, Aug 13 2004

       There are a couple of "Kid's Cookbooks" in this house somewhere, which explain elementary terms, methods, measures and amounts, and so on; and have structured, almost flowchart like recipies.   

       If I don't stop burning my microwave popcorn soon, I'm going to have to go back to them.   

       I can't find them on the web for searching, and they're hardly "widely known to exist."
Detly, Aug 13 2004

       Baked! I like the idea. It wouldn't remove the soul of cooking, because once the engineer got ahold of the initial variables, and better yet, understood why the variables fall into certain ranges, they could be encouraged to experiment by tweaking variables to personalize the recipe.   

       The show "Good Eats" by Alton Brown is a great cooking show that focuses on simplicity, and better yet, scientific principles. He still uses measurements like a 'pinch' but he also has food scientists and chemists come on the show to explain the physical and chemical reasons for cooking processes. Alton is a true geek and makes some good food too, I highly recommend it. If you don't have the food network, check bittorrent sites!
phidauex, Aug 13 2004

       How about cooking schematics, similar to electronic schematics? We just have to define appropriate symbols that an engineer can refer to in his fieldbook. Perhaps an onion is a circle with a 2 concentric circles. A bananna could be real easy. Salt could be a square with dots in it. Sugar is a circle with dots in it. The values are listed like "2L2" to indicate 2Liters, 200mL of something.   

       Lines connect all related items, and time has its own component symbol. Voltage is replaced by heat/cool!   

       I claim this idea! Should this be in a new idea of its own?
eauto, Aug 13 2004

       Damn. I was just about to post "Geek Recipe Book" so I did a Google search and this idea was the number 1 hit. I was going to suggest flowcharts for recipes, but also writing recipes in some kind of peudocode. So, the kind of statement in a normal recipe like

"...and immediately add the chopped almonds..."

which makes you say "Why didn't they they didn't tell me before to chop the almonds?!" would be impossible as the ingredients section has only declared the "almonds" variable and so you can't then make a statement like:


without somewhere earlier saying

chopped_Almonds = almonds.chop()

Something I think would be hard to express are when two or more things happen at once, like "Leave simmering until the meat is tender. Meanwhile grind the spices". Something like this (below) I find a bit clumsy. Maybe there's a better solution:

while !meat.tender
if !spices.ground
end if
end while
hippo, Aug 21 2006

       You need a language to describe concurrent processes...   

       As for the chopped almonds, you could do some kind of 'declaration' (like there is in C) at the start of the recipe.
Jinbish, Aug 21 2006

       just to add to what hippo said; recipes often have something like "serve with rice" near the end of the instructions, when this should actually be cooked first.   

       A flow chart might be overkill, but simply ordering the steps of the recipe in the sequence they are to be performed would be nice.   

       Also, 'common sense' instructions at the start of the recipe might be useful for the beginner: "clean kitchen before you begin", "get all ingredients on the bench before you begin" etc.
xaviergisz, Aug 21 2006

       And you can't really go to far with such instructions: "Do you have tumeric? I know you don't think you do, but try checking the back of your cabinet before you go out and buy yet another container of tumeric."
Worldgineer, Aug 21 2006

       //"serve with rice" near the end of the instructions//   

       Very true. At least they could put 2 cups of rice in the list of ingredients at the beginning.
I've done that more than once. Ah, crap! I thought. then... do I have any Raman left?

       I'll see if I can find a link to a Very usefull cookbook that you can probably pick up at a used book store. It has a lot of info describing cooking techniques, meat cuts, charts with cooking times for different things (for example, I think there is a 2 page chart dealing just with pasta and rice - maybe 6 pages dealing with cooking times of beef by cooking method/cut of meat), etc. I had to buy a hardcover one as my paperback one fell apart from overuse.   

       I hate to sound like a commercial for the book, but It would really work for what you want. (It even has cooking times (& a method different than what I had learned) for hard & soft boiled eggs, where I learned that sticking the eggs into ice water after cooking makes them easier to shell). If you are interested, you can read the reviews in the link I put up.
Zimmy, Aug 21 2006

       while(meal<done) {oven.cook(temp);}   

       No, no, no. What I want is a PROGRAMMING book that admits that programming is an art just like cooking.   

       1. Grab a whole set of wigdets and mixx. You'll never decide on your GUI until you can taste what simply doesn't fit with how you intend to use it.   

       2. Some people think the pre-frozen code from the supermarket can be re-used over and over, but fresh code will always suit your tastes better, and you'll have the reward and experience of doing it all yourself.   

       3. Keep an eye on how baked your project is, but don't turn off the oven just because the timer 'bings'. Press the app with the back of your spoon and if it bounces back, fine. If not wait a while longer and serve your guests more wine while they wait.   

       4. Never stop experimenting. A new ingredient can refresh a tired old PIM recipe for new flavours and a new generation of tastebuds.   

       5. You will save time if you work on the sauce/source while the main.course() is baking.
not_only_but_also, Aug 23 2006

       6) And if it doesn't seem to be working right, just batter it (add a Java interface) and deep fry (run it off a central server with a dedicated administrator).
Galbinus_Caeli, Aug 23 2006

       I love the idea of a programmers cookbook because thats how I think
AlexTheGreat, Aug 23 2006


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