Seasoning to Taste – and fond memories…..

It’s been a long while but I still remember some very special meals at grandma’s house. Whenever I’d ask her how she made something she’d reply, ‘Oh, I don’t know how much of anything goes in there, I just add a little of this and that until it tastes right’.  Bigmama, as we called her, didn’t have measuring spoons or measuring cups. Years later when I’d try to replicate one of her recipes, for more than one reason, it just didn’t come out the same.

Nowadays when I’m lucky enough to watch a coveted recipe in progress I can come fairly close to replicating it.  Even so the streams of liquids pouring into a bowl can be impossible to estimate as are random scoops of ‘this and that’.  I’ve often thought there must be a better way to capture creative genius.  Then one day I recalled the secrets of baking – all ingredients, no matter how small, are weighed. Professional bakers don’t use cups or teaspoons, they use pounds and ounces or grams and kilograms.  Baking relies a lot on chemistry and a key to making a consistent product is precise control of measurements. My plan was coming together – the next time I wanted badly enough to learn someone else’s recipe, with their permission I’d weigh their ingredients before and after use, then I’d have the measurements.  Now all I needed was a cooperative cook. So was the case of my husband, John, and his excellent Chili.

Soon I recognized that one of John’s favorite seasonings, Worcestershire Sauce, would show up in more than one of his prized recipes.   He doesn’t cook often but when he does he has a knack for rich, bold flavor. Made of vinegar, pepper, and anchovies, Worcestershire Sauce has a savory (umami) quality that really delivers.   We made a deal. The next time Chili was on the menu I would weigh the bottle of Worcestershire Sauce in advance and then again afterwards, leaving only the steps to observe and document for posterity. In just one shot I scored the excellent Chili recipe, and more important the proper amount of his secret ingredient – thanks in no small part to a must-have kitchen tool, the digital scale.

I use a Salter Stainless Steel Digital Scale, which I paid about $30 for a few years ago.  This model calculates weights in pounds and kilograms (Imperial and Metric Systems), and is precise to within 1/8 of an ounce, enough to calculate postage.  If you don’t have a good kitchen scale already, don’t waste too much time getting one. Then spend some time with grandma, if you are fortunate enough to still have her, and learn her recipes.  She’ll feel very special and you’ll have a family treasure forever.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Deb G on March 29, 2012 at 9:33 am

    LOL – I’ve had more than one person ask for a recipe only for me to tell them I don’t have one but they are welcome to observe me cooking it. I live in fear of my family’s traditional turkey stuffing going the way of the dodo because there is no recipe and I learned it from my Mom and Grandma by observing over the years but no one comes to observe me making it early on Thanksgiving morning. It has a “feel” component to the liquid and seasoning that make it nearly impossible to put to paper but I hope to one day pass it on to my children and their children perhaps using a bit of your weighing advice along with some direct observation – if I can get them up early enough on that day 🙂


  2. Posted by pam on March 29, 2012 at 10:35 am

    YOT – This is such a great idea to capture these time treasured family recipes. We have a relative who makes an almond cake that is incredible. She makes her own flour by grinding almonds in a special hand grinder inherited from several generations ago. I’m going to try your suggestion Chef Joy and see if we can save this piece of family history. Thanks for the idea.


  3. […] “Seasoning to Taste – and fond memories…..” 29 Mar 2012 post by Chef Joy in Choose […]


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