on not being so literal

A few years ago Mollie Katzen, of Moosewood Cookbook fame, was on tour for her then most recent book. She appeared on the Santa Cruz NPR station. She said that she was troubled by the fact that many people didn’t feel that they could take liberties with her recipes and had to follow them slavishly. She said that made her nervous. She reflected, what if her recipe said, “Chop the carrots and put them in the pot. Now get in your car, drive to the river, get out, and jump off the bridge.”

crockpotYou get her point. I found myself caught up in the very same error. Trader Joe’s in their Fearless Flyer promoted their brined whole chicken and suggested it was a good crock pot candidate. That made a lot of sense to me. I found a whole chicken crock pot recipe, which called for a spice rub. It turned out OK, and the broth was great, but the chicken itself was a tad bland.

The recipe didn’t say anything about making sure you got the rub underneath the skin, so I didn’t. But I should have. I knew that. (As the Michael J. Fox Alex Keaton character used to say on Family Ties.) In fact, I know that well from our Thanksgiving turkeys. Duh. The next time, I got the spice rub (mine – not the one in the recipe) well underneath the skin and it was marvelous. Terry loved it. She raved about it. That dish has now become one of her favorites.

I think of a Smothers Brothers special in the late 1980’s, two decades after they were unceremoniously dumped by CBS, in large part at the behest of the Nixon administration. Dick asks Tom, “If CBS told you to go jump in a lake, would you?” Tommy pauses, and then replies, “Well, not again.”

I rarely follow a recipe exactly. I think I was so careful in this instance because a crock pot whole chicken was something that I had never done before. The fact that the recipe called for no liquid whatsoever made me a tad nervous. But still, really, I do know better.


4 Comments on “on not being so literal”

  1. Tahoe Mom says:

    Always start with the recipe exactly as written — and go from there after the first try. I’m just not sure enough even after all these years of cooking to vary it on the first go round.

  2. Tahoe Mom says:

    oops – I probably should have said I always start — it’s a statement of my culinary life, not a suggestion for yours.

  3. […] wrote recently about Molly Katzen’s rather satirical take on the extremes to which one might take the […]


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