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Is Cookbook Cheating?

I like to ask myself the question, what would my life be like without “fill in the blank” and after reading the excerpt, “The Recipe, the Prescription, and the Experiment”, I started thinking about what our life would be like if we don’t have cookbooks and printed (or in our generation, digital) recipes and I came to a conclusion that we might have better scientists if we didn’t have cookbooks.

One of the most important quotes I drew from this excerpt was “While the use of written recipes might emphasize and enshrine differentiation of a hierarchical kind…It has limited implications on the growth of knowledge”. To me, a cookbook is analogous to a solution book, it gives you a solution to a problem but it doesn’t teach you the the fundamental theories of getting to that solution and that is not an effective learning method (I know this from experience, I get lower test grades if I memorize solution rather than learning the concept). Learning is a combined process of memorizing and thinking of how to use the memorized information. The problem with cookbook is that it allows people to skip the thinking process, of discovering what chemical make the dish smell the way it does and then what type of ingredient contains that type of chemical, is it a single ingredient or mixture of ingredients. This thinking process is the same process that scientists have to take when doing experiments.If we are trained to only memorize information, we will lose our ability to actually think, we will run out of information eventually and no new discovery will be found and humanity will be doom! (Well I’m exaggerating a bit here but I think most of you get the point).

Also, as the excerpt mentioned “the cost of booking learning was a restriction on spontaneity”, we are less inclined to make new discoveries if we are given the solutions right away. For example, if I’m tired of eating just eggs and rice every single day and I don’t have a cookbook, I will be more likely to just pick up random items at grocery store and trying to make a new dish than if I do have a cookbook. Whether that dish is a success or not is a different story but it’s the process that counts the most. Albert Einstein failed several times before he discovered relativity laws but if he didn’t bother trying out experiments, such discovery would have never been found.

I’m not at all saying that cookbooks are a terrible idea because as the excerpt mentioned, there are many positive aspects of having recipes out on paper; however, I just think that everything in life comes with a price and if we are having too easy access to one thing, we might  be losing something else at the end.


Discussion Questions

1. Do you think oral cooking lesson would be a more effective learning method than cookbook?

2.  Would it help with the gender equality movement if cooking class is part of school curriculum where all students (male and female ) have to take it?

2 Responses to “Is Cookbook Cheating?”

  1. kirho says:

    In regards to your first question, I think that oral lessons are more effective in learning to cook than following a written out recipe. Cooking requires a certain skill that can not be acquired through simply reading a piece of paper. All food is different and cooks differently so I think that you need to physically engage in the cooking process multiple times to get the hang of it. Some people say they are terrible at cooking and just aren’t born with that skill. I think that being exposed to the process of cooking over time is one factor that contributes to whether you can cook or not. The more you see it, the more you understand how certain foods cook and what flavors may blend well together. Cooking good food isn’t easy and it takes practice to do it well. I personally don’t think that it is something you can pick up easily from reading a book.

  2. laurenspiel says:

    You propose a really interesting argument here that I never really thought about. It seems like if we didn’t have written recipes and cookbooks, we would get more creative with our food because we would have more ideas to explore. But at the same time, I think cookbooks also can enhance and further our creativity. By being given a starting point by having a recipe we can take that recipe and add our own spice to it. If we did not have written cook books and just shared things orally, it would be easy to forget the exact recipes and how we prepared our dishes. Written cook books allow us to have the ability to pass down family recipes and create tradition. If we didn’t have them it would be too hard to maintain tradition by just orally passing them down.

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