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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Balch

Reading Recipes

It happened again, I was about halfway through the recipe before I realized that I was supposed to save out half of the marinade to use for the sauce and half to cook the meat in. I now have to decide whether what I’ve done is salvageable or if I need to change it somehow, sigh.

I’m an easily distracted cook, so this type of thing happens more than I care to admit. I do think that part of the fault lies with the way recipes are written. Am I the only one that thinks it’s weird that recipe writing hasn’t changed in the last 100 years?

I actually count myself among the few who enjoy and prefer to read directions rather than wing it. (Perhaps it’s because I write so many!). But trying to translate a multi-step set of rather precise directions in a slightly messy, often busy, occasionally boisterous environment is asking too much of a distractible cook. I’ve learned to rewrite my recipes so that I can see at a glance both what I need and what I need to do. This layout lets me easily find my place should I get interrupted.

By now, you’re probably way ahead of my little analogy. This sounds a lot like what we ask of students when we put them in a science lab. Use these materials; follow these steps; and don’t forget about this safety concern or that special technique.

I want my students to succeed in the lab and I want to make the process as sustainable as possible. So that when we’re finished I’ll feel like coming in tomorrow and tackling it all again. This is why I typically write or rewrite our science labs so that they’re quickly understood at a glance. I want them to be as simple and straightforward as possible. 

If you’d like to see a copy of how I write recipes or science labs, click below:

What's your experience with reading recipes (or science labs)? Chime in, don't be shy!

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