I want to start this post with one of the funniest cooking stories I have ever heard. One night a friend of mine and her husband, who were not very experienced cooks, decided that they wanted to cook a really special meal. So they went through all of their cookbooks, found the recipe they wanted to make, wrote down all of the ingredients, and set off for Whole Foods. It took them a while to find all of the ingredients, going up and down every aisle multiple times, and in the end there was still one ingredient that they just couldn’t find anywhere. They looked in the spice section, the dairy section, everywhere. Finally they went to customer service and asked where the “minus” (which they pronounced “meenus”) could be found. The man behind the desk had no idea what “minus” was, so he looked it up on the computer with no luck. They were irate. Here they were, trying to cook, trying to make a nice meal, they had come all the way to the “fancy” grocery store only to find it didn’t carry an essential ingredient?! Unacceptable! Finally they decided to just try the recipe without the “minus” since they only needed two tablespoons of it anyway. As they left Whole Foods with their groceries, though, they were still grumbling about what kind of grocery store doesn’t have an ingredient like “minus”?! When they got home and looked at the recipe again they realized that the recipe had called for “1 cup of flour, minus 2 tablespoons” but it just so happened that the “minus 2 tablespoons” was on the next line in the ingredient list.
When I heard this story I couldn’t stop laughing, but I also realized that this was an amazing example of how confused and flustered we can feel when we are looking at a new recipe, especially a relatively complicated one. For a lot of cooking, I find that measurements can be relatively approximate, but when we are trying a new recipe or if we are relatively new to cooking, having things be precise can be reassuring and helpful so I wanted to share some tips on measuring and also some equivalencies that can be really helpful to know for those times when you run out of clean measuring cups and spoons….