Grandma's receipts often used the words "season to taste" instead of noting exact amounts of salt, pepper, or spices. She even seasoned raw pork for sausage this way, tasting it to be sure. When I was first learning how to cook, those instructions frustrated me. How on earth was I supposed to taste something before it was cooked to be able to tell how it would taste after it was cooked? I needed specific rules to follow. Specific amounts to add. Specific directions that would work the same way every time I made the dish.
But as I learned to cook I began to realize why Grandma's recipes read the way they did.
My children have asked me to come up with a recipe book for them. They want all of their childhood and adult favorites included. I am beginning to realize this is going to be a LOT of work!
Exact measurements are not my forte. For instance, my baked bean recipe uses some brown sugar, some molasses, some ketchup, some liquid smoke, beans, fried bacon, a pan to cook it in, and an oven. If I can get away with it I add some onion. All of it gets cooked in the oven somewhere between 350 degrees and 400 degrees, depending on how much time I have and how I feel that day. I measure by sight and feel and taste. I have made this recipe so many times over the years that I know it inside out.
So when my daughter asks me how to make baked beans, she gets a little more than irritated. "How much is 'SOME'?" she asks. "How many slices of bacon? What size pan? How long do you cook it and at what temperature?"
You can see my dilemma.
So, from now until November I will be making most of the dishes that I don't have written down. I will note measurements as I make them, and they'll all probably end up tasting unlike anything I usually make. Cooking is more about learning for yourself rather than following someone else's directions to the letter. I think the kids will figure that out once they have a chance to really cook for themselves.
And by then, they will learn why Grandma and I always season "to taste."