Following A Recipe

I’ve always considered recipes more of a guideline for creating a dish. A delish-dish.

Most times it works out and other times I think perhaps I should have just followed the recipe exactly. But there is something about doing it just exactly right that bugs me. I want the creation to be mine. Do you ever do that? My sister-in-law has a fabulous chocolate chip cookies recipe that she uses probably weekly. She most likely has it memorized and can whip out those scrumptious, simple cookies in under 30 minutes! Every time, the finished product is the same as the last time. Well, I can honestly say that every time I have made those cookies, they have come out different from the last time. And the unfortunate part is that I am never sure what the differences are each time.

Too salty.
Forgot the salt.
Whole wheat.
Molasses one time not the next.
Was that nutmeg?  (What a great name for a spice, by the way!)
Not enough flour. Too much.
7 minutes @ 350.
8 minutes…too long!
Milk chocolate.

I know the basic ingredients and just toss things together to come out with some sort of resemblance to what I know the original to be. They are good each time…they are their own recipe each time, one that cannot be duplicated.

I feel like my whole life is like this. Recipes, rules, instructions…not for me. Some people thrive on following rules. They insist on abiding by the boundaries and guidelines set out for them to follow. Structure, stability and safety are important to them. I have a  hard time with that. I have never been one to stay with the norm. Not that I have been terribly rebellious or spiteful in my decisions, but that I have just followed my intuition and need for self-exploration and growth.

Some may call it thinking outside of the box.

And honestly most of the time, this gets me into trouble.

I ran to the grocery store tonight to pick up a few items for tomorrow’s Sunday dinner. Husband requested Chinese Stir Fry. Easy enough, right? I made a list. Because really, we don’t need anything else…

But I walked through those sliding glass doors and into a place that sparked that creative, inspiring cooking self within me. I was seriously so inspired! The list? Sure. I got the items on it. Found the Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, the tofu, the fresh stir fry veggies, the spring roll wraps. Found the perfect Thai peanut sauce. And then…it was in the International Foods aisle…I lost it! Never mind that I told dear hubby that I’d be home in 15…

Indian! (with a dot, not a feather) Mexican! Thai! And more! My mind was completely flooded with ideas for yummy meals! How could I NOT?!

I came home with a new taco seasoning sans MSG, taco sauce, yummy tortillas, some veggies that I cannot even pronounce and other very random ingredients that I am sure I’ll be able to incorporate into someone’s recipe! And then it will be MY recipe, because that is just what happens.


And in a practical life application:

I find it interesting to see people who are Rule Followers and how they expect everyone else around them to also follow the rules. In fact, there is much angst at the sight of people who openly disobey the frame-work that is set. There are some that will take it upon themselves to police others around them in these circumstances, and I just find that funny. Seeing that usually drives me to ‘disobey’ in spite. It is unfortunate that part of me is like that…but it keeps things real for me. And perhaps it will inspire others to rethink why they behave a certain way. Either that, or help them to just let it go!

Do we obey out of fear, out of need or because that is just what everyone else is doing? Or do we obey because we believe in the principle?

Do you follow a recipe to the T out of habit? Do you honestly just not see another way? Are you that trusting that the end product will be perfect? Well, what if it is not? I submit to you that I have the best pancake recipe because of messing around with a basic recipe time and time again to create the best ever Sycamore Girl pancakes. They really are different every time, but I found a secret ingredient that is an Ace in the hole!

I am not advocating that we all become Rule Breakers, I am just observing how I am. I don’t do well with tight structure, rigid itineraries, shopping lists or recipes. I do, however, try my best to be punctual, because despite all of the aforementioned things, being late is a pet peeve of mine.

And to be Devil’s Advocate, perhaps it would do be well to just buckle down and follow a recipe exactly one of these days. Maybe I am ruining a good thing by adding my own twist. Perhaps there is strength in learning to abide by social norms and just trusting that the guidelines are correct.  That it is okay just the way it is.

Okay…I almost just committed myself to follow a recipe exactly this week. But as I started to type it, I just could not do it. I’ve got good ingredients, I’ve got an imagination, a good sense of taste, and faith in my intuition. The way I do things works.

So why change a good thing, right?


5 thoughts on “Following A Recipe

  1. This makes me laugh. I’m a rule follower for the most part. I’m one that likes order. I also love the idea of being more free and feeling like I don’t have to follow a ‘recipe’ EXACTLY. Something Brad has helped me a lot with. But I must admit the first person to plant that seed was my old roommate. Thanks Holls!

  2. Ya know. I used to be the follow a recipe to a T type. I tend to take things very literally and assume there is a good reason behind it (and other things). I used to be VERY structured with a routing and schedule, I like to plan ahead… way ahead. Not so much because it’s safe… because let’s face it, I’m also a rule breaker… but I always seemed to lack confidence in my intuition with recipes, but I’m starting to experiment more, and I kind of like it. Having kids threw my structured routine for a loop, but we still try to have SOME structure, that was mostly my way of coping with stress though… but I’ve found a pretty good balance… it just took experimentation to find it. So yeah, I think there is something to be said for making things your own. 🙂

  3. Yes, I can see that you are definitely a free spirit! And I love it. I’m becoming more like that little by little.

  4. I use to follow the rules out of fear (I hate getting into trouble. In the beginning of my cooking journey (a.k.a. when I got married) I followed the recipe to the ‘T’. Now that I am comfortable with cooking and with knowing what I like and how much, I use the recipe as a guideline. I like the freedom of throwing however much of a spice or herb in as I like (plus I like not having to dirty additional spoons).

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