Food: Divisions of Eight


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April 17, 2012Food and Drink1 Comment

Think of a number.

Not any number – a specific number.

The exact number you will cook for, eat with, tonight. What about tomorrow night? Will the number remain the same?

What if it was a weekend? When we, it seems, are expected to entertain. Does that number change? Does it fluctuate depending on the season? Or does it stay, very much the same?

Three – that’s my number. It’s not magic, just the size of my immediate family; my household. Sure the dog gets the scraps, but you don’t start out a meal with scraps in mind – unless you’re in a northern chip shop.

It was three on Sunday as well. It rarely changes.

So why does nearly ever cookbook I own, every newspaper website I read, still feel obliged to size up their recipes in portions of six or eight? I can’t remember the last time I cooked a meal for eight – possibly at Christmas – over four months ago.

But still I cook, most nights, for my loyal band of three plus dog. We eat a variety of meals, made straight off the pages of a book; a website. Every time I have to count down. Have to reduce the amount of flour, the level of water, the number of egg yolks – weighing out half an egg yolk where one was needed.

Meals they describe as light, evening dishes (for eight) or hearty, roasts (for 10). But most of my cookbooks are of Italian origin I hear you say. They all have big families, with plenty of mouths to feed. What, every night? Do they celebrate every saint’s day with 10 of their nearest and dearest sat round the table? Are they banned from ever, eating alone?

Is it simply the case that the cookbook authors are themselves counting down? Where they are used to making the same dish for hundreds of people each day, they can only work in whole ingredients when taking their dish from a restaurant to home setting – a garlic clove here, an egg yolk there? They have difficulty enough converting five litres down to 285mls (I’ll leave weird measurements for another post) – let alone working out what a single portion would consist of.

This isn’t a call for a patronising ‘Dining along tonight?’ style cookbook. This is just a simple request that, next time a newspaper website produces a recipe the majority of might want to cook; they start with multiples of two and let us work the rest out for ourselves.

(Image: Last night’s Pork, Pear, Pomegranate and Pecorino salad. Made by intuition, with a slice here – a handful there)

One Response to “Food: Divisions of Eight”
  1. Elizabeth Holdsworth

    YES! I could not agree more. I have to do that all the time, and my maths leaves quite a lot to be desired so it’s not always a success. It makes my heart sink when I see something gorgeous and then look at the numbers it is supposed to feed. It puts me off cooking and that’s a real shame. Either that or I end up cooking vast quantities of stuff and eating it for three days…

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