At Kraft Foods, recipes never include words like "dredge" and "sauté." Betty Crocker recipes avoid "braise" and "truss." Land O' Lakes has all but banned "fold" and "cream" from its cooking instructions. And Pillsbury carefully sidesteps "simmer" and "sear."
When the country's top food companies want to create recipes that millions of Americans will be able to understand, there seems to be one guiding principle: They need to be written for a nation of culinary illiterate...
"Thirty years ago, a recipe would say, 'Add two eggs,' " said Bonnie Slotnick, a longtime cookbook editor and owner of a rare-cookbook shop in New York's Greenwich Village. "In the '80s, that was changed to 'beat two eggs until lightly mixed.' By the '90s, you had to write, 'In a small bowl, using a fork, beat two eggs,' " she said. "We joke that the next step will be, 'Using your right hand, pick up a fork and . . .' "
Even the writers and editors of the "Joy of Cooking," working on a 75th anniversary edition to be published by Charles Scribner's Sons in November, have argued "endlessly" over whether to include terms like "blanch," "fold" and "saut é ," said Beth Wareham, Scribner's director of lifestyle publications. "I tell them, 'Why should we dumb it down?' When you learn to drive, you learn terms like "brake" and "parallel park." Why is it okay to be stupid when you cook?"
To be able to cook is to liberate one's self from another's menu.
I worked as a teenager in an Italian restaurant, and learned quite a bit about cooking there, as well as how to deal with people more or less. Even a crazy boss. It's where I learned: Want to mess up your boss? Do exactly what he says.
I can only imagine what a kid's going to learn today if he works in McDonald's or Wal-Mart. But my kid won't work in places like that.