Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ratio This!

See Michael Ruhlman on The Early Show (CBS) as he promotes Ratio, his- to my mind sucessful- first attempt to bring Platonic order to the fundamental preparations of western cooking.


Watch CBS Videos Online

10 comments:

Ben said...

It was cool to see Mr. Ruhlman get some of his message across, despite the douchie hosts he had to wrangle with.

blondee47 said...

shucks,it didn't come up on my pc...but if it was anything like his video, he's a natural...

Scotty said...

You're just shilling the book because your name appears in it four, oh I mean three, times.

I just finished reading it. It makes too much sense. That means no one will believe it . . . .

paul said...

really excited to get my hands on this book, seems like there was definitely a hole in the marketplace in terms of a simple little book that has fundamental ratios for many of these techniques. Is it like a cookbook or more like chapters full of prose and such?

Lou said...

UPS delivered this book this very minute, along with "The Words and Music of Frank Zappa" and "The World of Karl Pilkington".

I'm sure they all have their own wisdom to bestow.

boberica said...

God, look at that hair!

The Old Foodie said...

This is fantastic Bob, thanks for posting this - I am off to order the book now (luckily I have a sister who works in a bookshop - a discount fuels my foodbook addiction nicely!)
Janet

IdahoRocks said...

I've known for years about ratios, although I must admit I lazily don't keep them in my head, which is why I do keep certain recipes. So, I look forward to Ruhlman's book.

But in terms of weight, I agree in principle, but whatever happened to the men and women who learned these concepts before digital scales.... The Greek grandma who lived next door to me when I was a child made the greatest bread, cookies, cakes, etc., without ever using a measuring device. She certainly knew ratios but it was taken-for-granted knowledge, not measured, task-driven, quantitative knowledge.

Bob del Grosso said...

IdahoRocks
Whatever happened to the good old days when father knew best (but that didn't matter because the Bible had all the answers anyway) and we didn't have all these pesky anthropologists spoiling all of the fun by adding so much precision to our understanding of the human experience?

Kidding aside, you asked the right person because during the initial phase of the writing of this book Ruhlman wasn't convinced that every ratio needed to be expressed in terms of weight either. But he quickly relized that there was no other way to do it that made any sense if his goal of simplifying the concept of a recipe to it's LCD was going to be acheived.

I wanted to express everything in terms of mass to add even more precision by eliminating the influence of changes in gravity due to changes in elevation and subsurface geology but even he thought that was a bit much. (I'm not kidding.)

I'm not sure Michael would appreciate me raising this point, but I think that a lot of people who normally buy his books are going to be a little uncomfortable with this one. It's his voice (sunny, breathless, promotional) but the thesis is subversive of what people who buy books for answers (or recipes) desire. It's a neat bit of Socratic dialog between the writer and the reader masquerading as a cookbook.

IdahoRocks said...

Thanks for the response, Bob. I can see when ratios would be helpful: I think of my nonchalance as a teenager while making Julia's recipes from "The Art of French Cooking" with the inevitable, resultant failure, and, today, I often refer to ratios when making "European" pastries. Unfortunately, today, I think that many people think they can cook but they make mistakes, usually because they fail to think of ratios.

But when ratios become taken-for-granted knowledge, as in the case with the Greek grandma next door, then ratios seem to become secondary, or even non-existent, because texture, taste, feel, aroma, etc. all become the more immediate and important aspects of the final dish.

I think a lot about these aspects of food and cooking because I'm not a trained professional chef, but I work as one (in addition to the anthropology), and I love to cook at home. I think I do well, like many other "self"-trained cooks. And that idea of "well" or confidence in myself, is often reinforced when my husband and I eat at high end restaurants, with the frequent result of not being impressed. Sometimes the food is pretty, but tasteless. Sometimes the taste is good, but not exceptional. And sometimes, it's just not acceptable, given the price. And I think that in the end, it is often the result of one of two factors: the ratios were off, or the chef never tasted the food.

I do think you're right about using mass as a criteria, especially when I consider bread-making and the freshness of flour, the humidity, etc.

And, I expect I'll buy Ruhlman's book because I like his voice.

BTW, I'm waiting for your book on charcuterie....