I started baking regularly a good few months ago. Maybe almost a year. I don't really remember how it happened, I just decided at one point that I was going to become 'a person who bakes'. So I did.
I got cookbooks and looked up recipes. I sought advice from the bakers of my family. I took possession of a shelf in the cupboard of the kitchen, reorganised all our baking ingredients and started taking responsibility for the house being stocked with flour and sugar.
But after a while, I started to feel like something wasn't right. It's not that I didn't like finding new recipes and making new things. It wasn't even that the recipes were boring, because it's easy to find more and more challenging things to make. It was something about the idea of recipes themselves that didn't sit with me.
It was something about the 'them and us' mentality of recipes that got on my nerves. "Don't deviate from the recipe", "follow it word for word", "you can't be trusted except to blindly follow orders from some unknown authority". Well, maybe not that last one, but it feels like that's what was being implied.
But something isn't right there. Because who makes the recipes? They aren't gods, they're mortals like you and me! And yet they don't just 'deviate from the recipe', they actually make them from scratch! But how? What do they know that we don't?
The essence of things. They know what bread Is. They know what makes a biscuit A Biscuit. The know the most fundamental characteristic of a particular food type - the ratio.
Don't panic at this point if you're not into maths. Really, it's OK. For those of you who may not know, a ratio is just a relationship between amounts of things. For example, 2:1 is a ratio of two parts of one thing, and one part of another thing. They can have more than two numbers in them, and the numbers can be anything at all. The main point is that it's a comparison between amounts.
So back to the point, I had decided that I needed to get beyond recipes, and start learning about ratios. For a while I spent disappointing hours googling 'biscuit ratio' and 'basic plain cake recipe'. People just don't seem to want to let go of recipes. It's like they can't bear to admit that it's possible to cook things without being instructed every step of the way.
It was a long search, but one day I found what I was looking for. By this point, I'd decided that I was the only person in the world who wanted to learn about cooking in this way, and that I'd have to devote my life to researching, learning, and eventually writing a book about the ratios of cooking. But by some miracle of chance, it already existed!
So I made a Christmas plea, and lo and behold there it was on Christmas morning, along with my also-requested shiny digital scales and set of new mixing bowls.
It's time to get this show on the road. I'm going to be making my way through the world of cooking by ratio, with the help (but not necessarily instruction) of this book, among other sources of knowledge and inspiration. Feel free to join me.