I post a lot of food pictures on social media. People sometimes comment and ask for the recipe. But there’s a problem. I don’t have the recipe. That’s right. I made this delicious looking entree and I have no idea how I did it. OK, that’s not true. I have a pretty good idea, but if you ask me how many teaspoons of salt or how many cloves of garlic I put in it, you’re going to get a shrug. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I do not have the recipe. It’s not because I don’t want to share. I’m not being secretive. There is no secret blend of 11 herbs and spices that I am guarding in a vault. Writing down an actual recipe is tedious. Taking a photo, even putting in the effort to take the best possible photo I can, is far less work than writing down a recipe.
A Little Music Lesson
When you hear popular music, the musicians often do not have formal training in music. Many musicians cannot read music. Sometimes the musicians just “know” or “feel” it. I have no formal training in the kitchen. I have not even taken a single cooking class. Some genres of music rely heavily on improvisation, such as blues and jazz. The same piece of music is not performed the same exact way every time.
Here’s an example of what I think of when you say recipe. It is an arrangement of “Rocky Top,” with all the parts for all the musicians in the band.
As you can see, the parts for each instrument are written out in detail. There is no room for interpretation here. Each instrumentalists’ part on its own sounds nothing like “Rocky Top,” but when it’s all played together, you hear the song you know and love. Yes, I’m going to use “Rocky Top” as an example since I am a student at the University of Tennessee.
In contrast, below is a “fake book” arrangement of “Rocky Top:”
It still conveys the key elements of the song, but it is lacking detailed instructions. The basic structure, lyrics, vocal melody, and harmony are all that are included. It is up to the musicians performing to fill in the gaps with their musical knowledge, their abilities, and their creativity. Continuing with the recipe analogy, the fake book page is like an Instagram post with a caption listing the ingredients.
An even more stripped down version of the song is what you find most often on the internet. You have even less information here, but a capable group of musicians would be able to take this and perform a complete arrangement of the song, provided that the musicians have at least heard the song a few times. Even further removed from a full-blown recipe, the “chords from the internet” is like a list of ingredients, or a status update saying, “I made curried lentil tacos on corn tortillas tonight!”
It may even be preferable to have less information available. The full score pictured near the beginning of this blog post is too much information for a small group of musicians. When you have less information, you fill in the blanks more. By doing so, you individualize it to your own style.
When you first learn how to cook, you may want to follow a recipe to the letter. However, once you gain confidence in the kitchen, you will be slinging spices and seasonings like a pro. You’ll find that the recipe calls for one clove of garlic. Who the hell puts only one clove of garlic in a dish?! That might be your first foray into taking chances and putting your own personal stamp on your cooking. That’s what it’s all about. Cooking is a creative endeavor.
If I only followed recipes, I’d never come up with most of the stuff I do. Go ahead and experiment in the kitchen. You will surprise yourself. There are times when I have no idea what I’m making for dinner until after I have chopped onions cooking in the skillet. Only you know how much cayenne pepper you can tolerate. If you followed my recipe exactly, your mouth will be on fire and you’ll be projectile sweating. When you look up a recipe, feel free to increase, decrease, or omit. Once you start doing that, you can feel your way through cooking dinner.
You Can Have The Recipe…. Later
You may be waiting a long time. A husband, father, full-time college student, part-time employee, and full-time crazy cat person has a busy life.
In my future work as a dietitian, part of my job could include developing and documenting recipes. If I end up in private practice, I will definitely have to develop recipes. There may be a cookbook in the future. I’m not promising anything but an effort to share actual recipes in the future.
I am more than happy to share. If I want more people to experience plant-based foods and how delicious they are, it doesn’t make sense for me to be secretive. Coca Cola and Colonel Sanders can keep their secrets. I’m here to share. However, you won’t get a note-for-note transcription. You might be lucky to get the “chords off the internet.”