Conversions 1, Indy 0

When I was in fifth grade, conversions stumped me. There were so many places to misplace numbers, formulas to remember, and a thousand ways to add to 100 (if you were me, that is). And now it’s back. Cookbooks require conversions, and house style seems stuck on 1 cup of garfava flour = 120 g rather than telling me how much one cup of plain old all-purpose flour is. And it’s too late ask for a better style guide.

Lessons learned? Do your damn conversions (and let’s not even mention references) before the day it is due. Okay? Okay.


6 responses to “Conversions 1, Indy 0

  1. My grandmother came to this country as a refugee. She had trained in the old country as a medical doctor, but initially couldn’t get a job here — other than cook. She’d never cooked in her life, but one of the things she did bring along was a book of recipes that had belonged to her aunt (why she brought that of all possible things, I don’t know).
    The problem, of course, was units. She knew metric, of course, and could laboriously convert from metric to English measures and back. But her aunt’s recipes rarely called for 500 grams of something. Instead, the recipes read like:

    “Start with 50 pfennig’s worth of beef tongue …”

    In freshman physics, there was always an introductory lecture on units and conversions where you had to convert from kilometers per seconds into furlongs per fortnight or miles per gallon into parsecs per hogshead. Those were challenging, but solvable. I defy anyone to find a conversion for the Kempten (Allgäu) Weimar-era meat price index into any modern unit 🙂

  2. My mother wrote my favorite cookie recipe down for me when I was first married, and she was so proud of herself for writing down each ingredient and each step as she did it. Unfortunately, she used her own measuring instruments, like the cup measure with the big dent in it and the plastic “mystery amount” measuring spoon that she claims is a tablespoon and is probably 1-1/2.

    It didn’t go well.

    (is this a middle eastern, vegetarian, or celiac cookbook? I’ve only ever seen garfava flour in those)

  3. i remember when I first moved over here someone refused to believe that I would measure flour, etc in a measuring cup. He thought I was making it up. Nigella vindicated me in one of her cookbooks when she talked about this unusual “American” method of measuring.

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