Posted by: Rachel | June 26, 2013

constant as the north star

Last night I dreamed about Julia Child. I think it came from a combination of having recently finished Dearie (which I enjoyed enormously!) and having a question on my mind that I could not answer but I figured she could.

I have been pondering constancy in cooking.

I told you how much I loved those “cowboy” beans from Hoover’s Texa-Mexi-Cue Trailer, right? So I went back over the weekend to get more. I bought a quart but asked them to package it as 2 pints. Wise, otherwise I might have eaten the entire quart at one sitting! They were just as good as the first batch I enjoyed, but they weren’t quite the same. These were a touch spicier and not quite as thick.

Now this could be because they were a newer batch, or because there was a different cook, or because the spices were fresher, or… too many variables! So that’s what I wanted to ask Julia about.

I asked her “How can I ensure the same taste and texture batch to batch in cooking and baking?” She replied “Well, that is an interesting question.”

Then I woke up.

hummingbird at feeder

cleared for landing

I guess you just can’t. That’s part of what makes cooking so interesting and sometimes challenging. And I guess that’s why so many recipes state “salt and pepper to taste“, even though (in soups and stews and anything that has leftovers) taste will be different on the second day.

Or, there can be new pollen in the air or fresh paint in your living room or something else that can change how things taste to you even if the food is exactly the same.

It’s complicated.

Still, I haven’t had any complaints from my little friends. I guess my “simple syrup” is constant enough for them – they’re going through it like Sherman through Georgia; I sometimes have to refill the feeders twice a day!

Speaking of simple syrups, they aren’t always so very simple! I’ve had them on my mind as well, so stay tuned…!

Meantime, I gotta go refill some feeders. Until next time… mmmmm!!



  1. Interesting that you were talking to Julia in your dream! Constancy is one of the reasons I started blogging, to write down exactly what I did (or roughly, depending on the day I was having), to try to replicate the good experiments and avoid the disasters (read: don’t leave sugar out of mom’s muffin recipe).

    Eat well & Be well my friend!

    • I can usually “taste” a recipe when I read it, and I don’t actually worry about this too much, but those beans did get me thinking. And Julia looked great, btw, well and happy. It was so real I hated to wake up!

  2. I accepted variability a long time ago. I have a biscuit recipe that I have made a thousand times, and I cannot count on it coming out the same from time to time. At first, I was all about trying to get it to be what I thought of as “perfect.” And it never was, of course. So in a way, I was building in little experiments each time, subtle things that I hoped would make a difference. Eventually, I think this just became habit. I’m always experimenting, even if it’s just a little teensy tiny bit. So no wonder things are never the same.

    Now I am just grateful that I’m still able to think it all through and actually bake something!

    • You can “experiment” on me anytime, pal… Mmmmmmmm!! πŸ˜‰

  3. I guess that is one of the “quirks” about proper home made food – in a factory setting the measurements would be closely controlled and the conditions replicated each time in a controlled environment. I don’t mind too much if my sauce is sometimes sweeter or spicier than last, or my bread rises more or less…its all part of the experience πŸ™‚

    • Agreed! But sometimes it does make me sad when my bread just won’t do what I expect at all, you know? Ah well… πŸ™‚

  4. I make my hummings’ food just as you do, but have always boiled for 2 min. The heck with that if you say I don’t have to. Behavior phenomenon: We had a horrific storm the other day. Wind and rain 60-70 mph. I saw 2 hummings on the feeder hanging on the front porch and thought, “How can you think of food at a time like this?” But, looking more closely, they were not eating. They were riding out the storm in the semi-shelter of the porch. My interpretation anyhow. Agree?

    • Well, any bird that can fly across the Gulf of Mexico must be pretty smart… Maybe they figured it best to ride out a storm in a restaurant! Makes sense to me! Mmmm…

  5. Love the Julia dream. So nice to meet you today!

  6. Constancy, interesting. I enjoy the creative process of cooking very much. I don’t even think about will this dish called X be like the last one I made called X…..probably because I don’t remember how I varied the last one! If your talking about a basic characteristic, such as consistency, I probably lock into the preferred version forevermore. But, for any other variations, imagination and daring is part of the fun, so for me it’s always an exciting who knows adventure!

    • Agreed – but sometimes it is nice to know that you can do it the same way especially if you *really* like what you’ve done! πŸ™‚

  7. Julia may not have answered you question but at least she acknowledged your question. πŸ™‚ Sometimes not being consistent is good…we discover something we like better or it makes us keep searching for the perfect taste. πŸ™‚

    • You are so right! Discovery is exciting… I wonder if the first person to (accidentally) use soured milk in biscuits thought they’d made a horrible mistake πŸ˜‰

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