It's hard to write a cookbook, if you're a cook, but also if you're a writer. I have published three cookbooks and I am a writer who cooks (as opposed to a cook who writes). I could create in the kitchen and I could create on the typewriter (in those days) but I found it difficult to tell someone else how to do it, how to write down what I did, especially the measuring. I developed a table of measurements in my first cookbook (Encore, about leftovers). I can't find it now, to give you the exact rendering but the idea was that my various dashes, sprinkles, dots and slooshes actually measured something in reality. The idea is, of course, part of my humour as a writer, not taking anything I do too seriously. A sloosh, as I remember, was the half cup of water that I slooshed into an empty ketchup bottle to get all the flavour out of it to pour into soup or stew or whatever.
Years later I was surprised (and a little miffed) when I discovered a set of measuring spoons in Restoration Hardware, with my measurements or the equivalent on each spoon: a dash, a dab, a pinch, and so on. I bought them to give jollies to new brides.
I thought of all this recently when I read an article about nervous or fastidious cooks, people of either gender who want to measure exactly what they're doing when they're cooking. Exactly! Precision measuring! The article went on to describe the difficulty people have trying to decipher recipes from other ages, even from one's own relatives only a generation or two ago. My Icelandic grandmother's recipe for Bena Súpa (bean soup) was rudimentary and measureless: "Boil beans and onions with browned meat." Something like that. I experimented with it and included a detailed recipe in my book, and I measured everything to guide others.
I have a friend who told me that her mother, when/if she wrote down a recipe, would write things like "one lemon juice". And she was not the only one who concluded her directions with the command: "Cook until done." Sure. Old family recipes will measure dry or wet in a teacup or a dessert spoon, whatever happened to be handy. Now,what happens, you may have surmised, is that an habituated cook will measure with her eyes, from experience. The lines on my glass measuring cup have faded with time, but I can measure a half or a third or a quarter of a cup without looking. I can't do it for metric measurements, though.
I made Hollandaise sauce yesterday, for the first time in several years, maybe ten or twelve. I did it, though, from memory and without measuring. What does that prove, if anything? Dare I say that the proof is in the pudding?