Just Follow the Directions

By Janet Walgren
Years ago, as a young mother, I attended a homemaking class and luncheon that was sponsored by my church’s women’s group each month. The classes were very interesting and so were the luncheons. I always marveled that twenty-five individuals could be given the same identical recipe and use identical ingredients and come up with twenty-five distinctly different dishes. I would chuckle (quietly to myself) as this happened without fail month after month for years. It simply boggled my mind.

Last Saturday, my daughter and I took a little trip to a small town and resort area north of where we live. While there, we discovered an antique book emporium where I found an early edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. I was excited; I had been passively looking for the book for years. The book tells how to make everything (pickles, sauces, dressings, butterscotch, Carmel… from scratch).

When I got home, I perused the cookbook. The puff pastry and pie crust recipes caught my attention. I had always wondered how a bakery could take the same basic ingredients that were in my kitchen and end up with such a variety of delectable pastries. The directions in the cookbook were very explicit. First you mix all the dry ingredients with water and refrigerate the dough. Next you roll the dough out in a 6″ x 18″ rectangle. Then, you thin slice a quarter pound stick of butter lengthwise and place the strips of butter width-wise across the first 9″ of dough. Next you fold the dough over the butter and seal the edges and refrigerate the dough. After the dough is chilled, you roll the dough out to a 6″ x 18″ rectangle again and fold the dough over and refrigerate the dough again. After repeating the process eight times the dough is ready for use and will create a flaky fluffy pastry just like you find in the bakery.

Could it be that the difference between a dud and a really exquisite result, in cooking or in life, is simply in just following the directions?

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3 Responses to Just Follow the Directions

  1. Donna says:

    I experienced this lesson fist hand, in my youth. I wrote it up as the parable of the Failed Cake it is on my blog…http://donnasjourney.moorhouseacademy.org/?page_id=57

    I think that often, people substitute ingredients, or leave one out, all together, the result will obviously be different, after all variables have changed.

  2. marlajayne says:

    This is probably not the kind of response you’re looking for, but when I read about chilling and rolling out the dough eight times (did I read those directions correctly?), I thought, “I’ll just buy the ready-made version in the frozen foods department.” As I was thinking that, I also realized (almost instaneously) that I would be taking a shortcut and that sometimes the shortcuts are what keep us from achieving excellance.

  3. Donna, I’ll check it out. Thanks for the link.

    Marlajayne, I love the frozen food section. There is a time and a season for everything. We can’t be excellent in everything all the time. A shortcut here and a frozen pie crust there allows for excellence in other areas. I think keeping priorities straight is really important and a less tasty pie crust is good for the hips. I love pie-pudding.

    After thinking about it, someone else followed directions to make that frozen desert:)

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