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Bring the World to the Dinner Table

January 31, 2001

I found P. Oliver's letter to the editor (Jan. 24) regarding the "dumbing down" of the Food Section to be elitist and shortsighted. First, not every reader of the Food Section is a master gourmand, and "clarifying" the recipes provides the rest of us an opportunity to attempt new things. I appreciate recipes that enable me to cook and disdain enigmatic recipes that stand in the way. Additionally, I can appreciate that people from other cultures may rely on recipes that are passed down through their family, however, providing ethnic recipes and background to the rest of us is a great service, both for cooking and for increasing the appreciation of cultures other than our own. To assume that these "exotic" recipes are just for a particular culture is to wrongfully assume that Californians only cook the food they ate as children.

STEVE JOHNS

Via E-Mail

I was delighted to read your piece about the need to improve the quality of recipe writing ("In the Kitchen," Jan. 12). As an editor of cookbooks I have always encouraged the individual voice in recipe writing and the need to use precise and visceral language that describes exactly what one is doing. A recipe is not a chemical formula; the instructive text should explain technique and give the cook a feeling for the materials he/she is working with. I applaud your restoration of the use of the article, not only because it makes the text more literate but because it refers the reader to the ingredient and precise amount called for in the ingredient list above. L. Leach in her complaint misses the whole point. If the recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups pecans and the first paragraph of the instruction says "Roast 1/2 cup of the pecans," any simpleton knows that "of the" makes clear that we use only 1/2 cup of the total amount called for--and then you don't need the unnecessary word "divided" (divided how?). I also think she does not understand that good writing, after all, is what makes "complicated, exotic" recipes accessible (that is precisely what Julia Child did to French cooking 40 years ago).

JUDITH JONES

Via E-Mail

Editor's Note: Jones has edited books by Julia Child, James Beard, Marcella Hazan and Marion Cunningham.

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