Thursday, September 24, 2009

Recipe Redux: A Crazy Rant

Almost every time I read the "Recipe Redux" column in the New York Times magazine, I am reminded that I should have been born at least fifty years earlier. "Recipe Redux" works like this: the Times' food editors choose an archived recipe, reprint it, and create a similar, more updated version. It's the updated part that I can't come to grips with, that sometimes spirals me into the darkest of depressions.

Take, for instance, Huguenot Torte, a recipe Craig Claiborne printed in 1965 with permission from The First Ladies' Cookbook. This recipe was featured in the chapter on Mrs. Martin Van Buren - anachronistically, it turns out, since the recipe postdates President Van Buren's term by an entire century. Whatever its origins, it looks like one for the Economical Epicurean's files: a few easy steps yield a crisp crust and a custardlike filling with apples and pecans, which are likely the only ingredients you might need to go out and buy.

Fast forward to the present: Huguenot Torte 2009 is not a torte, or anything you would bake in a dish, but "Thyme-Meringue Cookies with Boozy Apple," created by a woman who wrote a book called Organic and Chic. Go figure. In my nostalgic discontentment, I created this chart to compare the two recipes:

Recipe Name Huguenot
Thyme-Meringue Cookies with Boozy Apple (2009)

Number of words
in name



Number of



Amount you
might have to
spend (in 2009)
to have a
ingredient list


$30 (Maker's Mark
is an ingredient)

Number of steps



"rotary beater"
(I think this means electric mixer),
whisk, baking

two baking sheets;
parchment paper; small, heavy-bottomed pan; food processor; standing mixer; piping bag with tip; cup for piping bag to "rest in"

Maybe you can appreciate my consternation by now? And it's not only the multitude of steps and the extensive and expensive batterie de cuisine needed to make Huguenot Torte 2009 that bring on my existential crisis. It's also the social ramifications! Let me clarify: torte is a group dessert, it's something you cut into and pass around; cookies are more often eaten alone, frequently on the fly, or sometimes while you sit at your cubicle, staring at your computer screen with dead eyes. Torte brings people together; cookies encourage isolation. And notice how these thyme-meringue-boozy cookies are piped out onto a cookie sheet: identical but spaced apart, conformist without coalescence. Cookies -- and, in particular, cupcakes, which are in essence cake for loners -- are tearing at the fabric of society!

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. I have a flair for the melodramatic and a bad case of PMS. A cookie or four will help me feel better.

(Above photo credit:


Mike said...

Durn kids these days!

Although I confess, my dead, cubicle-bound eyes (and belly) could go for some cookies...and some bourbon.

gourmandemodeste said...


The sheer avalanche of words in names of recipes and equipment lists drive me crazy.

Especially the names, God they're so pretentious, and not any more precise than you'd expect, since how can you imagine the sometimes crazy contrasts announced in titles.

Love your blog, 1st time reader, etc..