Teacher, Teacher

In eerie synchronicity with Barbara in Robbinsdale’s excellent post yesterday on successfully wrestling with an eggplant, the NY Times decided to ask this question:
Are Cookbooks Obsolete?

The article details how software developers are creating applications that are so much more lively, interesting and flexible than the standard printed-on-paper cookbooks, even cookbook aficionados are abandoning the old style method of instruction in favor of the new. New graphics, new videos, and new ways of displaying information are changing how we learn things, and how we remember what we’ve learned.

Which is very, very alarming for our domestic security expert, Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty.

At ease, civilians!

We are not under any special warnings or alerts at this moment, but I feel I must step forward to caution you about recent developments in the proliferation of the video screen. Screens are everywhere and their demands on your attention are relentless.

Believe it or not, I have seen people engrossed in tiny screens inside their cars, only looking up at the last moment because their eye was caught by giant screens alongside the road where the billboards used to be! And now I hear that people are watching iPad tutorials while they cook.

Please, please stop! Cooking involves dangerous elements like fire, ice, hot grease and knives, not to mention some types of food that can harbor nasty microbes – stuff that can kill you if you don’t handle it properly. I fear that I will someday be called to the scene of a horrible distracted cooking accident, only to find a tablet computer smeared with the salmonella-rich fingerprints of the unfortunate victim.

People say books are boring and I say THAT’S THE POINT! No instruction book should be more engaging than the actual thing you are trying to learn to do.
Think of all the normal domestic activities that require careful step-by-step guidance – things that become infinitely more dangerous once you stop watching your teacher and start staring at a screen!
Just to name a few …

Woodworking
Roofing
Car Repair
Ironing
Lawn Mowing
SEX!

Any one of these tasks could go terribly wrong if you let yourself be distracted by the electronic tutorial and forget to heed the job itself!
My mind reels at the ghastly possibilities.

Please, please, if you plan to take instruction while you are doing anything around the house, rely on the dry, dusty pages of a boring old book so that even if you fail, you can say when all is said and done, “I stayed safe!”

Cautiously Yours,

Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty

How do you learn?

88 thoughts on “Teacher, Teacher”

  1. Morning all… just read through yesterday and am so happy to know that I am not the only one with a “Northern Exposure” cookbook. I’ll post the vegetarian stuffing later today.

    Cookbooks will never be obsolete for me, for a couple of reasons. Mostly because I love them… I can actually sit down on the sofa w/ a new cookbook and read through it. If I hear of a cookbook I might like, I check it out from the library. I use bits of post-it notes to mark the recipes I like and then make photo copies of them for myself. I have way too many cookbooks — a whole bookshelf full of them — but can’t stop. Just purchased a vegan cookbook about a month ago.

    But mostly I can’t imagine spending good money on some electronic to sit in the most dangerous room in the house for electronics: a room that can vary widely in temperature if I’m baking and a room that has a high level of moisture and possible spillage and a room where my hands are wet more often than not!

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    1. laptops and tv are the two constants in my kitchen. when i moved into the house i thought it would be a good idea to leave the tv out of the kitchen so a little conversation coul happen but the kitchen is grand central tation and the central meeting place. we have had shindigs with baseball parents over at the end of the season and the numbers add up to 50 or 60 people and sure some stand out on the patio some drift into the other areas but the kitchen is where the congregation gathers. my cookbooks get butter and grease n them and so do my laptops. my computers last three years if i am lucky then they are delegated to some other role in life like a cookbook that sits in the corner waiting for a call. its hard to find the exact recipe you are after if you didn’t file it but as we discussed yesterday the recipe serves as a suggestion for stuff to throw in the bowl not the biblical directive of the small details and fine tuned measurements it once did. my cookbooks do sit on the counter in exactly the same way as my laptops do but not as oftern any more. i do enjoy the philosophy of the enchanted broccoli forest and some of the good ones but for whipping up a dish that comes to mind the internet is a whiz bang way to get it done.
      but how would that work with sex?

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      1. so much to think about and reply to here, tim.

        First, I shall contemplate the idea of 50-60 people crammining in to my little kitchen-sophmores in a phone booth comes to mind, except there aren’t really phone booths around anymore either—what do sophmores cram themselves into for fun these days.

        Second-the thing about a laptop screen is that it can change all the time, whereas that page in my church cookbook with the best zuchhini bread recipe will always have the schmear of molasses or something on it, indicating the seal of approval.

        Third, and I know Bathtub Safety Officer Rafferty would agree with me on this-I cannot recommend sex on the kichen counter, no matter how happy your laptop may be there.

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  2. unfortunately, i learn by doing, not watching or reading. husband will read the entire manual first. meanwhile, i have wasted four hours trying to photoshop something and it’s not intuitive.
    i noticed that there are tiny tv screens on the back of each of the airplane seats. gosh, i hope the pilot doesn’t have the same thing going on up there in the cockpit also!
    good morning –

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  3. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    How do I learn: Read it or hear it, see it, try it; go back read some more, try it some more. Tweak it.

    I love cookbooks, especially old ones, especially very old ones handwritten by the housewife of the depression era. I look for those in antique shops. In my mother’s and grandmother’s old church cookbooks, I love to read their notes:

    “Got this recipe from Emma”
    “Mama’s biscuit recipe”
    “Very good”
    “Add extra water”

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    1. BSOR–I recently heard a story that someone was looking at an iPad while having s-e-x. I can’t imagine the dangers inherent, especially danger to the relationship.

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      1. Many years ago, I participated in the U of M’s course on human sexuality. The course was part of the medical school’s curriculum, I was participating as part of the training for volunteer counselors at Face to Face. It was a class with much interaction between students and the instructor, and I recall the instructor saying that he learned something new in each class. Jacque’s comment reminded me of that. At one point the instructor stated that the only kind of sexual practice none of his students had ever experienced was necrophilia, to which a guy in the back of the room murmured that he thought he might have. Cracked us all up.

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      2. the i pad may be helpful for instruction. i did just find it enormously helpful in replacing the headlight on my car. if you don’t know exactly how to …. well never mind

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  4. Good morning to all,

    The only device with a screen I use very much is my lap top computer. I do have a cell phone with a small screen which I only use as a phone. I guess I am still mostly a book learning type

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  5. Often the hard way! I have lived long enough to have learned all kinds of more or less useful stuff, and with each passing day, I’m more and more aware that I have forgotten much of what I have learned. I have learned my share from books, TV, radio, videos, CDs, teachers and other people, and of course, by doing.

    I too am a reader of cookbooks and cooking magazines but find that I use them less and less, although some of them are priceless. A number of years ago, a garden club I belong to published a cookbook as a joint venture fundraiser with the local crime watch chapter. I treasure that cookbook because I know many of the cooks who submitted the recipes, and some of them are hilarious.

    These days I’m more apt to find a good recipe on the internet. I’ll often type in three or four key ingredients that I have on hand and see what a search might come up with. When I locate a recipe I want to use, I print it out, I’m not messin’ up my MacBook Air by subjecting it to sticky fingers or grease splatters.

    About SEX, I could probably have assuaged the nagging fear I had for years as a young adult that I wasn’t doing “IT” right had I had a good instructional video!

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  6. hurts to type today, so i’ll be brief.

    i learn mostly from a wasteful process of trial and error, informed slightly by instructional books or videos. mostly trial and error. meanwhile, part of me is reflecting on the matter, and i eventually have a blinding flash of epiphany. and then i really understand.

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  7. I am a learning omnivore – if it’s something new to learn, sign me up. Print, hands-on, failing until I get it right, classroom, video…matters not. If it’s new to me, I’m game to find out more. (My current boss has learned himself to use this as both a reward and an incentive to get me to do tasks that might otherwise seem onerous – “you’ll be learning something new,” he says…dang it, he knows that 3 of my top 5 strengths in the Clifton StrengthsFinder survey were all about learning…)

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    1. i used to be signed up for an email offering that gave you a new thing to learn every day. it was cool. maybe i should try to find it again. a new ditty dancing around in your brain every morning is a good thing

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      1. Let us know if you find it, tim. VS, you too had a cool something you get every morning, and I neglected to make note of it.

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    2. I’m the same way, Anna… a knowledge sponge. If the conversation turns to “How do you sex a chicken, I wonder”, it won’t be long before I’ve got the answer (you don’t want to know… although I AM intrigued by the alternative method of holding the chicken up by the scruff of the neck and seeing if it pulls it’s legs up or allows them to dangle). I love the easy access to information online… so much more efficient than spending hours in the library trying to find a particular chapter in a particular book for a tidbit of specific information. The floodgates to learning have opened & I’m diving in! But I do believe that certain things can only be learned through DOING.

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    3. Thanks to the internet I get a few cool things. I get two different “Word of the Day”s as well as an email from Mentalfloss with ….. how shall I put this… completely irrelevant and irreverent and nerdy trivia.

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  8. I like cookbooks, although I also make use of my computer to find recipes. A very good author of cookbooks, Debra Madison, said that cookbooks are the best source of recipes because they have a lot of information in them that you don’t usually get with online recipes. It is true that you can learn a lot about cooking from the cookbooks by people like Debra Madison. Still you can also learn a lot from the cooking information on the internet.

    Of course, you have be careful to use good internet sources. The Extension Service and various other reliable sources provide a lot of information about cooking on the internet. I have Debra Madison’s soup cookbook. I think and it would be very hard to find internet sources of information on soup making that are as good as the infomation in Debra’s soup cookbook.

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      1. I haven’t heard about any sex videos by Debra. I am just starting to use her soup cookbook. She really does encourage the use of very good cooking methods and many recipes include ingredients that I don’t always have in the house. There are some “easier” recipes in her book that I tried and very much like including a tomato soup recipe and a squash soup recipe. The book is devoted cooking vegetarian soups. I’m sure I will get around buying the ingredients needed for some of the more complex soups covered in the book so that I can try making them. She also covers basic principles for making soup that can lead you to developing your own soup recipes.

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    1. I have several of Debra Madison’s cookbooks, they’re wonderful. I’ve even taken a cooking class from her.

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      1. I also have a few of her cookbooks but have never been lucky enough to take a class from her. I’m green………..

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    2. I think I saw that soup cookbook at the co-op yesterday…it looked pretty good and now I see others think so, too. I’m going to see if the library has it!

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  9. Greetings! I have to learn by doing. When I was in grade school and high school, I was good at memorizing stuff that got me good grades. But thinking, analyzing, extrapolating, problem-solving and any kind of math makes my brain go VERY slowly so I tend to be a slow learner. When I learn new forms or curriculum in karate, it takes me forever to learn it because I have to DO it a gazillion times before I really know it. I enjoy learning new things, but i generally go for concepts — not every detail.

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  10. When it comes to problem solving I am a trial and error button pusher. I hate reading manuals, but i love cookbooks. I like to use Epicurious as an online source for recipes.

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    1. As I recall, you have recommended some lovely cookbooks here, some of which I got from the library. I wish all us cookbook lovers could have a gathering where we bring our favorites and just immerse ourselves in them for a time – maybe a cookbook weekend retreat!

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  11. I supose I should also include TV screens as a source of information, both TV shows and videos watched on a TV screen. Also I do get some information over the radio or I get radio and TV shows on my computer. Well, I guess I have moved away from being mostly a book learner even if I don’t us the latest technology available on smart phones and other devices such as ipads.

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  12. I still like learning largely from books, but I have to admit that I also use the internet because it’s quicker to look up, say, Eggplant Parmigiana there than haul out 5 or 6 books t o see which recipe matches what I have in the pantry. And the internet is so handy for instructions on something needed unexpectedly, like how to repair a broken whatzit.

    But I’m like VS – love to sit down with a new-to-me cookbook and just read, especially if it’s annotated with stories. (Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking has a chapter called “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant”…:) ) Or a memoir of some wonderful cook that has several recipes in it, like Ruth Reichl’s Tender to the Bone. Of course, this assumes some time is available to read, and the internet seems to win out when it’s speed that’s required.

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    1. I have read a few of Laurie Colwin’s books, but not Home Cooking. I’ll have to get around to that one.

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    2. Crescent Dragonwagon has wonderful little tidbits in her cookbooks. I especially love the bits in her cornbread cookbook. I don’t own it, but have checked it out from the library more than once!

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      1. Steve was kind enough to give me her Soup and Bread cookbook. Haven’t made anything using her recipes yet, but am having fun perusing it.

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  13. A new technology that might be helpful to those, such as Steve, who are having trouble typing is the equipment that can enter spoken messages into a computer. Will Bonsall, a seed saving friend of mine, used one of these devices to write a book and is planning to write another book using the same device. He is slow at typing and finds that the device that types for him using his voice is a big help.

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    1. Dragon speech recognition software—my sister loves hers, she has problems with her hands. Another family member has used Dragon for years to keep notes at her job. Both highly recommend it.

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      1. Barb in Robbinsdale, Amazon.com has it for 79.99. Staples for 99.99. Then there is a premium version for 275.99. So I guess it depends if a person would use it. My sister is not tech savvy and she learned how to use it. I think it is more user friendly than when it first came out

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  14. The Teaching Company offers a wealth of wonderful courses on CDs and DVDs. I own quite a few, with topics ranging from Russian and Chinese history, Masterpieces of the Louvre, Philosophy, Religion and the Meaning of Life, and the Secrets of Mental Math.

    I also like to attend seminars offered by the U of M’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

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    1. I get their catalog and my sons and I enjoy looking through and seeing which ones we want. Haven’t ordered any yet, as money is real tight. Are you willing to let someone “check out” a course or two from your library?

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      1. Sure, if you handle them with care. I’ll email you a list of what I have and you can let me know what looks interesting to you.

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  15. In an effort to save space and reduce clutter and dust, I recently tossed 19 years of Gourmet magazines. It was painful to do, but I fugure I can get the recipes from 1990+ on line. Oh, those were beautiful publications and I hated to do it.

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    1. I understand, Renee, I freecycled my old Cooks magazines recently. They were hard to part with but it felt good passing them on to someone who appreciated them. Every couple of months I freecycle all the magazines I get, and they’re snapped up in no time. I usually do a bag of cooking magazines, one of news publications, one of Smithsonian, and one of The Sun. From time to time, I’ll drop off newer magazines at the Health Partner’s Clinic waiting area. Feels good getting more use out of them.

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    2. For those of us not so epicurean, I enjoy www,eatingwell.com. They have a lot of good, relatively healthy recipes that ordinary cooks can handle with a good search feature. You can even look up recipes for certain diets: diabetes, low fat, etc.

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  16. I just realized that my first thought in answer to the question was “how do I learn to DO something”-for that, I hit the library and the internet-hard.

    I can never seem to get together the time and cash to take a class, and they never seem to be as in depth as I want to go. Our house is not “on-line” so the laptop really is not that much use to me in say, the case of the leaky toilet. For that, I want the Reader’s Digest Home Repair book (or whatever the title really is, you know, the red one) propped in the sink. New technique with fiber, give me a book.

    For history and culture, I will try and find something on cd so I can listen in the car or while I am sitting and doing work with yarn or fabric, a dvd (because Ken Burns and folks like him are so good at telling the story) or a book.

    Jim, you will perhaps relate to this-getting my history info from books is like starting my veggies from seed-sure you can get a dvd (or buy a starter plant), but if what you are looking for is not necessarily what most people are interested in, what you need is seed (or a book).

    People who think cook books are only useful if you want to cook are missing out on most of their value. I love getting cookbooks out from the library purely as works of fiction/fantasy.

    Then there are those coffe table type books with chocolate crafting in them-they really should be in the restricted section.

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    1. I think there is still a lot of good stuff that you have to dig out of books and that is similar to getting special seeds from smaller seed companies that have many heirloom seeds or from another seed saver. Also, there are still a lot of people who haven’t completely embraced the internet and prefer information printed on paper. I think it would be wrong to move too fast to putting everything into electronic form while there are still a significant number of people who don’t make much or any use ot the electronic sources of information.

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      1. When I was in high school I would check cookbooks out of the local library to read and fantasize about the sort of life I wanted when i was an adult.

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    2. I love the library. I always said it was the best system in this country. And now that books can be renewed online–ideal. Cookbooks, novels, gardening, crafts, music, newspapers anything/everything—as good as a vacation for me.

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      1. I think we should check in with mn firefly on how to sex a mosquito. With the new amendment looming we only want appropriate opposite gendered mosquitoes in the spotlight.

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  17. In response to some of the post above, I own a copy of M.F.K. Fisher’s “The Art of Eating” if anyone’s interested in borrowing it. Its a classic for anyone into writing about food.

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    1. I’m thinking that probably includes Fisher’s essay on bachelor cooking – which also appears in the anthology Choice Cuts in the “Food and Sex” chapter.
      (Well, I didn’t start the sex discussion, either.)

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  18. How do I learn? Not very well, I’m afraid.

    How I learn depends on what it is. Usually I learn by doing, if I can work at my own pace and not be rushed. but I can also learn by watching and reading. For exercise, I prefer DVDs. I’ve taken classes at the Y before…and I’m the one they could base comedy routines on: at least 5 steps behind the instructor, moves that don’t resemble what the instructor is doing – a DVD works much better for that sort of thing (and is better for my ego).

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  19. I’m an auditory learner – I like to have things explained to me. Not that it always works. I still don’t understand string theory. Or Lady Gaga, either.

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