What I Am Reading May 18th

Cooking – work you can eat, and enjoy
Writing a novel
Being an apprentice
Add a smidge, perhaps even a pinch.

“As I grew steadily more comfortable in the kitchen, I found that, much like gardening, most cooking manages to be agreeably absorbing without being too demanding intellectually. It leaves plenty of mental space for daydreaming and reflection. One of the things I reflected on is the whole question of taking on what in our time has become, strictly speaking, optional, even unnecessary work, work for which I am not particularly gifted or qualified, and at which I may never get very good. This is, in the modern world, the unspoken question that hovers over all our cooking: Why bother?”

Why bother, especially given the plethora of meal kits and delivery services? But there is something special about preparing and then consuming a meal. Here is an old piece by Michael Pollan, ‘Cooked’: A DIY Manifesto


Repetition is the most—I think, in many ways, the most important teacher. You just learn through experience and by doing. And you get better at things,” he said. “And yet, the more you do it, the more humble you become, recognizing how hard it is to find the truth, and to convey it and communicate it.”

The Atlantic has a very nice piece on the author and his writing of The Wager – “the chaotic aftermath of a British naval shipwrecking off Patagonia’s coast nearly 300 years ago, and the conflicting accounts of what happened to the crew….” If you are a reader, this is a great chance to look deeper into the page. The Painstaking Journey to a David Grann Book


We Americans have painted ourselves into a very tight corner when it comes to how we educate our workforce. During the last century, as we have extolled the virtues of a college education, we’ve set up generations of young people for expectations they cannot afford, cannot fulfill, or cannot turn into self-sustaining careers when they do get a college degree. To make matters worse, when we compare the U.S. to other countries, it becomes clear that we’ve turned our backs on those who don’t go to college. This has left a huge cohort of talented youngsters without the skills they need for the many industries that are crying for workers.”


I participated in an apprenticeship, although it was called a surgical residency. College is not for everyone; perhaps working with your hands is a more acceptable calling than jobs being automated away. From The Craftsmanship Quarterly, The Apprenticeship Ambivalence


I occasionally cook but know to leave the pastry to my wife and her digital scale. Pastry is far more exacting than making a soup. That is why meal recipes often call for a pinch of this or that, while baking is always measured in cups or tablespoons, but more preferably in grams.

“In evidence given to Parliament’s 1862 Select Committee on Weights and Measures, a Mr. Greenall remarked on the extraordinary number of different historical weights and measures in use at that time across Britain, listing the grain, dram, drop, ounce, pound, stone, score, ton; the wool measure of clove, tod, wey, pack, sack or last; the straw measure of truss and load; the draper’s measure of inch, nail, ell and yard; the long measure and land measure of line, size, hand, foot, palm, span, pace, step, link, knot, rood, hide, rod, pole or perch, fall, chain, mile and league; plus various other scales of measurement including the strike, peck, pot, gill, pint, quart, tierce, boll, coomb, pipe, butt, tun, and score. This impressive array of customary measurements not only shows the plethora of competing and coexisting weights and measures in Britain but also reveals the innate human desire to create order.”


Lapham’s Quarterly provides a view of some older measures, How Much Is a Smidgen?