Flowchart Cooking

Following a written recipe while simultaneously trying to do the cutting, measuring, and stirring that it requires is harder than it needs to be.

Going back to the recipe to check a measurement or find the next instruction breaks my flow. Stop. Find my place. Read the next thing. Do the next thing. Ideally, everything would be in my head, but conditions in my kitchen (or, indeed, my head) are rarely ideal.

A recipe is software to be executed on food. A food-flow diagram describes the program. The first thing I do is copy a new recipe out as a chart, grouped and showing the flow, then Blu-tack it to the kitchen wall for instant easy reference.


The grouping and ordering shows what can be prepared ahead of time. The mise en place, if we’re going to be fancy. The horizontal timing and use of colour and pictures can highlight hidden horrors like “refrigerate overnight”. Yes, I know I should have read it through already, but I didn’t.

Not everything makes it from the written description to the flowchart. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s frenzied description of succulent peach flesh. Anthony Bourdain’s threats of bodily harm if you substitute “Reddi Wip” for whipped cream. But these are about the cookbook as its own experience and have nothing to do with making dinner.

My scribbled charts are recipes to cook with. Recipes as simple as possible but no simpler.

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