Can you cook wthout a recipe?

Square-cube law strikes again!

Congratulations! You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.

Yes, the amount of the apple that was peel or core was a lot less on the big apple. Also, it didn’t have any worm holes I had to cut out.

The NY Times a while back had a pull out section called “You Don’t Need a Recipe,” which consisted of dishes with inexact descriptions of how you make them. I’ve done a lot of them. They’d be hard for a new cook since you have to be experienced enough to know how much of the ingredients to use, and there aren’t a lot of steps described.
We almost always make new things exactly to the recipe, just to see how it is supposed to taste, and then vary with time. Meat loafs I grok with fullness, since I made a lot in college, and know the kinds of things to put in, and vary the contents depending on what I have on hand.
However, I am a programmer so following algorithms is something I do, and I probably follow recipes more then necessary.

The other thing is that sometimes it’s soothing to follow a recipe. I’ve made lentil soup dozens of times, but there’s a particular recipe for it that I really like. And even though I could make it more or less from memory, the tradition of pulling out the cookbook and opening to that page (stained with soup spatters) and following the directions is kind of a tradition.

Oh yeah!

I seem to have a prettty good memory. I can remember the measurable quantities of things that are needed in particular recipes I’ve gotten them from other people, or from books. I can read a recipe in a cookbook at the store, and make it two weeks later, remembering each ingredient, and how much of each was needed, by cup or spoon, or whatever. People can recite a recipe orally to me, and several months later, I’ll make it from memory.

I’m also good at transcribing on the fly. If I want to make a half, or a third of a recipe, I can do it in my head without really thinking about it.

I also tweak as I go. I decided to try making sesame cookies by subbing tahini for the peanut butter in a peanut butter cookie recipe, which I did from memory; I knew it needed to be a little sweeter, and I thought honey would be good instead of just more sugar; I thought it would need less liquid, so I left out some of the butter; tahini isn’t as strong a flavor as PB, so I added some flavorings (nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, butterscotch). I thought they’d be good with sesame seeds sprinkled on top, so I brushed them with egg yolk to make the seeds stick.

They are awesome.

I’m not really sure whether I have an unusually good memory, though, or just good “instincts,” for lack of a better word, for cooking. I guess trying to figure that out is part of the reason I started this thread.

Unless it’s something that requires baking, like cakes and pies, I wing it. Anything cooked on the hob, I pretty much make up, because you can check it as you go along. Following recipes is harder work for me than just making stuff.

I’ll be making nut roast for the fifteenth time or so this year without any recipe - it always turns out well and I’ve been asked for the recipe, and I can state the ingredients (thought they vary), but the amounts just sort of look right.

If it all goes wrong, eat something else. It never has gone wrong yet.

FWIW my parents didn’t cook and I learned my cooking partly by having to make do as a kid, and partly by accidently being hired as a chef for a few months when I was in Berlin when I was 19 purely because nobody else that could speak English and German fluently was willing to work for them.

We make a tofurky on all the holidays. At Thanksgiving, we buy a case of them (8), and put them in the freezer. Then we have one for my birthday, DH’s birthday, two for Purim, when we have lots of guests, first day Passover, Rosh Hashanah, the boychik’s birthday is he wants one, and one extra for something that comes up. Second day Passover, I make a matzah lasagna with mushrooms & spinach, and a few other veggies, usually carrots.

But yeah, the tofurky is easy. Lay down a layer of frozen peas, an layer of sliced carrots, parships, and mushrooms, put down the roast, place peeled and cut sweet potatoes or yams around it, and them pour some honey over it, and a lot of sage. Add a cup of water, a stick of margarine (vegan), and a quarter cup of soy sauce to the roasting pan, cover, and put it in the oven for 75 minutes.

When you get in the end is way too delicious to describe.

And when it has 30 minutes left to cook, I boil red potatoes to make mashed potatoes.