The metric system: Make your case for it and why we should switch to it. (As if we haven't already)

For most spices, those are just suggestions. I don’t measure accurately and use my cooking knowledge to add the appropriate amount which is typically at least double what it calls for. Not as true for smaller measured items like baking powder. We also use a scale for baking, in particular our bread making and starter feeding.

And yes, the US should go all in on metric. I got an engineering degree back in the late 80s/early 90s and we had to do problems in both systems. I loved the metric problems.

First: I dispute that flour can be poured. You can sorta dump it in a large bowl, but good luck getting any accuracy out of that without a scale.

Second: sure, meat is roughly by weight but it’s also by “unit” (12 chicken wings, etc.). The weight is just for a rough serving size. If a recipe calls for 2 lbs of meat then you grab a 2.13 lb package from the store. No one weighs it at home.

Mostly, exact amounts are irrelevant for anything outside of baking. Which can be seen by the fact that ingredients are quantized to just a few values. No one specifies 4/5 teaspoon of chili powder; they just round up. But in baking, the quantities of a few key ingredients really do matter a lot and doing those by weight makes a difference.

Why do you need to measure 2 grams of Chili in your man-cave?


What happens in the man-cave, stays in the man-cave.

Just as an aside, if you are concerned about weighing accuracy with a powder, a good technique would be to weigh (say) 5 times the amount, then subdivide the pile of powder into 5 equal piles of roughly equal size by visual inspection. It may be easier to ensure that the subdivided piles are equal in size if you put the powder on a smooth surface such as a mirror and use a razor blade to form the piles into thin elongated piles of equal length.

To address this entirely separate matter, I can’t possibly imagine.

SI has four main advantages over the American system:

The most-often cited, but least important, is that different units for the same quantity in metric have conversion factors that are powers of 10. This is convenient, sure, but hardly necessary.

The second-least important benefit is that it’s the system used by the majority of the world. Things work better when everyone uses the same units, and it would be easier for us to change to match all of them than for them to change to match all of us. Though admittedly, this isn’t anything inherent to SI; it’s a quirk of history (albeit one driven by the other reasons).

The third benefit of SI is that it’s what’s called a coherent system. The base units for various quantities are derived by multiplying or dividing base units for other quantities. If you take the SI unit of force times the SI unit of distance and divide by the SI unit of time, you’ll get an answer in the SI unit of power. Tell me, how many foot-pounds per second are there in a horsepower? I don’t know, but car people need to know, and they shouldn’t need to know.

The fourth benefit is that it’s a standard. You can’t compare the meter to the foot, or the liter to the pint, because there is no the foot, or the pint. Distance measurements can be statute or surveyor’s (or, in the case of the mile, nautical). Volume units can be American or Imperial. Weights can be Troy or Avoirdupois. I’ve seen old rules that had twelve different inches marked on them, for different countries (thankfully, that’s nearly obsolete now, because most of those countries have abandoned their inches in favor of metric). And I have a recipe that I can’t make right, because I got it in Ireland, and I don’t know if the units are imperial, for a British Isles audience, American, for the tourist trade, or a mix, because the author tried for one or the other but knew about some but not all of the differences. If the recipe had instead been in liters and grams, I’d have no such problem, because a liter is always a liter and a gram is always a gram, for everyone.

Heh. I like to weigh my dispensary purchases, not because I think the growers might short me, but because it feels so good getting an extra tenth of a gram.

I’ve noticed that 12 ounce cans of Coke now have their energy content printed in both kilocalories and kilojoules. Are kilojoules typically used in countries using the metric system?

Dual labelling appears to be permitted, due to pressure from Britain and the United States; see
French Coca-Cola label, 2008:

When in Australia about twenty-some years ago, I was surprised to see “low-joule cola.” Diet Coke was still Diet Coke, but instead of “low-calorie” on the can, it said, “low-joule.”

Many years ago, a colleague of mine figured out how much power it took to accomplish each milestone on his annual performance plan.

It’s about a milliwatt, I think.

Agreement came astonishingly late, but predated abandonment by many years.

It’s interesting that you linked the Simple English page for the inch, instead of the standard English. If you had linked to the latter, you would have seen the same image I did, with 15 different inches (plus centimeters). Sure, as of the standardization of the inch in the 1950s and 1960s, the US, UK, Canada, and Australia were all still using inches… but Hamburg, Bremen, Bavaria, Austria, Rhineland, Moscow, the rest of Russia, Turkey, France, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Amsterdam had all given it up. And yes, that’s four or five different inches just in Germany alone: It wasn’t even standardized within countries.

You missed some steps there:
(32/8) * 5 = 20
(32/16)* 2 = 6
20 + 6 + 1 = 27/32

Never heard it described that way before. It was always “1/5 gallon” – which, of course, is why it was called a “fifth”. (Anybody know when/why that became the standard size for a liquor bottle?)


That same article says that the fifth dates back to “the late 19th century”.

It makes sense. Seeing as how liquor was already heavily regulated post-Prohibition, that the feds in the 1970s who started on the metrification trend would hit the companies that they could regulate the hardest, first. But again, I know of nobody who refers to the different liquor bottle sizes in anything but their pre-metric designs: half-pints, pints, fifths, quarts, and half-gallons.

ETA: I have heard people refer to the half-gallons as “handles” or some such slang phrase because they typically have a small handle in the side.

EATA: And I’m still confused as to why the two liter soda bottle didn’t get the same push back.

What push-back? You mean the allowance for a 355 ml beer can? Or 750 ml versus 700 ml bottles of whisky?

The pack-size regulations are a bit complicated, for whatever reason.

I mean the fact that the public has not adopted the metric nomenclature for liquor as opposed to 2 liter soda bottles. Beer is still sold in 12 oz and 16 oz cans. Liquor is sold, for example, in a 750ml bottle. Nobody refers to it as “750” or “750 ml.” It is universally a “fifth” of liquor.

But also universally, the soda bottles are referred to as 2 liter bottles. Nobody says two quarts or a half gallon of soda. That caught on very easily and even Trump guys holding an AR-15 on their couch will ask someone to pick up a 2 liter bottle of soda without a second thought.

It’s just the first thing that came up when I searched for treaty of the inch (even though that’s not what it’s called).

I guess I find it less surprising that 19th C “Germans” were acting stupid, than that as recently as 1959 nobody in the British Commonwealth could agree on how long an inch was.

Just a few years ago, I got into an “animated” discussion with an Australian woodworker who was absolutely convinced that an inch was precisely 2.5 cm. It turns out that when he’d been younger, he was tasked with converting a set of old engineering drawings to metric and 2.54 simply didn’t work.

That sort of “push-back” is not an exclusively American phenomenon:

ETA a 3L bottle is a “Texas Mickey”, according to some. No idea about your 2-litre bottle…