Zia Hassan

The Terse Recipe Card

I became a cook in my late 20’s. Someone had given me a card for the company Hello Fresh, which at the time was just starting out with their meal delivery kits. I got a free trial and never looked back.

Meal delivery took everything I hated out of the cooking process; mostly, going to the grocery store and measuring things out. After a few years of using the service every week, I felt like I could basically cook anything, even if I didn’t have a great sense of flavor.

I couldn’t help but notice, though, the terse way in which recipes were written.

Stir the noodles. Drain the pot. Rougly chop

Compare this to the food bloggers who tell their life story before getting to the recipe.

But old school recipe cards weren’t made to teach people how to cook; they were meant to jog the memory. A record of something that was once improvisatory art, like documenting the musical notes after you’ve developed the piece from scratch. It’s a reminder of that which we already know, an experience which can’t and shouldn’t be decorated with any extra imagery or descriptive language.

The recipe card is a map of the place we’ve already been. A recording of the concert that we experienced. Reading a card with instructions can’t re-construct the experience of eating and enjoying life, but it can show our footprints in the sand.