2012/01/26

The spirit vs. the letter of the law (FFwD: Broth Braised Potatoes)

I've been helping The Karate Kid study for her US History mid-term. I guess as the resident history major, the job is mine whether I want it or not.




Now, I deeply love my girl and will go to great lengths to ensure her academic success; but let's be blunt - the process of reviewing four months of course work with a 16 year old is a painful process. Like getting your teeth pulled. Without Novocaine.  Did I mention that she won't let anyone else study with her? Just mom. I'm not really complaining. Just saying.



Anyhoo... We get to the Civil War and Thomas Jefferson. And Alexander Hamilton (who totally should have had a shot at being President. Drat that Aaron Burr and his dueling ways). And strict vs loose constructionist views of the Constitution.


Which led for the need for analogies. Because how do you explain consructionist views of the Constitution with out a few analogies thrown in. Which led to a discussion about the spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law. And the mythological event of her cleaning her bedroom.  Ultimately, she became Thomas Jefferson - the strict constructionist with the black and white view of the world. (i.e. you told me to clean my bedroom, you didn't say I had to clean under my bed - stated vs. implied). On the other hand, I was more of an Alexander Hamilton type - "Yes, I said this; but X, Y and Z are implied in this statement."

The spirit of the law, and all that...



At some point, the conversation grew rather silly. Hopefully, at least some of the concept stuck. The things we do. I hope she doesn't share too many of our analogies with her teachers. It wouldn't be a proud moment. For me, anyway.

Later that evening, as I was recalling our study session I started thinking about the spirit and the letter of the law as it applies to cooking. And where it is okay to follow the spirit of a recipe (and be able to still say its the same recipe) vs. following the law of the recipe, even to the point of using an ingredient that you may not be enamoured of. 

Which always leaves me wondering which stance the author of the recipe would take. Would they be offended that I changed the chicken stock for vegetable stock? Is trading out herbs to match what is in the house blasphemy or pragmatic?

Personally, I am a pragmatist - you have to do what works for you.

But still, these are the things that keep me up at night sometimes...




This week, I think I stayed closer to the letter of law - only trading out the chicken stock for the vegetable stock that I had on hand.

Somehow, I think Dorie would have been okay with that. I totally picture her on "Team Alexander Hamilton"...



This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie. Stop and by and see every one's "Strict" or "Loose" interpretation of this week's dish!

Have a great weekend, all.

26 comments:

  1. I like 'Team Alexander Hamilton', count me in on that team! I saw you posted your broth braised spuds so I posted mine, wondering if it's blasphemy to post French Fridays on Thursday night? I went the strict route(followed the recipe) and enjoyed the outcome! They look good with the sliced chicken on your plate, yum!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think she would be team Hamilton too! Life is about taking what you have and making something out of it. Good history lesson too! By the way have you made the bread for TWD yet?

    ReplyDelete
  3. My interpretation was more ... psychological. It's all in my head, ar ar (where it still remains ;). The thought of reviewing history curricula makes me want to pull the covers over my head and sleep for a week. All those dates we memorized! The horror!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am with you - I am a pragmatist, and sometimes for the right result the rules have to bent a little - including according to what is in the pantry. Love your potatoes and chicken, and have a good weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, Cher, we finally diverge - history was my worst, most detested subject in school! Now, of course, all I read are historic novels, and I'm married to a man who enjoys history with a passionate interest. Needless to say, we have lots of interesting conversations.

    I'm sure the potatoes were just as good with vegetable stock!

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Happy Friday Cher! I always look forward to your posts ! They make me SMILE!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The spirit of the recipe is to the home cook as the letter of the recipe is to the restauranteur/caterer/baker who lives off the uniformity of the results. :-)

    Thus, let it be decreed that the home cook will seek to adapt the recipe to his or her taste, ingredients availability, and mood at the time of cooking. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ha! Love it. I used Yukon gold instead of fingerlings myself. They're still potatoes. =D

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm sure Dorie would approve. You know, b/c she and I know each other so well. haha. I think that's great that you CAN help your daughter with history. My mom basically washed her hands of it in fourth grade. lol

    ReplyDelete
  10. You ARE a GOOD Mom! I remember those days and I'm getting a headache thinking about them:) Vegetable broth is one of my favorite staples. I think it has more flavor than chicken broth. For these potatoes I used chicken bouillon and it was great!

    ReplyDelete
  11. One of the good things about getting old is no more homework! Haven't done any for the past 3 years...I was even crazy enough to do homeschool with my kids for 3 years (the best 3 years of our lives!). And, I'm an Alexander Hamilton...Added lots more in the flavorings area to my potatoes. Your plate of food looks delish. Your daughter is very luck to have you for her mom!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. mmmm ... all your veggies look delicious!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Impressive connection. Personally, though, I am not a Hamilton supporter because it was his mercantile outlook and his desire to maintain wealth for the wealthy.

    As for the vegetable broth, it seems a logical and pragmatic choice.

    Peggy (Necessity is the Mother of Invention)

    ReplyDelete
  14. I always get a big kick out of your posts. You make me laugh a lot while reading them.
    You are so lucky that your daughter wants to study with you, that's a wonderful
    feeling. Your recipe turned out well and looks delicious. Unfortunately, Tricia and
    I made the best of it, but we can't like them all. At least we tried.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have an almost-sixteen year old daughter that rarely lets me help her study (and she could use the help)!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great post! Very interesting. I often find myself wondering ``what would Dorie think'' when I make a change to one of her recipes. To be honest I think she would probably shake her head at half of what goes on in my kitchen, but what she doesn't know can't hurt her.

    In general I try to stick pretty close to the recipe as written, but I have absolutely nothing against making small changes like veggie instead of chicken broth.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think Dorie would be totally okay with that, Cher. :) Your sauce looks so creamy.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm all for using what you have on hand. You can't be rushing to the store for every recipe, especially for glorified boiled potatoes!! I used beef broth myself (gasp!).

    ReplyDelete
  19. Ugh, US History! I always send Nick to his dad for that subject. I'll take English and Math :) I approve of all your tweaks...I used to be pretty strict at first, but I have to make the recipes work for my family!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm a pragmatist in the kitchen too. Some of the best versions of recipes I'd made a certain way for years came from a pragmatic substitution that saves a trip to the store. Never a dull moment in the kitchen!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Wow..YUMMY RECIPE...I am loving it..

    Aarthi
    http://yummytummy-aarthi.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  22. The picture you painted of you studying with your daughter brought back memories of how my mom used to study with me. I learn best when I get to recite the material outloud so there were tons of time we spent in a Q&A format.

    I think there are recipes which were written as guidelines and there are those which are developed to yield a very specific vision of the author. I agree with you that this potato recipe squarely falls in the first category. Judging by your photos, it is quite apparent that they turned out the way they should.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Cher, I am a "stay loose" girl myself. And, since I've been there, done exactly that, regarding 16-year-old girls (wonderful though they may be), I feel your pain. Your potatoes looked great, loved the meat nudged in there, using the potatoes as the mattress. And, once again, you make me laugh. Which is good.

    ReplyDelete
  24. What a great post! I too am a Hamiltonian... though I think sometimes I stay a little toward Jefferson with Dorie recipes... doesn't make sense! Oh well, happy that you enjoyed your potatoes, and excellent work on your analogy! I happen to love history, so it made me smile!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I am on Team Hamilton and I am sure Dorie is also. I love your soup and I usually use vegetarian broth, in place of chicken. This time, I had a need to make chicken soup so, I actually followed the recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I have never thought a out how a recipe author might feel about the tweaks we make to their recipes. I suspect most would be OK with the "spirit of the recipe".

    ReplyDelete

Hi - Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear from you!

Due to the high number of weirdo SPAM comments I have been receiving, I have turned comment moderation back on for the time being... Comments may show a slight delay.