One of the things I like about Cook’s Illustrated (American’s Kitchen) is, before they go into the recipe, they tell you “Why this recipe works.” In that brief prologue, they present exactly what that dish should taste like. For example, for their All American Potato Salad,
We are looking for flavorful, tender potatoes, punctuated by crunchy bits of onion and celery. An ideal dressing would have both a hint of sweetness and a measure of acidity.
Once they have established this, complete with measurable goals, they begin to develop the recipe. The key word here is “measurable.” When Cook’s Illustrated finishes making the first test salad, they will know if they were successful or not through their checklist:
Are the potatoes flavorful? (I’ve tasted potato salad where the sauce was great but the potato had no flavor, yuk!)
Is there just the right amount of onion and celery bits (small not huge) and are they crunchy, not soggy?
Does the dressing have a great balance of sweetness and tang, so that neither one dominates?
What if Cook’s illustrated went about creating the perfect potato salad another way? What if they had five cooks try to make great potato salad and they had a taste test? From that data, they would not be able to create the perfect recipe. All they would know is, they liked this about this one, and that about that one, and they didn’t like this about that and that about this.
In Understanding by Design, Wiggins & McTighe present a method for teachers to plan lessons by filling out a form. Some of the form components are: Lesson Title, What questions the students may have during the lesson, What the students will understand after the lesson, and What the students will be able to do after the lesson.
In Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly-Successful People, the second habit is: Begin with the end in mind. He compares the importance of this concept to the question we all were asked when young, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Those who knew exactly what they wanted to be at an early age are the ones who got there. I know several people who have proven this true and I’m one of them.
When in my teens and living in Los Angeles, when I got in bed for the night and there was a Lakers game on (Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich), I turned down the volume on my transistor radio as low as possible to my stepfather would not hear it, placed it under my pillow, and listened until the game was over. While listening, every night, I dreamed of being on the Lakers. I became a member of the Lakers in 1983.
Need I go on? Thanks and please send to a teacher you know.