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Participle Placement in Recipes

Do you pay any attention to where participles are placed in recipes? For example, does "500g trimmed leeks" mean something different to you than "500g leeks, trimmed" (the participle here being "trimmed")? Or "2c sifted flour" vs "2c flour, sifted"? In general I try to match where the participle goes because "500g trimmed leeks" seems to imply that the recipe calls for 500g of usable leeks whereas "500g leeks, trimmed" seems to start with 500g and end up with, what, 400-450g after trimming?

Yeah, this is somewhat obsessive and possibly irrelevant. But I'm curious.

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  1. I think there's no way to know if you're doing it right unless you know the author's grasp of grammar. Good question though.

      1. Most definitely NOT irrelevant or obsessive; absolutely crucial to good recipe writing. Former cookbook editor here, and it's one of the things we're always querying.

        1 Reply
        1. "Do you pay any attention to where participles are placed in recipes?"
          no, makes no never mind to me what so ever.

          5 Replies
          1. re: iL Divo

            I'm REALLY surprised. The two examples above clearly point out to me why it's important.

            1. re: c oliver

              Some people just don't seem to care about details...

              1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                I'm a stickler for details and I attribute my successes to that.

          2. As I understand, if the participle is before the name ie 2c sifted flour, then I sift the flour then measure.

            1. Instructions like this involve 2 steps - some sort of preparation, and measuring. Whether the order matters or not depends on the action. The measuring method might also matter.

              Leeks have a large and variable amount of green that you normally trim off. So the order is significant. If in doubt I'd assume the author means measure after trimming. That said, I'd probably buy 700-1000g of leeks, and use them without further weighing, trusting that the trimmed weight will be close enough.

              For other things like potatoes, carrots, onions, the order of weighing and peeling doesn't make much difference.

              My mom always sifted flour; I rarely do. Partly because the flour I buy is labeled 'pre-sifted', and partly because I don't usually bake items where that level of accuracy matters.

              1. there is an element of common sense here as well. nobody is starting a recipe and including the roots or ends of a leek as part of a measure. however, 50 gms of leeks in a savory recipe is neither here nor there, really, ya know?

                further, trying to use volume measure for solids like flour is a bad recipe. use weights for no-fail there.

                  1. re: jiffypop

                    actually these are participles - past participles in particular . . . verbs acting as adjectives in essence, so I get the confusion.

                    A "regular" Adjective" - e.g. red (it has no verb form)

                    The red tomato

                    A "participle" Adjective - e.g. trimmed (verb - to trim)

                    The trimmed leeks

                    And yes their placement does matter to me too.

                  2. Nope, doesnt really bother me. I'm not the baker of the partnership, so precision isnt an issue.

                    I rarely care about whether it's 500g leeks trimmed, or 500g trimmed leeks - the important issue is do I have enough leeks to feed us. 'Tis a similar issue to recipes saying use "3 leeks". So, should I shop for the the 1cm thick leeks, or the big fat 4cm ones?

                    1. It is absolutely relevant and means just what you think it does. In some cases the difference does not greatly affect the success of the dish. In others, like your flour example, it is a major consideration and ignoring the punctuation will result in failure.

                      1. I wish there were more certainty in how people employ grammar here. But in many cases, as with less, a little difference this or that way is not likely be dramatic. Still...

                        In baking is where things get more demanding, and I wish recipe-writers would more often go to weight rather than volume. But I understand that, in America at least, only a minority of cooks possess a cooking scale.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Bada Bing

                          Every recipe should have every ingredient in weight, in metric, and use Celsius. Anything less is just a waste of time.

                            1. re: Madrid

                              I know, same with mine. It drives me CRAZY. I suppose I can accept baking recipes with temps in F, as that's the one area where it doesn't matter what you prefer, as nearly everyone (in the US) has an oven in F unfortunately.

                        2. There's also the more obvious "1 cup rice, cooked" versus "1 cup cooked rice." They're completely different. I'm always annoyed if it's unspecified or seems to make no sense. It can really affect recipes. Before I buy a cookbook, or a magazine, or anything, I check their participles. To me, lazy participles is a sign of neglectful recipe making.

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: Onymous

                            Side note: I just ran downstairs to pour and measure two types of dried noodles - elbow macaroni and rigatoni. Both the same brand, both with the same fat calories, etc., and both with the same serving size (1/2 cup dry). The macaroni, due to its smaller shape, weighed around 5.5 ounces. The rigatoni weighed 3.5 ounces. (Sorry I didn't use metric, folks.) Now I've certainly substituted a noodle or two in my day, but this seems like quite a large variation. I'm not 100% sure how it fits into this conversation, but found it noteworthy. :)

                            1. re: NonnieMuss

                              The package should also list the serving size in grams. I have package (small shells) that lists 'serving size 2/3cup (52g)'.

                              But it is also possible that the packager was not fine tuning the label to each shape, using instead some generic macaroni values.

                              I've learned through experience the right amount of pasta (regardless of shape) that feeds the 2 of us, and measure that with a scale.

                              1. re: paulj

                                You are correct -they do list grams. I just eyeball it.

                              2. re: NonnieMuss

                                this is why it's folly to use cups for measuring solid food.

                              3. re: Onymous

                                To me, "1 cup rice, cooked" is the SAME as "1 cup cooked rice." Like "one car, red" is the same as "one red car."
                                It's very confusing in recipes!

                                1. re: BangorDin

                                  I don't think I've ever seen "1 cup rice, cooked."

                                  1. re: BangorDin

                                    Depending on the rice, one cup of raw rice equals between 3 and 4 cups of cooked rice. Most definitely NOT the same.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      Exactly, so the book should make it clear. Do you see how the two rice phrases could mean the same thing to a person?

                                      1. re: BangorDin

                                        But have you ever seen it 1 cup rice, cooked?

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          I have not, seen it.
                                          Because weird, it would be.


                                            1. re: BangorDin

                                              Which is quite different from "one cup cooked rice."

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Truly not arguing, but want to make myself understood.
                                                I know that in a cookbook "one cup rice, cooked" means take one cup of raw rice and cook it. But it is not at all clear to write it like that. Think of it this way:
                                                One red car = one car, red
                                                One broken toy = one toy, broken
                                                One cup cooked rice = one cup rice, cooked
                                                The rice is cooked in BOTH phrases, and the amount is one cup in both phrases. No mention of start with raw, or having 3 cups when you're done.

                                                1. re: BangorDin

                                                  The car is a single entity that isn't broken down into parts. The rice is a measured amount.
                                                  I'm through with this.

                                      2. re: BangorDin

                                        It's not the same at all.

                                        1 cup rice, cooked, means you take 1 cup of uncooked rice, cook it, and use all of the resulting product.

                                        1 cup cooked rice means you cook some rice, and then measure 1 cup of the resulting product to use.

                                        1 cup rice, cooked is a lot more finished product than 1 cup cooked rice.

                                    2. That's something I'm obsessive about when I'm writing anything, especially recipes. "Chopped" and "sliced" are the two adjectives I use most, and I'm always careful to place them properly even though I seldom deal in weight, but only in either number or volume.

                                      Most of my cookbooks have been very well edited, and I've noticed that although line-editing of news copy is obviously a thing of the past, even at the L.A. Times, their food writers are wonderfully precise in their recipes, and their writing in general. However, recipes on websites and food blogs range from careful to slapdash, frequently either listing an ingredient that never shows up in the instructions or omitting one that is mentioned later. And then there's my pet annoyance, the line telling me to preheat the oven before even starting on a process that will take me an hour or more!

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                        Not participle related but, oh my goodness yes, re the preheating!

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          I don't understand the annoyance with oven preheating. My oven takes well over 30-45 minutes to become evenly heated to 200ºC.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              I think Karen mentioned at one time she lived in Canada. I can see how it would take that long for an oven to get up to temperature there.

                                              1. re: Fowler

                                                Why would an oven in Canada take longer than the US?

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  I was joking. Ya know, Canada being so frigid cold and all.

                                                  1. re: Fowler

                                                    I was figuring that was the case...but not totally sure. Since you're always so serious...........L. O. L. :)

                                            2. re: KarenDW

                                              But not over an hour! I've even had a recipe or two that said "Preheat oven" before getting into the part where you soak the beans overnight, or something similar. What I'm saying is that this is obviously a case of the writer's or editor's not paying adequate attention, just running on autopilot. I try to be as meticulous about detail in a recipe as I would be if I were explaining how to assemble a mechanical device of some sort, because I think you have to be. If my recipe doesn't work for you I don't want it to be my fault!

                                          1. Agree that it often does make a difference. Another example 1/4 C. butter, melted and 1/4 C. melted butter are not the same thing.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: MidwesternerTT

                                              Huh? There's not THAT much water in butter, and you'd have to boil if off to change the volume.

                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                This. Plus if you have a spatula, you can realistically get like 98% of the butter out of whatever it is melted in.

                                                1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                  That's why some of us have steel measuring cups!

                                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                                    To melt butter in? What are you saying?

                                                    1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                      If you need to get all the butter out, a brief warmup will let it go with just a little residue left behind. Works for lard/shortening too. Best method is a bowl of hot water and cold fat. Of course I usually forget until the last minute …

                                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                                        Ahhh, ya I use a torch sometimes to unstick things from metal containers/bowls/cups etc. Works real well.

                                            2. Yes, I definitely pay attention. I go with exactly what you suggested for the leeks.

                                              Those 500g leeks, trimmed means (to me) 500g before trimming.

                                              2c sifted flour means (again, to me) sift first and then measure.

                                              2c flour, sifted is 2c and then sift.

                                              I don't think it's irrelevant at all!

                                              1. Yes, I pay attention.
                                                No, it doesn't mean anything to me.
                                                I rarely follow exact measurements, even when baking.

                                                1. Being a person who has worked for a living testing recipes, editing for cookbooks, etc.; I will say this is VITAL information.

                                                  Any cookbook worth it's salt - no pun intended - would set up a recipe format covering such information layout at the beginning so all recipes use the same participle placement and resulting ingredient weight/volume for accurate reproduction by cookbook users.

                                                  There IS a world of difference between 500g leeks, trimmed, and 500g trimmed leeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                  13 Replies
                                                  1. re: gingershelley

                                                    Hi gingershelly, I sure miss your posts in the WFD threads. I hope it is just because you are too busy to post there as well and not the result of another reason.

                                                    1. re: gingershelley

                                                      To me the words "500g leeks, trimmed" is the SAME as "500g trimmed leeks."
                                                      Like "one toy, broken" is the same as "one broken toy."
                                                      People who aren't aware of recipes being written that subtle way don't see a difference!

                                                      1. re: BangorDin

                                                        Sorry, but your reasoning is specious. Although "one carrot, chopped" is the same as "one chopped carrot," "one cup of rice, cooked" is most definitely not the same as "one cup of cooked rice." It's not a question of subtlety, it's a question of accuracy.

                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                          "One carrot, chopped" and "one chopped carrot"
                                                          mean the same thing, but "one cup rice, cooked" and "one cup cooked rice" mean opposite things?

                                                          I understand that cookbooks write it that way. They shouldn't. I know that the rice I need is cooked rice, and that I need one cup. Both phrases tell me that. I would have no way to guess that the 1 cup measure is *before* cooking.

                                                          1. re: BangorDin

                                                            One carrot, chopped is definitely the same as one chopped carrot. Both of them yield whatever quantity results after chopping that carrot.

                                                            The "one cup rice, cooked" means (at least to me) that you take one cup of rice and then cook it which yields a whole lot more than one cup of cooked rice.

                                                            1. re: jbsiegel

                                                              Why doesn't "one cup rice, cooked" mean "one cup cooked rice"? Why does the comma have a different function in the rice phrases than it does in the carrot phrases?

                                                              1. re: BangorDin

                                                                Because a cup of raw rice that you cook has more grains of rice than a cup of cooked rice. One carrot is always one carrot but a cup of cooked rice is less rice than a cup of raw rice.

                                                                1. re: Hobbert

                                                                  Makes good sense. I guess I'm looking for a grammar rule, but maybe there isn't one. You just have to know when to measure the rice (before or after cooking) from experience or common sense or knowledge of what the cookbook author was thinking.

                                                                  1. re: BangorDin

                                                                    Based on rice, which seems to be the example we're using :), I can remember recipes where a cup of raw rice is added to a casserole dish and then the chicken and liquids are added, covered and baked.

                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                      Yes, my recipe for stuffed bell peppers calls for (bless the author !) "1/2 cup uncooked rice." Perfectly clear.

                                                                      1. re: BangorDin

                                                                        So you put uncooked rice in the peppers? How does it cook? Does the liquid in the bottom of the pan steam it done?

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          I will assume in this case that the Procedures part will tell me to cook that rice. One cup of rice, cooked = two cups of rice. One cup of cooked rice started out as half a cup of raw.

                                                            2. re: BangorDin

                                                              If I read, "one cup rice, cooked," I interpret that I measure 1 cup of rice, and then cook said rice. OTOH, if I read, "one cup rice (cooked)," then I *might* interpret that I cook "some" rice and measure out 1 cup of the product.

                                                      2. Of course I do. Not irrelevant.

                                                        1. Great post!!! I've had this exact problem before and I *loathe* ambiguous directions when there's a need for unambiguity!

                                                          My answer is "it depends". If I'm doing an ordinary recipe where you can freeball and cook to taste, it makes no difference. Put differently, if I get it wrong, I can compensate.

                                                          That said, I do a fair amount of modernist cookery, some of which involving measurements to the 1/100th of a gram. I go bonkers when I have a recipe call for something that specific that has "interpretable" ingredient amounts.

                                                          What I try to do in those cases is look for context cues, look at the ingredient, and try to reason my way out of a paper bag. If that doesn't work, I look up similar recipes in the same book. If that doesn't work, I look up similar recipes in the same general genre. If that doesn't work, I pick one, note the choice on the recipe, pray, and then correct the direction in the book.

                                                          Goddamn, I hate that! Great call on an annoying kitchen-thang!

                                                          1. The item re which this bugs me most is olives. I'm not at all confident that I can count on the participle as a measurement indicator, and there's a whole lot of difference between a cupful of pitted olives on the one hand, and one cup of olives, pitted on the other.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: jns7

                                                              Whether pitted or not, since the pit is in the middle of the fruit, doesn't it measure the same?

                                                              1. re: jns7

                                                                I can't imagine working strictly from a measure when using olives. I would use my own judgement. Olives vary in size and flavor intensity (cf canned black olives with dried black ones or colossal brine cured ones from a jar).

                                                              2. Best example I've seen:
                                                                Let's eat, grandma!
                                                                Let's eat grandma!

                                                                Remember, practice safe text.
                                                                Use commas,,,,,,,,,
                                                                And never miss a period.