Why Aren’t All Recipes Like This?

Working in IT means that I’m pretty familiar with process diagrams and explaining technical terms in plain English. I also cook a fair bit and just recently it occurred to me that, despite being around for centuries, recipes are still written like Victorian science experiments.

Traditional recipes don’t make it easy to work out up front where or when you’re going to need each ingredient, when the busy points are and when you can let things cook on while you wash up or grab that glass of wine. You have to read the whole thing in detail before you can get a feel for how many steps there are. Each ingredient is duplicated – once in the ingredients list and again in the method. It’s not always clear when you are going to be preparing things in parallel (marinate one item while chopping another) or series (cook 1 minute then add an ingredient). These are things that process diagrams are highly effectively at communicating quickly and easily.

I tried re-writing a recipe as a process diagram, and found that it really was easy to work with. So why aren’t all recipes like this one?

Beef and Kale Recipe - Process Version

Beef and Kale Recipe – Process Version

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