Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lost In Metric Translation

Well hello again! I suppose we haven't connected in a while because I've been too busy with my grubby mitts busy in the kitchen. That's right, Caitlin is pursuing self-guided culinary excellence Down Under. And sometimes, like today, I fail miserably.

I like to blame the metric system for my issues in the kitchen. But this is not particularly usual. To date, I have managed to satisfyingly create my own pesto, ratatouille, curry with self-soaked garbanzo beans, minestrone soup, a yellow cake with chocolate frosting, profiteroles, sticky date pudding, and about half a dozen banana/carrot/zucchini inspired bread/cake/muffins. (This list does not include my failures, including berry muffins that tasted oddly of vinegar, vegan rice krispie treats and a botched batch of royal icing). Today's adventure? BREAD MAKING!

I was given some wonderful baking books to borrow from Michelle, my "boss" at my Hospice volunteering gig. Yes, I've decided to not get paid to hang out in a dying home. This is actually much more uplifting than you think, and as I told my mom this morning, it's somehow spiritually satisfying. Where do I happen to work? The hospice kitchen, of course! And boy, you should see how pureed convalescent lamb looks.

Moving on, Michelle has taken to me (who wouldn't!) and we chat each other's ears off about baking and cooking all day long. She has so far inspired me to try this very strange dessert thing called Sugo and to try making my own ricotta cheese - stay tuned for that disaster. But today was all about bread.

Let me say that so far, I have adapted quite well to some parts of the metric system. A pleasant afternoon is about 23 degrees C, sunny. An oven for baking muffins is about 180 degrees C. An acceptable speed for a car, on the wrong side of the road, on the highway is about 100-110 km. I walk about 1.5km to the train station. A bottle of wine is 750ml, and everyone should drink 2L of water per day. Impressed yet? I'm haven't even begun to learn. What the heck is a gram? Who cares about a centiliter? And this is where the bread making comes in.

I read the intro about making a simple white bread recipe. I don't have a bread cutter, I don't have a stone tablet, and I don't have a scale, but I figured, people have been making bread for centuries without this stuff - of course I can do it!

It wasn't long before I snagged: I had a sachet of yeast with a quantity of "7g", but the recipe called for 10g. Furthermore, I had dried yeast, while it was talking about wet yeast. It called for 500g of flour. This is where my reading skills failed me. I interpreted 500g as "500ml". Are you still with me? If you know anything about metrics, of which I know very little, you might remember, as I did not,, that Liters are for liquid (CRAP). I should have used about half of my bag of flour and ended up using only about 2 cups. No wonder i was mixing and mixing..and mixing...a ball of goop for about 10 minutes, as it did not change at all. Ii realized my mistake too late. I added some more flour (no idea how much), but somehow it ended up simply making one of the strongest glues I have ever encountered. So I threw up my glued hands, put a tea towel over my bowl, and resigned myself to a ball of adhesive, which is still stuck to my arm hairs. We'll see how it goes in an hour, but I don't have high hopes for anything rising.

I actually think I owe the success of my first bread ball to the United States education system. Get with the program, people! No wonder we're neurotic and annoying travelers - we can't understand anything, from the temperature, to the time (21:45, oh come on), to the quantity of a stick of butter or a Coca-Cola.

Off to try my hand at lasagna. At least this doesn't require any measuring.


  1. Caitlin,

    As someone who is number challenged, I am so impressed at your tenacity with the "science" experiments. We often tell the Girl's Inc. girls that cooking is one of the best ways to advance your scientific skills. Perhaps an advanced degree in chemistry is in your future?

    I love and miss you dearly,


  2. Hey baby girl...

    Keep it up and remember that some of the best recipes were the worst mistakes. Cooking and the kitchen always seem to be a place that 'brings you home" whether or not your metricly challenged or on the other side of the planet. Yummm - pureed lamb! Don't forget my suggestion that a really good Mexican restaurant in Brisbane (or anywhere in OZ for that matter) would be a massive hit.

    I love you more than infinity and am proud beyond measure. Keep up the posts.