Eileen's Reviews > Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

Ratio by Michael Ruhlman
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Oct 05, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: food
Read in October, 2009

Michael Ruhlman has much valuable information to communicate; the ratio concept is clearly crucial if one wants to fully understand and experiment with baking in particular. However, he is not a very skilled prose stylist. The book is too busy; it continually throws out disorganized and poorly focused extra information. The intention seems to have been to stay nonthreatening by adopting a casual, spontaneous, and personal tone. However, when combined with the more mathematical aspects of the ratio system, this backfires, creating a muddled manuscript apparently written by "an actual scientician!"

A decent editor could have tightened and reorganized this prose to make a substantially clearer book. It's too bad Ruhlman didn't have one.

Observe:

"Ratios is one of the greatest cooking lessons there is." (p. xxiv)
"Meaning there's no fat in it." (p.9)

Are you serious? Basic grammatical mistakes like these just make you look like a moron.

"One of the best pies there is, and an easy one and an economical one, is the chicken pot pie (or beef, fish, or vegetable)." (p. 29)

Look how much is going on in this astoundingly poorly constructed sentence. Instant rewrite: "One of the best, easiest, and most economical pies is the pot pie." That isn't even a very compelling sentence after its rewrite!

"Which is why I love cooking. It's all one thing. Which is the ultimate comfort in a life fraught with uncertainty and questions. Which is why I don't fear dying. Which is what I'd put on my headstone if I thought being buried in the ground mattered: 'It's all one thing.' Which is why I love batters." (p.57)

I practically can't even read this. Everything in the entire ungrammatical passage is bizarre, confusing, and self-indulgent.

In short, although the information is good, problems like these make the book almost intolerable to a person with any ear for language.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Hirondelle Thank you for that analysis, this book has been bugging me a lot. I knew there were lots of things wrong with the english (not my language) but could not identify it.

What I could identify was that he is often picking ratios of wrong things - by his own admission stock does not need ratios but he spends one chapter on it. I am not going to make fish stock. But rice, which is the most basic and fundamental thing to cook and where ratio is important, nothing. Bah.


Bunmi I take it you didn't think much of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and/ or Tom Sawyer then? For all their grammatical incorrectness...


Hirondelle Presumably that is directed at Eileen, but since I also commented on the language bugging me, in the case it is directed at me as well, here goes my opinion.

There is a place for vernacular, non-standard grammar, breaking grammar rules for stylistic purposes, experimenting with language. That place is fiction, poetry, theater, music, etc, anything but non-fiction and an academical type of writing.


message 4: by Eileen (last edited Mar 07, 2011 01:19PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Eileen Exactly. Twain was writing in dialect to achieve specific characterization and evoke a precise ambiance. He had enough command of his own style to create a coherent whole even when working in such a difficult area. Ruhlman is not a prose stylist at all; his blunders are just blunders.


message 5: by M (new) - rated it 2 stars

M I totally agree, you are spot on with your review


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