Glossary of Casual Kitchen Memes

Long-time readers here at Casual Kitchen have probably grown accustomed to my tendency to use idiosyncratic expressions for many cooking-related subjects.

But the traffic here at CK has gone up quite a bit over the past six months or so, and when I use expressions like first-order foods and laughably cheap, I'm sure many new readers wonder what the heck I'm talking about.

Hence this glossary of Casual Kitchen memes. In this post you'll see a list of the various expressions I use on this blog, along with definitions and links to relevant articles that illustrate these themes. Enjoy!
Casual Kitchen Meme Glossary:

Brand Disloyalty: A pro-consumer mindset where you refuse to overpay for branded products in your grocery store or wherever else you shop. To drop a brand for a competitor's product at the slightest provocation.

Cookbook Exploitation: Making a habit of getting more use and value out of your existing stash of cookbooks rather than constantly buying new ones. Every April at Casual Kitchen is Cookbook Exploitation Month, when I encourage readers to pick a rarely-used cookbook off their shelves and exploit it for all it's worth.

Cost Stack: The aggregated costs involved in getting food to your local grocery store, including transport costs, advertising and branding costs, food processing costs, as well as freezing and refrigeration costs. All of the costs in any food's cost stack are ultimately borne by you, the consumer. See Second-Order Foods.

Do It By the Book: The most important rule of recipe modification. Making a recipe by the book first gives you valuable information about what recipe modifications might be needed. You can't really change a recipe for the better until you know where you're starting from.

First-Order Foods: Basic building blocks of our diets. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, basic juices, grains, etc., that are close to the bottom of the food chain, require little processing, and come to you in basic form. See Second-Order Foods.

The Five Easy Questions Test: A quick and easy test I've designed here at Casual Kitchen that you can use to determine if a recipe is worth cooking. See How to Tell if a Recipe is Worth Cooking With Five Easy Questions.

Heavy Rotation:
A term borrowed from pop radio that involves building a short list of your cooking “hits” (recipes that are popular with your family that you can make quickly and easily) and rotating one or more of these hit recipes into your weekly menu. Further, by making the dish regularly, you’ll get still faster at making it until you can practically do it blindfolded. If you create a list of five or six easy-to-make “hits” and rotate one of them into your menu each week, you'll save yourself a ton of time without ever getting sick of your favorite recipes.

Laughably Cheap: Any dish that is so cheap to cook that it literally makes you laugh out loud. See my black beans and rice, fried rice, fresh corn and tomato soup, or our pasta with tuna, olives and roasted red peppers. See Preposterously Cheap.

Part-Time Vegetarianism: To embrace vegetarian cuisine for its many health and cost benefits, but not become a vegetarian per se.

Preposterously Cheap: like Laughably Cheap, only better. And cheaper. See my Lentil Soup, or Smoky Brazilian Black Bean Soup.

Read the Recipe Twice: The single best thing you can do to eliminate cooking errors from your kitchen. Taking a mere 30 seconds to re-read a recipe before you begin cooking will save you from a lifetime's worth of frustrating mistakes. Rule #1 of my Seven Rules to Ensure Mistake-Free Cooking.

Recipe modifications: The subject of a three part series in Casual Kitchen where I explained how to break free from the bondage of recipes and learn to adapt them to your taste and budget. See especially the Six Rules of Recipe Modification, which is one of my most popular posts.

Scalability: A term used to describe the ease with which you can increase the batch size of a dish. Casual Kitchen favors highly scalable recipes where making a double batch is as easy as making a single batch, yet you get twice as much food for your efforts. See 2x the Food for 1.2X the Work.

Second-Order Foods: Foods derived from first-order foods, usually with the addition of extra energy, transport costs and other additional costs in one form or another. TV dinners, meat, boxed cereals and branded snack foods are typical examples of second order foods. See First-order Foods.

Stealth price hikes: To keep the price of an item the same, but reduce the net weight or amount of product in the package. Possibly the most deceptive of all consumer product tricks, and particularly prevalent in the boxed cereal aisle. When a product you regularly purchase puts in a stealth price hike you must punish the maker of this product by changing brands immediately.

2x the Food For 1.2x the Work: One of the key concepts underlying double- or triple-batch cooking that will help you become a much more efficient cook. Many recipes can be doubled with little or no extra work, giving you much more food for very little incremental work. Learn to identify which recipes are good candidates for this and which are not. See Scalability.

80/20 Rule: A principle widely and surprisingly applicable to food and cooking, which says that most of the output of a system typically comes from a very small number of inputs. You can use the 80/20 rule in dozens of ways to save time, money and effort when you cook. This rule can also be applied to your diet and even to cookbook purchasing.

Yes, But By Proxy: A nearly invincible form of excuse-making that involves claiming a solution will not work because it fails for others. A standard example: "Your solutions for eating healthy on very little money won't work for people living in food deserts" or "someone with five jobs won't have time to cook healthy food." The person making this statement doesn't actually have five jobs and doesn't actually live in a food desert, but she can use the existence of a theoretical person with those disadvantages as an excuse not to take action herself. Be extremely careful when discussing any issue with someone who regularly uses "yes, but by proxy" excuses--you will likely be blamed for being a bad person with no sympathy for disadvantaged people. For more on this concept, see my Avoiding the "Yes, But" Vortex post series.

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Melissa said...

Thanks for the glossary. You know, I don't always follow that rule about making something by the book first, but I feel I only make changes appropriate for my and Steve's palate. Like I try to respect the fact that he doesn't like olives (though I'll convert him one day dammit). You know, things like that. The Spanish rice I have made a plethora of times, which I now consider "mine" was one where I changed before doing it by the book as well. I replaced the celery in it with red bell pepper - same fine dice, same measurement, different vegetable.

I assume these changes are okay. I just imagine I would be doing more of a disservice to the original if I changed which herbs I used or changed the methods, etc. without trying it their way first.

jules said...

love the glossary dan.. good to see you mentioning the 80/20 rule - Ive been reading the 4 hour work week and am really into the whole 80/20 concept at the moment

Daniel said...

Hi Melissa, thanks for your thoughts.

I think it's fair to say that one can get away with certain minor modifications without making a recipe "by the book" first. Minor changes to spices, or a simple veggie substitution like in your Spanish rice would be good examples.

Also, sometimes you can "tell" what a recipe needs just by looking at it, but often this is usually something more experienced cooks will be better at than beginner cooks. And of course even then it increases the risk of a recipe screw-up.


Daniel said...

Hi Jules, glad to hear! Thinking about the world in 80/20 terms has really changed how I do most everything in my life. Also, I'd recommend Richard Koch's The 80/20 Principle by the way, it was a great resource. It gave me, uh, 80% of what I know about the concept. :)


limecloud said...

Hi, I just read an article about how propane suppliers are quietly selling less propane for the same price (a 20 gal tank now has only 17 gal). It's grilling season and I just thought I'd pass that info along. Sounds like such a rip off- completely without the customer's knowledge. It's such a example of stealth price hikes.

Daniel said...

Yep, I'd call that a stealth price hike. A particularly lame one too.

Thanks for reading Limecloud!


bethh said...

Thanks for the glossary! Note that you didn't actually define the 80/20 rule, nor how it applies to cooking. You might want to revisit that entry.

Daniel said...

Hi Beth, thanks for your comment. Yeah, I assumed readers would click on the link to my article on the 80/20 Rule in that glossary entry, but perhaps I should define it again anyway.

Thanks for reading!