I was given these measuring spoons as a joke gift (click on image to see them up close), but I absolutely love them. I have been known to moan about what the hell a “pinch” of salt actually is. I rarely add salt to my food, but I realize that it is an essential ingredient that can enhance flavours, so I know I can’t skip it. But a pinch of salt to me is going to be an amount so minimal that you will actually be able to count the grains, whereas when I watch cooking shows, their pinch is almost as much salt as I ended up with when my son unscrewed the top of our salt shaker one night (true story).
So obviously a pinch is a matter of perspective.
But how can this be?
I’m currently following an online course called Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science (Harvard University…for free!). I am learning so much and one of the most important take-aways has been how cooking is very much a science in that you can’t just arbitrarily throw in ingredients or eye-ball amounts. Well of course you can, but it will change the outcome from what the recipe predicts. This could be a positive change or it could be disastrous.
So understanding what an important factor “quantity” is and knowing that each person’s interpretation of what these are may vary, why do cooks and recipes insist in using terms like a pinch, or a hint, or smidgeon?
I am trying to image a senior management debrief, or even an all staff meeting, where we provide directives and updates that include these types of vague and subjective terms.
Oh wait…we already do.
By a show of hands, how many of you have either heard or used the following:
• Things are improving nicely
• We are falling short of our objectives
• We are expected to resolve this issue in the near future
• The employee had sub-par performance
• We need to be the best
• I give my all in project work
All of these statements could mean something different depending on the audience. For example, the third point…”in the near future”…to the CEO, this means this quarter, to the Manager it means this Fiscal Year, and to the employee it means probably never.
One constant complaint that I’ve heard at the various organizations where I’ve worked is that communication could be improved. Employees never seem to be satisfied with the type communication that comes their way and Management feels that they are providing what is necessary.
More times than not though, management is providing pinches, smidgeons, and dashes of information, when employees need more concrete measurements. Something they can actual see, compare, and use.
Maybe we need measuring spoons for business. We could call them….metrics. And they would eliminate the subjectivity in terms of how we are doing and when we say we are “almost at the finish line”, then everyone will be able to see that means we are 10% away from our target.
Alas, I am but a dreamer…
Of course there needs to be a certain amount of common sense applied in cooking – when I don’t have exact amounts, I just go for it when it comes to determining a pinch of salt and I adjust things to my taste. And although it’s not implicitly stated in your job description, it is implied that you should use your common sense at work too…if you are not comfortable with the vague directions and updates that you are getting – then ask for clarifications or go for it and adjust as required.