Thursday, February 23, 2006

My cup runneth over

At the start of the year Rosa blogged a recipe for "Hoppin John". As a Brit, I had never heard of such a dish which sent me rushing to Google to find out more about this traditional Southern US dish.

One question I have of Rosa, or anyone else who cares to answer, is why do Americans use Cups in their recipes? What is wrong with weights for solids and measures for liquids? A cup of a solid ingredient seems so imprecise (although I know cooking is an art not a science).

My theory is that in the pioneering days of the wild west the early settlers did not have access to sophisticated European devices like scales and graduated jugs so they made do with the basic kitchenware they had to hand.

Working from US cookbooks causes me a problem. How much is a cup? A typical UK recipe will quote both Imperial and Metric units, the conversion factors for which are well known and precise. As far as I can tell a cup is 8 fluid ounces or 240 ml (rounding a bit, in fact 1 fl oz = 28 ml not 30). So that will do for me.


Rosa said...

Ok, Mark, I tried as best I could. Take a look and see if I answered your question! :-)

Ballpoint Wren said...

I like Rosa's explanation. When I was a kid my science teacher told us we'd be doing metrics by the time we hit our twenties, but that never happened.

I did find something that might help you out when you have to convert.

Mark McLellan said...


Thanks for your post American Cooking Measures. Now I know a little more about American history. I knew those wagons had a name but couldn't have told you what it was.


We too are *supposed* to have gone metric but resistance was strong. Science was already there, schools did well but shops and such like too longer but we have made the switch. Only traffic sign and cars still use miles instead of kilometres - but bizarrely garages sell petrol (US: gas) in litres.



PS Mr English is fine :-)