From Too Many Chefs -

February 18, 2004
Metric vs. US Measurements

Eventually, I would like to add our own conversion tables to this site and thus avoid any misunderstanding about the quantities and temperatures. It's more complicated than you might think.

When I first bought my very own Fanny Farmer Cookbook in 1985*, I was pleased to notice that all the recipes had metric as well as US measurements. However, this proved to be less useful than I imagined. The editors of the Fanny Farmer obviously have never actually WORKED in metric - they just blindly translated from one measurement to the other.

One of the problems they ignored is that users of metric and people in the US measure quantities differently. In the US, people happily measure butter in tablespoons because sticks of butter come conveniently marked. Here in France, however, they don't and butter is measured by weight. Flour is also measured by weight, not volume. I never needed a kitchen scale until I started using some of my husband's (English) recipes.

The other problem is that the editors use terms I have never seen used in a metric country (decaliters???). The beauty of the metric system is that you can specify .752 kg if you want to be that precise. Fanny tells you to take 7.52 decaliters. (I think - I'm still not sure when I try to translate her measurements.)

On the other hand, the cookbook does have loads of useful information such as temperature conversions. I'll try to remember to type some of it up tomorrow and consult Barrett about where to put it.

* When my mother leaves this earth, her 1950s edition of the Fanny Farmer will be the only item my siblings and I will fight over...for one thing the new edition is missing the recipe for Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. For years, I called my mother every time I needed the recipe.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at February 18, 2004 8:42 AM | TrackBack

One difficult thing is figuring out whether an ingredient is treated as a liquid, even if it's a solid like sugar or flour.

Posted by Barrett on February 18, 2004 at 3:07 PM

It was probably DECILITERS (dl) which is a rather common term in recipes when measuring liquids. A dl is a tenth of a liter.

Posted by Vince on February 7, 2005 at 6:10 AM

Thanks for the clarification! I still find it a bit strange that American cookbooks use the term, when using grams and kilograms is simple enough. Anyway, I should have taken the time to get the spelling right, oops.

Posted by Meg in Paris on February 7, 2005 at 6:34 AM