Sunday, 18 April 2010

My Metric Imperial Mixture



When I posted my coconut ice recipe the other day, Jeanne asked me why I gave some measurements in metric and others in imperial units. I'd never thought about it before, but it's true - I operate in an odd mixture of units, depending on the context. In this case, it was inches for the size of my tins, but gram weights for the ingredients.

In general, for distances, I have a good idea of how far a mile is, whereas a kilometre is a complete mystery to me. And I'm better with feet and inches than with centimetres. I suppose this is just the terminology I grew up with.

I'm not great at gauging weights of any kind, but I happen to know my weight in kilos, from when I used to enter martial arts competitions and it therefore mattered.

When it comes to recipes, I don't really weigh things, but I tend to look at the proportion of a pack that I've used - so if I've used half of a 100g bar of chocolate, it's easier to write 50g than to do a conversion. (I'm also learning how very, very easy it can be to cook the American way, by volume, so don't be too surprised if you see a few more 'cups' around here....)

In the case of the coconut ice, I had an 8-inch tin, but was using 200g packets of coconut. There is method in my madness... honest!

36 comments:

KaLynn said...

Hey I can follow that! Seems like an easy way to measure!

Found you through Jill's blog, A bubble in the steam...

Krysten @ After 'I Do' said...

Awesome. I never did get a grasp on the metric system, no matter how much they tried to pound it into my brain in school.

phd in yogurtry said...

Years ago there were plans for the USA to convert to metric. The only metric I'm aware of in use today is the litre bottle of soda pop. What does that say about us as a nation? ;)

lakeviewer said...

Oh, I have the same attitude toward cooking; a pinch of this, a shake of that, whatever is around will do kind of recipe doesn't translate well for others.

Hezabelle said...

I do metric for most things, like centimetres and kilometres, but I always bake the American way, with cups. I tend to get annoyed when a recipe isn't in "cups" because, well, my measuring cups say "1 cup" and if I have to do the math for 250 ml I get confused. hehehe.

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Jen said...

Metric is so much easier than imperial. You don't have to remember 4 of these, 16 of these, 3 of these...it's always units of 10. But Americans are stubborn.

The Redhead Riter said...

Funny! Even funnier is that it makes sense to me.

Louiz said...

I measure bodies by imperial, but fabric and yarn comes in metric amounts.

Dedene said...

My recipes are the same; 1/2 in grams and the rest in tablespoons, teaspoons and cups.
There are lots of websites that will do conversions, thank goodness. Also, one must consider that 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar do not weigh the same!
Now I'm off to appreciate the coconut ice recipe.

Writing Without Periods! said...

Math + metric + me = chaos!
Mary

Kazzy said...

I wish we would all just go metric. I am still wanting to make that recipe too!

Mhel said...

I hear you! Sometimes Im just too lazy to convert. I usually eyeball ingredients when cooking, so im having a little difficulty in writing recipes. Im more of a metric kinda girl compare to the English measurements.But when it comes to reading recipes, I find it easier to follow those who write by cups and by teaspoons rather by grams and mils. Dropping by from SITS!! U

Emily said...

Ever since we moved to Italy, I've been constantly confused by conversions and measurements in my cooking. When we lived in the USA, I was a strict "by the recipe" cook, but now I prefer the "a little of this, a little of that" method, just so I don't have to work out the conversions!

(I wish we could just all agree to use the same system--with cooking *and* with time. Why do people in the US have to say "it's 3pm" while everyone in Europe says "it's 15:00"? If we all used the same system it would be SO much easier!...Oh, and we should all pick a side of the road and drive on it, too! Basically, I just want one big, global community!)

Andrew Cotterill said...

Interestingly I seem to use mixed units quite a bit. Taking measures of distance/length as an example.

If driving I think how many miles (all British road signs are in miles), however if walking I think in km (British walking maps use km!).

In a non accurate context I would say something like the shop is a hundred yards over there to someone. In orienteering if I was discussing a distance I might say "its a hundred meters between those features".

If talking about the size of a telescope for astronomy I would say I would love to have a 12 inch reflector (a telescope that uses a mirror) but would say that my laptop is about 30cm long by 22 cm wide.

Confused? So am I. Its just the units I would tend to use relates context - so for astronomy, everybody when I was young (well probably not everybody - only those with an interest in astronomy!) would talk about mirror sizes in inches - so thats the unit I think in for telescopes (well ones with mirrors). Unfortunately and even more confusingly I think in mm for telescopes that just use lenses (no mirrors)!

Andrew Cotterill said...

I have the same problem in different circumstances for volume (gallons vs litres), area (square metres vs square feet vs acres - I never use hectares!), weight (kg, stone, ounce), temperature (Farenheit vs Centigrade vs Kelvin).

Holly said...

The metric system has me lost...I guess they did a good job teaching me the other way. I like to weigh stuff now...so a variety of measurements don't bother me.

Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities said...

This idea of mixed metrics is so interesting - and intriguing. Don't we all measure things differently - with different methods - depending on context?

The Blonde Duck said...

I'm too dumb to do anything other than cups and Tblspns!

mo.stoneskin said...

I also mix metric/imperial without really questioning why, though it always upsets my ordered mind a little! In fact, it has always bothered me.

MJ said...

I have only started to use metric measurements in the past few months - I need to know my weight in kilos for coxing, and you can definitely tell how long a kilometre is when you're running it! By the way, I'm back in Oxford from Thursday so let me know when you're passing through!

Ronnica said...

It's amazing how long it's taking to actually have universal measurements (assuming we'll ever get there). Confusing stuff! I'm good with metric stuff in larger amounts, but have hard time with grams and mL, etc.

Heidi Walker said...

I cook in the same way. I find the imperial system hard when the packages come in grams. Luckily much american packaging is ounces so coverting to cups is easier.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Heather @ Gerber Days said...

You are right.... we Americans know how to cook with the extra cups! LOL

Mary said...

I know there is method to your madness :-). I can do the conversions - but just. I keep a conversion chart in my kitchen drawer and I'm as good as it is. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Pam said...

I'm lost with metrics and I will just have to learn it! I might just have to stick with cups though! Good post!

Kate said...

I use a variety of measurements too... weight in pounds, distance in kilometres, temperature in celcius, small measurements in both inches and centimetres. For cooking I have cups marked with... well, cups... as well as millilitres, and a scale for the recipes that call for ounces or grams. Crikey.

Great blog... and your recipe for carrot, pea and coconut soup sounds delicious!

Jack said...

I like Imperial, but it is what I know best.

A 2 Z said...

Hi Rachel,

The situation regarding measuring is odd in North America. In Canada we use metric and our next door neighbors still us Imperial. Every time you buy something from the US I have to convert back to the old way. I still kept my measuring cups and spoons before the big change. Anyhow, that coconut ice sure looks good!

Midday Escapades said...

Sounds good. I'll have to check out this recipe.

p.s. Don't forget you live in paradise!

Melissa B. said...

Not to sound too pedantic, but I'd be lost in the metric system. Although I suppose you CAN teach an old dog new tricks, oui?

Rachel M. said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I can tell from this post that you are a true international traveler from the various ways you've picked up measurements. At one point when I was on my 3rd trip to Hong Kong in 2007 I pondered the various ways I'd learned to measure weather, distance and money!

The Mother said...

For the first fifteen years of my productive, working life I grossed anatomical specimens. I could reasonably guess the weight, dimensions and volume, in metric, up to a few kilos, a couple meters, and a few liters.

So in small measures, I think in metric. Except when I'm cooking, because recipes here in the states tend to be in cups and ounces.

Big stuff? Couldn't judge a kilometer if my life depended on it.

Kasia said...

I'm a metric girl from a metric country, but do get imperial measurements (more or less). When I first moved to UK and told people I', 164 cm tall they'd be like: that's what, 4 ft? ;)

Jen R said...

I'm the EXACT same way! Temperature is really weird for me. I like anything below freezing in Celsius and anything above room temperature in Fahrenheit. Don't question it...I know it doesn't make sense.

Stopping by from SITS

http://www.myinnerfoodzilla.blogspot.com

Bibliomama said...

I go both ways too. And my sister when she asks me for a recipe frequently says "and don't say a pinch of this and a splash of that and then smell it -- I need measurements!". I have an M.A. in Comparative Literature. She's a pharmacist. We don't cook together often. Thanks for the welcome. :)

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