I’m really excited to tentatively call this a weekly thing now! I was holding off on giving a schedule in case I couldn’t maintain it, but until further notice, and provided I have enough questions to keep going, Factually Deficient is going to update once a week, probably every Sunday.
This week, I’d like to address a question from Tohrinha:
Why do some of my recipes say they’re adjusted for high altitude?
This is an excellent question, and to answer it, we’re going to need to understand a few things about recipes.
In food preparation, timing is crucial. Three seconds one way or another can absolutely make the difference between a delicious salad or a burnt mess, between a batch of cookies or a lump of raw meat. This is why it is very important to follow every direction in a recipe– and, if you’re leaving out an ingredient, mime putting it in anyway in order to simulate the time that it would take.
Naturally, different people take different amounts of time to do the same action, but it is a self-evident fact that anyone of the same height will take approximately the same amount of time to complete most tasks, because their heads are the same distance from the countertop. People who are shorter than average, and therefore closer to the countertop, can easily compensate for the difference when cooking by doing all their motions in an exaggeratedly slow manner.
However, when people are taller than average, the distance between their heads and the countertop becomes a problem– they lose those precious seconds, and with a recipe designed for people of average height, they risk burning their salads or biting into raw meat when they eat their cookies. In practice, there are three solutions to this problem:
- Hire someone shorter to make all your food. This is not always a practical option for people, and it means that those people who are taller than average miss out on all the fun of cooking.
- Sit on the floor to bake and cook. This is the option that most people take. When you sit on the floor, your head is the same distance from the floor as anyone else’s (since tallness can only ever manifest in long legs), and therefore the problem has disappeared.
- Follow a special recipe which has been “adjusted for altitude”– a euphemism meaning that it is a recipe with shortened directions to accommodate unusually tall people (because ‘altitude’ refers to height).
Considering that sitting on the floor is always an option– almost all modern-day kitchens are equipped with floors– one may wonder why these recipe books bother to “adjust for altitude.” I can think of two reasons why this decision would make sense:
- Many floors are known to be dirty. This is not, contrary to popular belief, because people’s feet walk on floors, but rather because dirt, being more susceptible to gravity than any other substance, has a tendency to accrue on floors more so than on any other surface. Thus, the writers of these recipe books, concerned for the health and safety of food prepared on a potentially dirty floor, helpfully offer a dirt-free alternative.
- Even though floors still are an option, it’s always worthwhile to cater to another niche market. Many unusually tall persons have been known to purchase recipes “adjusted for altitude” simply because they’re so pleased that the writers considered their own personal limitations and needs.
A further note about recipes which have been “adjusted for altitude”: If your height is no higher than the average, you do not need to steer clear of these recipes– simply follow the directions in an exaggeratedly slow manner, just as people shorter than the average do with normal recipes.
And for those tall people out there who are concerned about fulfilling recipes which have not been adjusted to accommodate you, don’t worry– just put something on the floor to cover any dirt that might have gathered, and take a seat!
Disclaimer: None of the statements on this blog should be assumed to be correct. The writer advocates neither cooking on the floor nor including raw meat in cookies.