Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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measurement is essential to cooking. We measure time and temperature, amounts and ingredients, with greater or lesser precision, according to need and the tools (personal experience, measuring cups and spoons, scales, thermometers) available to us. Baking especially demands measurements that are close and standardized, in part because certain chemical reactions require precision, and in part to ensure replicability. Nevertheless, what, why, and how we measure are determined more by culture, history, economics, philosophy, and law (France established the metric system by law in 1790, Britain in 1824, and the United States settled on the uniform standards in 1836) than by science. This is particularly true of the late nineteenth century in North American culinary history, a period characterized by far-reaching changes in dietary practice and culinary science precipitated by industrialization, urbanization, gender, class, and social stratification, as well as by equally significant improvements in the technologies of measurement.