This morning I weighed Luna’s food with a scale and then did the same for the amount of cheese I needed for the recipe I’m attempting to make for dinner. I still haven’t properly failed this evening, but it has only been prepped, not cooked, and this is usually the moment when I’m feeling the most confident, so let’s not jinx it just yet – that isn’t the point today. The point is that cups are a silly way of measuring things in the US, and it’s one difference that I’ve been absolutely happy with once I got the hang of it, and I’ll never go back.
Trying to explain measuring cups to people that have grown up with grams and ounces is exhausting because I think at some point, every one of us that have been using this measurement our entire lives realizes that it’s honestly stupid – and I mean stupid in the literal sense, because it seems that it was made for stupid people, once you aren’t the one using it.
I grew up with a set of measuring cups (even though only one is really a cup) and it seemed like an entirely straightforward process. Look at the recipe, use the cups, measure out the amount of whatever it tells you that you need (cup, half a cup, quarter cup, tablespoon, etc) annnnd you’re done. Why question this? The fun part is no one questions anything that seems to be “the way to do it” until someone hasn’t learned to do it that way.
As we came back from Panzano the other day, we were with friends and Giulia, who is from here, is currently going through the international assimilation process in Californa (she got married to our other friend and they’re living there now). I love seeing an Italian go through the same thing as I am but in reverse, and of course when two people that are in this ridiculousness together, the things that drive us mad come up immediately. Which, of course, brought us to talk about measuring.
“Ok, but what IS a CUP?!” She lamented from the back seat of the car as we drove through Chianti. “How many grams is a cup because a cup of flour is SO DIFFERENT than a cup of sugar! Who decided what size cup to use? I have many cups. If I look at recipes in the US it just says a cup of everything. I have many cups in my house! SPOONS TOO!”
I felt her pain, but truthfully, I didn’t have that bad of a culture shock when starting to cook and bake here. Rami had a scale that measures in grams and ounces – for those back at home, you’ve probably only seen one if you’ve been in the presence of a drug dealer or a high school science class. The recipe will say 100 grams of whatever ingredient, and then you measure it out to the decimal point if you want, and it’s going to be right every time. Poor Giulia coming from that and going to cups, frustration is an understatement. Nothing is precise, nothing is calculated, and if it is, it’s been done by whoever wrote the recipes. If (and there’s a big if) Italians put measurements in recipes, its in grams, but I also can eye 50 grams now if I use the particular ingredient enough, like cheese or butter.
The US measuring system takes all of the calculations out of it. No one knows how much flour you’ll need compared to sugar because its all put out there. There aren’t any ratios to learn how the consistency is going to be if there’s two cups of this and one of that. When we got Stitch we didn’t get any instructions on how much to feed him. Rami asked me how much we gave Sadie for comparison.
“She’d get one cup twice a day.” He threw up his hands in surrender.
“But what IS a cup?!”
If anyone wants to get ahead of the game before moving abroad or you just want your kids to be more worldly, buy a scale and start learning the metric way of cooking and baking. It’s way easier, I promise.