Thursday, June 21, 2007

DSP

One of the things I love about cooking is that it is always new. I've been cooking for a long time. There are dishes I prepare without ever even looking at a recipe. Certain instincts have been developed over the years that go to timing and flavors and all the rest. But this hardly means I can rest on my bay laurels, smugly thinking I am a repository for all the food wisdom of the ages. Hardly.

Take the other day, for example. I learned something new. A minor thing, perhaps, but still. I have some lovely measuring spoons from Nigella Lawson. I like her products. They are beautiful and well-made, which is important to me. They are also sensible. Her mixing bowls, for example, are egg-shaped, so they fit perfectly into the crook of your arm when you're stirring up something and then you can pour the batter or whatever out of them without it slopping all over everything. And when I can have a sensible product that also looks good, I'm a very happy camper.


Right. So I bought the measuring spoons because I fell in love with them. But I was always confused by one of the spoons, a smidge smaller than the tablespoon and marked "dsp". I had no idea what that was supposed to mean and it wasn't noted on the box. So I looked it up and it turns out that "dsp" stands for "dessert spoon". It's a UK measurement. I don't know that I've ever seen it in a recipe before. Certainly, I'd never used a dessert spoon of anything.

You know how chefs on cooking shows will often say something like "add a teaspoon of salt" and then they'll just pour an amount into their palm and toss it into the soup? Once, long ago, I realized that they can do that because they know what a teaspoon of something looks like. I measured out a teaspoon of something, put it in my palm and looked at it. "Ah! That's a teaspoon!" Then I did the same with a tablespoon. In my hand a tablespoon of something is basically a palmful. The point is, knowing this, I don't always have to reach for a measuring spoon because I know what I'm dealing with.
I gave myself a visual the other day. A tablespoon of black salt, a teaspoon of white and there, in the middle, is a dessert spoon's worth of red salt.

Even as I tend to throw ingredients around willy-nilly, without benefit of measuring, there are plenty of times when I am more precise...when trying out a new recipe and certainly when baking. In the first case, I have to know how something is intended to taste before I decide if it needs fiddling with and in the second case, baking relies on scientifically proven chemical reactions. If something reads "add 1 Tablespoon baking powder" this is not a suggestion but a requirement.
I am now enamoured of having a measurement called "dessert spoon". I's a cute little measurement, I think. I suspect that UK cooks don't limit its application to the dessert course but it seems to me that would be logical. A dessert spoon...more sweetness than a teaspoon but less than a tablespoon. When something calls for a sprinkling of sugar, I'll bet the intent is for a dessert spoon amount. At least, that's the way I will be thinking about it.


9 comments:

Jon said...

I, too, have heard of a dessert spoon but never knew what it was.

I am SO getting Nigella's kitchen equipment now that it has your endorsement.

BTW - having lived in Canada, I'd gotten used to what 100g felt like. Finally I tried it one day with some sugar. Bam! Almost on the button.

We are SO international. . .

Lorraine said...

You must know, Jon, that I tend be very "whatever" about brands as a rule, but Nigella's stuff really does rock.

more cowbell said...

Oh, I am so lording this culinary knowledge over Pastry Girl daughter.

Lorraine said...

That's what I'm here for, Cowbell. Gotta keep those kids in their place!

Red7Eric said...

What, pray, are black salt and red salt for? Do they taste like white salt or otherwise?

And why does my speech take on a slight tinge of Elizabethan whenever I visit yon foodie blog, pray tell?

Lorraine said...

Forsooth, Red! The question is proper and fine, deserving of an entire post, yea verily. Why thou dost speak in perched tones whence thou dost come a'calling, I know not but it is cause for merriment and hey nonny nonny.

Red7Eric said...

Tee! Yer funny.

Ian said...

I just was making a plantain soup out of a british cookbook, and it called for "1 dsp of caster sugar". I had no idea what that was, and this was the first page i hit. Now I know. Thanks!

RodiM said...

Thank you for the good explanation :) nice blog! Will visit again!