Monday, April 27, 2015

A Smidgen, A Dab, A Dollop By Linda Broday

I love to read old recipes and imagine the pioneer women cooking up a batch of Hopping John, Son-of-a-Biscuit Stew or Molasses Cookies on their wood stove. I can just see them gathering their ingredients and setting to work building a fire. But getting it the right temperature was a problem all its own.

**A side note: Pioneer women gauged the heat of an oven by holding their hand inside and counting. If she could hold her hand inside for a count of 40, it was right for baking bread. A count of twenty would be sufficient for baking cakes and pies.**

Good heavens! Can you imagine?

Old-time recipes called for a smidgen of seasoning, a pinch of this, a dab of that, or a dollop (usually butter) the size of a walnut. And sometimes the recipe called for a dash of something or “enough flour to make a stiff dough.” I’m guessing that housewives pretty much cooked by trial and error and adjusted things to suit them because it would be extremely difficult to know what some of these measurements meant.

Is a smidgen more than a dash or a dab? And how much is scant of something?

My mother rarely used a recipe. She’d get out her ingredients and start mixing things together until it looked, tasted, or felt right. I used to love watching her cook. It was an amazing sight. And boy, did her dishes taste wonderful! She must’ve had the pioneer spirit instilled in her.

For the record, that talent was not passed down to me!!

To demonstrate the measurement difficulty, here’s an old recipe for Gingerbread:

½ cup sugar
2 dollops of butter
1 egg
1 cup syrup
Enough flour for a soft dough
1 ½ small spoon soda
Smidgen of cinnamon, ginger, cloves
Pinch of salt
1 cup hot water

Mix all ingredients together and bake in a medium oven

A medium oven? Precisely how hot is that? Good grief!

* * * *
Releasing May 5th!! TWICE A TEXAS BRIDE -- the heroine Callie Quinn hires on to cook for Rand Sinclair, the middle brother if my Bachelors of Battle Creek series. She soon learns that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

So, I’m many of you could cook using a smidgen, dab, dash, dollop, or pinch of ingredients? Aren’t you glad our recipes today speak our language?

You can Contact me:


  1. I have to have a recipe and I follow it exactly. I got some new measuring spoons a month or so ago, and they have spoons with "smidgen," "pinch," and "dash" on them. Apparently, a smidgen is 1/32 of a teaspoon, pinch is 1/16, and dash is 1/8. :-)

    1. Hi Shana! I'm glad you enjoyed my blog and thank you for commenting. I've seen those vintage measuring spoons. They're very cute and I almost bought a set. I'm with you on having to have an exact recipe. I can't just throw stuff together and hope it turns out. I wish I had my mother's gift but sadly, I do not. Thanks for coming!

  2. That's how my mom explained recipes so me too but that doesn't really work when it comes to baking lol.

    1. Hi Catslady! Thank you for coming by. Great to see you. It sounds like your mom and mine were two of kind. Just toss some things together and get ready to chow down on some of the best food you've ever tasted. Glad you enjoyed my blog.

      Thanks again!

  3. This is how my mom describes her famous potato salad. I think she secretly doesn't want us to copy her recipe. :)

    1. Hi Terri! I'm so glad you enjoyed my blog. I think you're probably right about your mom and her potato salad! LOL Mom's kinda like that. Thank you for commenting.

  4. Replies
    1. Hi Martha! Thank you for stopping by. You must have a lot of the adventuresome pioneer spirit. But I'm sure that's how a person stumbles upon wonderful new dishes and other things. Almost everything was invented by accident as the inventor was trying for something totally different.

      Thanks again for coming!

  5. That's so funny, it's one of my hubby's main complaints...he used to ask my late mom how she made something and she would tell him that she would add a sprinkle of this, a pinch of that, season to taste, etc. It still irks him when I just start throwing things in, because he claims that recipes are so that the dish comes out the same every time. I tell him they're a guideline, not a plan etched in stone. I like to experiment...and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't...but I think that's half the fun, lol.