Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A note on quantities

As no one has remarked, my recipe the other day was unashamedly couched in pounds and ounces. This is not because I am a frothing Europhobe; no indeed.

I am one of that fortunate, brief, generation to be bilingual in imperial and metric. The former was spoken at home, while I learnt the latter from my earliest days at school. I am therefore in the envious position of being to switch between systems and use whichever is best suited to the task in hand.

For linear measurement, this is nearly always millimetres. Except, CRT, when talking about the lengths of boats (or for that matter the diameter of records). If something was built according to one system, little good, and much confusion, arises from attempting to express it in terms of the other.

When calculating the weight of my water ballast, I find it much easier to work with litres and tonnes. In fact, I mentally convert gallons to litres and then equate tonnes with tons to get a rough approximation without too much brow furrowing.

But where I refuse to accept that metric can ever be superior is in the weights and measures of recipes. Nothing can be simpler - especially for scaling up and down - than a sixteen-based system, based as it effectively is on halving and doubling. I only have to look at a metric recipe, with quantities ending in '5', to glaze over. When did we discover the need to be accurate to within 5 grammes (that's somewhere between a fifth and a sixth of an ounce) when making a victoria sponge? The only reason we get presented with these absurd figures is because the damn recipe has been converted from an imperial one in the first place.


  1. woodwork - inches & feet.

    metalwork - metric.


  2. Grew up using lb &oz cooking with my mum, learned metric at school and used it at university and in my job. Boats are obviously imperial. So I'm quite happy using either.