Recipes are not written for Sunday morning bakers in 19th-century colonials. “Room temperature,” in particular, is a description that has the appearance of objective uniformity, but really possesses none of the attributes that render directions clear, lucid, or helpful to a homeowner such as myself. It is not so much that I am unfamiliar with a space like a “room” or the most common ways of measuring things like “temperature,” but it is the plethora of degrees (pun intended) by which our rooms and our temperatures vary that gives me pause at my kitchen counter and racks my mind with indecision when I should instead be sifting, separating, and/or gently folding.
The essence of the difficulty is that our little 1,440 square feet of living space generally has as many temperatures as it does rooms and that these change by a factor of as many seasons through the year. When I read instructions to allow two large eggs to sit “at room temperature,” I am unduly overcome with uncertainty. Does this recipe want me to soft-boil these eggs in the sauna that is our girl’s bedroom? Or is it instead instructing me to set them aside for a future biological engineering study by deep freezing them in front of our drafty schoolroom window? Our butter dish is the most telling barometer of the fluctuations in domestic atmosphere and morale. Rigid and cold as a British schoolmaster in January, as soggy and oily as a camper’s duffel bag in July. There are diametric opposites and a thousand iterations between.
So I have come to the conclusion that I need to avoid recipes that require me to regulate the temperature of my ingredients by any means other than an oven or stovetop. Or at least ones that begin with instructions to “Gather quotes and availability from three independent spray-insulation contractors…”