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The tyranny of recipes

Following lists of instructions will impair your judgement

By Julian Baggini  

© BBC/Comic Relief/Love Productions/Scott Kershaw

Recipes are everywhere. Serious newspapers that would once have sniffed at cookery pages now regularly invite us to inhale deeply the beautiful aromas of their homemade quinoa salads, sticky toffee puddings and squash risottos, while cookbook sales are one of the few bright spots in the otherwise gloomy book industry. And for every literal recipe there is a metaphorical one: for life, health, fitness, success, economic growth—and disaster.

This choice of metaphor is revealing. Our tendency to describe courses of action as “recipes” or “formulas”…

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