A head chef explains how he learned and why he uses metric
Metrics came to New Zealand, if I remember correctly, in 1969, or was that when man landed on the Moon? Whatever, it was a long time ago. I can easily recall metrics ‘arriving’, as we had television campaigns, leaflets, newspaper advertisements, talks at school etc etc. I proudly wore a red tee shirt that I’d sent away for which had emblazoned across it
Strangely enough, the song on the television ad still comes to mind, it went:
500 grams of Brussels sprouts,
500 grams of Cheddar,
that’s about a pound of each,
Metrics can be simpler!
You have to remember that New Zealand was like a small British outpost in many ways. Most of the non-indigenous residents in New Zealand were descended from some place in Britain. My own family were predominantly Scottish, although I’m also part Maori, so for them to go from pounds, ounces, feet and miles to the metric system was quite tricky. However, the nation had decided that we wanted this new, more logical system and we went for it. 100%. For my generation it was a lot easier than for my parents, but as my father is an engineer, the metric system was far more logical for his work. For my Mum and step-mum, it meant having to buy a new set of scales and measuring cups – which was no big deal, and soon they were cooking in kilograms and litres as well. New Zealanders will still say, if they’re feeling poorly, that they don’t have an ounce of strength, or that they’re inching along if they’re walking slowly. We haven’t lost all those old terms, we’ve just modernized our measurements. As a chef, I find metrics far more logical and easy to deal with. It’s far easier to multiply a recipe by two when you’re dealing with 200g as opposed to 7.14 ounces for example (I don’t actually know how many ounces are in 200g?). By losing the old Imperial measuring system Britain isn’t losing it’s dignity, heritage or standing in world politics. It’s merely moving into a more contemporary, practical and logical world. And any of you reading this on the internet will realise how contemporary, logical and practical the world is becoming, otherwise the only news you’d be getting would be over the wireless.
Peter Gordon was born in New Zealand and was head chef at the original Sugar Club in Wellington. He moved to London as head chef of Sugar Club in Notting Hill. He is now co-owner and head chef of London’s Providores and Tapa Room.