The tad, the dash and the smidgen. July 12 2012, 0 Comments


It’s no secret I love things from times well before my own. I love vintage music, I love vintage clothes, I love vintage accessories and I love vintage books and I especially love vintage recipes. There’s nothing like finding an old recipe book withy hand scrawled notes on the pages and little folded over bits and pieces and there’s especially nothing as good as an old cookbook that has the stains of delicious treats from the past on its pages. You know you’ve found a special recipe when the page is yellowed with spots and cup marks and little dog eared corners. There’s only one problem with old recipe books and that is some of the terms used to bake and cook. Gill? Pint? Pinch? Kitchen spoon? What are these people talking about? Today, in order to help you understand, let me introduce you to some crazy words I’ve discovered in my vintage recipe books and what they actually mean.

Let’s begin with the gill. This is one of my favourites, as it gives nothing away. It is some kind of seafood measurement? Is it gill as in a Jill or gill as in a Gill? Who knows? All I know is that a gill is apparently a half cup measurement. Two gills? Um, what does that make? A full cup or a double gill? Weird.

The pinch. This  is such a ridiculous measurement. I always thought a pinch just meant a bit, but a pinch is actually a technical term, what can be picked up between the thumb and two fingers. I know! Who would have thought it? How do you account for giant hands? Some people’s hands are much larger than others. A half pinch is what can be picked up between the thumb and one finger, generally the index finger. This is not acceptable. Giant hands and tiny hands all make different pinches. Thankfully this one isn’t used so much anymore. I would have too many questions about this one.

A quart. A quart of what, is what I ask? Is a quart a quarter of something and if so, a quarter of what? A quarter of a bucket is going to be more than a quarter of a cup, isn’t it? It actually means 4 cups, interestingly. Wow, things were vague back in the day, weren’t they?


Lump. I don’t know if I want to cook anything that has a lump in it, but apparently a lump is an actual measurement, being one tablespoon of something. A good lump? Two tablespoons. Lumps of anything in my baking are not acceptable. Unless they’re chocolate. Lumps of chocolate are acceptable, in anything. After you get the hang of the lump, you should know about the heap. One heap equals one cup. Is that right? A whole heap, two cupfuls. Duh. But, like the lump, I don’t know if I want a thing called a heap in my baking either, unless it’s a heap of chocolate. Yep.

Last but not least, lets talk about my absolute favourites; the tad, the dash and the smidgen. These are all, like pinch, apparently exact terms. The Tad - 1/8th teaspoon. The Dash? 1/6th teaspoon. The Smidgen – 1/48th of a teaspoon. Anyone? Hello? Anyone? Nope no one’s measuring that one. Don’t be ridiculous retro cooks...

There you are, a brief lesson in those crazy vintage cooks. Next week we shall find a crazy recipe and bake, from scratch, using only the retro ingredients we can scrape together. Mmmmm, vintage delicious. Can’t wait.....