The stereotypical learning style for engineers is that of visualization - we learn through seeing. Pictures and diagrams, watching facial expressions, doing practical projects. The other two learning styles are auditory (hearing) and kinesthetic (feeling). Since ~65% of the population are classified as visuals, proposed changes in education include adding more visual elements to improve learning.

And here it is in practice! While searching for a recipe online, I found Cooking for Engineers. Lemmee jump to the punch line - here’s the summary for Shrimp Scampi.

If you’re a visual, you probably looked at the chart and after a moment thought, “Cool! That makes perfect sense!

(Auditories and kinesthetics will perhaps run screaming into the night.)

Check out the entire recipe - after a nice intro, glaringly obvious VISUAL clues are presented - nice photographs. Each step is explained in detail for those without prior cooking experience. Hints and info are provided (e.g., the difference between 41-50 count shrimp and 16-20 count shrimp; how to cook pasta al dente because the box is wrong). Everything summarized quite nicely with the box chart above.

Yeah Yeah I hear you cry. Who cares? Open up Betty Crocker and Shut Up

“Why can’t engineers and you visual types just follow a regular recipe? It’s got all the same stuff. Your Engineer’s site just contains lots of fluff and editorial comments.”

Well, I hate the regular Betty Crocker Fanny Farmer Joy of Cooking presentation.

I’m always losing my place in that huge paragraph of directions - the paragraph-from-hell that seems to mock me because I’ve yet again wandered too far from the trail and have to rewind and scan the directions from the beginning.

And I frequently review the list of ingredients to see if I missed one, and if I have (which is often), try to figure out where the paragraph-from-hell said ingredient was supposed to have been added. Even from square one (ah, and Betty has no squares…), the order of the ingredients list seems random; a splat of raw food and spices strewn across my kitchen counter before I even start.

Why is “Cooking for Engineers” such a great idea?

Taking my own advice - my summary, bulleted with important points in bold for us visuals. The site …

  • Lists the ingredients and amounts concisely, in the order that they are to be used.
  • Starts with very detailed instructions with pictures.
  • Makes no assumptions about prior cooking experience.
  • Shows summarized preparation instructions that clearly illustrate sequence (to avoid getting lost in the paragraph-from-hell).
  • Allows you to logically (and geographically) set up ingredients according to 1) when they are used, and 2) what gets used TOGETHER.
  • Allows you to quickly figure out where you are in the recipe by providing obvious key cue words (actions) like “melt” and “brown.” Scanning backwards to find your place takes one saccade rather than 17.

Your rebuttal

And here’s the wonderful comparison I present along with representative photos to hereby rebut your rebuttal. While it certainly fits on an index card a lot easier, it isn’t very friendly for the new cook, or for the visual ones.

1 lb. shrimp, cleaned, deveined
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
4-5 cloves garlic
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1 tsp. fresh parsley
1 sm. lemon wedge
1/2 tsp. salt
4-6 turns fresh black pepper
1 lb. fettucini noodles or spaghetti. Fill large pot with 6 quarts of salted water, heat while preparing scampi. In a large frying pan, pour oil, 2 tablespoons of butter and sliced garlic cloves. Saute until golden, but not brown (or it will be extremely bitter). Add shrimp, white wine, oregano, basil, parsley, juice of lemon wedge, salt, pepper and water. Cook for 5-8 minutes, or until shrimp turns pink.

Cook fettuccine or spaghetti al dente or desired tenderness. Drain very quickly (leaving some of the water) and place in large serving bowl. Pour scampi mixture over top and serve immediately! Serves 4 large portions.

Which one do you think looks more appetizing?

Delightfully cooked shrimp over a bed of delicious linguine. (Cooking for Engineers)

Pig eyeballs spattered over a bed of deep-fried entrails. (