Read Adam Gopnik’s thoughts in the latest food issue of The New Yorker.
He starts out by saying
Handed-down wisdom and worked-up information remain the double piers of a cook’s life. The recipe book always contains two things: news of how something is made, and assurance that there’s a way to make it, with the implicit belief that if I know how it is done I can show you how to do it. The premise of the recipe book is that these two things are naturally balanced; the secret of the recipe book is that they’re not. The space between learning the facts about how something is done and learning how to do it always turns out to be large, at times immense.
He gets a little Zen-like at the end, but then cooking approaches Zen at times. Unless the meal’s a feast and you’re the only cook on the line.
Of course, I have my own theories on the topic, though The New Yorker doesn’t see fit to pay me for my opinion.