I've been reading Michael Ruhlman's new book Ratio, about which I have many thoughts, chief among them that memorizing the ratio for consomme seems a lot harder than looking up the recipe in Julia Child. Here's my favorite passage so far. You have to read the whole excerpt to get the full effect:
How is a crepe different from a muffin? In the exact same way that it's different from a pancake, which is a muffin batter cooked in a skillet. How is a crepe different from a sponge cake? The ingredients are similar in proportion, but instead of milk, butter is used, along with 1 part sugar. If you understand the creaming method versus the foaming method, you can begin to intuit what makes a cake, versus a muffin, versus a pancake, versus a popover, versus a crepe. They're all part of the same tree. And I think that people who are gifted pastry chefs have simply seen the crepe-cake continuum more clearly for longer, rather than seeing crepe equaling one set of instructions, cake another, and so have been able to improvise; they understand how small adjustments in fat, flour, egg, and sugar can result in satisfying nuances of lightness and delicacy or richness in flavor and texture. It's all one thing.
Which is why I love cooking. It's all one thing. Which is the ultimate comfort in a life fraught with uncertainty and questions. Which is why I don't fear dying. Which is what I'd put on my headstone if I thought being buried in the ground mattered: "It's all one thing." Which is why I love batters.