Snake oil, originally a fraudulent liniment without snake extract, has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit


To be Chefs or Cooks?

I love to cook, I get out my favourite Delia or Jamie recipe book, toddle off to the supermarket and spend and enjoyable hour of so searching for all of the ingredients that I need.

I usually struggle though because something that I never heard of isn’t there, or I don’t quite know what sort of olive oil is needed and even if get all of the right ingredients they I usually don’t have the right pan or spoon or electric gadget. But I get somewhere close and as long as there is a good glass of red wine to go along with the cooking effort then it’s all good and I mostly don’t poison people, well not often at least.

Ultimately even thought I make the best of the situation, its far from ideal and whilst I do produce an output, the food, I am not providing the outcome I want, the fantastic experience of wonderful food for my friends, who endure with good heart my mediocre fayre, lets just say thanks for red wine.

So is it the fault of the recipe, the method, is it just too hard to follow, too unrealistic given the context of a fingers and thumb cook, in an inadequate kitchen with a small co-op around the corner?

Well the recipe was created by a Chef, somebody who knows what they are doing and has many years or training in a kitchen, they will have a deep understanding of how different ingredients work together and if something is missing they can still whip up a meal that is fabulous.

But their context was a highly trained chef in a fully fitted out kitchen and probably the best and freshest produced that they sourced personally, or at least had one of the production staff run around to find.

But my context doesn’t match theirs does it and much as I know that Chef’s try to keep things simple for the simple, like me, but still we all know that getting a recipe spot on has a large dose of luck involved.

As you can probably guess I am looking to draw parallels here, I find it amazing that we look to implement quick fixes and off the shelf methods and in some way trust the very future of our businesses to luck.

We have to be aware that just because something worked before, for somebody else in a completely different context it does not mean that it will work for us now, in fact we can almost guarantee it wont.

I have a real issue with these generic off the shelf solutions and methods and this takes me back to the title of the post Snake Oil, as ultimately that’s what many such methods are selling, the promise of a quick fix regardless of ailment.

So why I wonder do we seek to implement these quick fixes, these methods, the panacea to fix all. The thing is that we  want to believe that we can have certainty in an uncertain and unpredictable world, be able to look ahead and know that it will be all right, when if we are being realistic we know that we can’t have the absolute predictability that recipes promise us.

So we need to be flexible in the way we work, in the way we approach complex situations and problems, we need to understand that we need to try things out and learn and adapt quickly, rather than trusting to luck and Mrs Beeton.

We need to be our own Chefs, to create the recipe for our own situation not reuse somebody elses, so stuff the Snake Oil and pass the red wine its time to get cooking

A History Of ‘Snake Oil Salesmen’