No, it isn’t. Nigella’s website, for instance, talks about ‘the most forgiving recipe for banana cake ever’, and there are plenty of other examples from both sides of the Atlantic. I don’t know how long it’s been around, though, and it would be interesting to track down an earliest citation. I asked two cooks in my family whether they knew the expression and neither did, so my feeling is that it’s a fairly recent usage.
I’m not surprised that it receives no separate mention in a dictionary, as dictionaries don’t provide a systematic guide to the collocations that belong to a particular meaning. And in the general sense of ‘easy’, ‘safe’, ‘comfortable’, forgiving has been used in a wide range of inanimate contexts – workplaces, enterprises, timetables, climates, surfaces, lights, clothing, and many other nouns have all been described in this way. Quite a common collocation is with piece: a forgiving piece of clothing / machinery / meat... So, as long as a dictionary illustrates from some of these, the broad sense will be covered.
A forgiving recipe, it seems, is one which does not require exact measurements, where some ingredients can be substituted without the result being affected, or where a cook can get it wrong and it still turns out OK. I'd have thought that, in the context of cooking, this usage has moved away sufficiently from the general sense to warrant its appearance as a separate dictionary sub-entry. A couple of dictionaries are already taking notice of it, and I don't think it'll be long before we see it in all of them.
Merriam Webster Online gives "allowing room for error or weakness" as the second definition of forgiving, and provides the example "designed to be a forgiving tennis racquet". My feeling is that this sense is fairly commonplace now, at least in the U.S. The opposite of forgiving in this sense, at least in my usage, is brittle.
I think an unforgiving recipe would be pretty transparent. I would struggle to understand a brittle recipe.
I would think it is fairly common in the UK, too, with the sense that you are not punished if you get something wrong. So you still get your cake if even if you don't follow the recipe accurately. I would think of the opposite just as 'unforgiving'. So recipes for soufflés are often unforgiving (in my experience, anyway!)
In Australia art teachers use the word forgiving to describe the pastel media as it is easily erased and reapplied and so handy for novice artists.
It's a lovely idea. I have always liked the Spanish term "sufrido" (tolerant,suffering?, not demanding... no real equivalent in English), a word used to describe something that is immune to dirt, wear, or mistakes. Not the same, but a similar type of word.
A very similar usage exists in medicine, where the term “drug forgiveness” or sometimes “patient forgiveness” refers to how well a drug continues to work despite inevitable missed doses. See e.g. http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/204/12/1827.full
If a recipe is seen as forgiving, to make allowances for human error does that still give it the title 'recipe'. To not use the correct measurements or identical ingredients does that make the 'recipe' merely a list of suggestions? Many people use recipes as a base to what they plan to cook and then change it anyway. I'm just wondering is there a way people can use different types of text and change their meaning just by errors being made or connotations being misunderstood?
I suppose as long as the defining linguistic features of a recipe are still there, then yes. But I can imagine a siruation where the number of errors or changes that are made alter the style so much that the text no longer would be classified as such.
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