Well, the end of the world did not occur as some predicted, which means we’ll need to continue to toddle along, hopefully toward a metric future.
I envision for most of us regular folks, one of the biggest shifts toward metric would take place in the kitchen and the grocery store. When I mention that people would need get rid of their volume (not liquid) measuring cups and teaspoons and buy a scale, that alone is enough for some to throw up their hands. They also don’t realize it, but they’ll be better off measuring their ingredients by weight anyway. (More on this below)
That said, allow me to try and frame this with the things I’ve learned so far that might make switching over a little easier. (Being inherently lazy means I try to find the easiest way to do everything.)
Most of us already have most of the tools we’d need, so the biggest shift would just need to be in our brains, and even that will take fewer adjustments than most people think. After all, the system was expected to be easy for illiterate French peasants to learn and use. (You don’t really want to admit you can’t learn something they could, do you?)
Short of just chucking everything we have now and attempting to start over from scratch (not likely), we’ll need to use some approximations until the new system becomes more engrained. (This applies to me as well since I’m not working in a metric world currently either.)
Meters: Most cars in this country are already equipped with a second set of numbers in kilometers that have been there for decades. (There might be a couple of exceptions, but I expect they are few.) Getting used to using them shouldn’t be any more difficult than learning to read a new dashboard when we acquire a different car.
Going to buy cloth or other things of that ilk? There really isn’t much difference between a yard and a meter. After all, a meter is just 3.3 inches longer. As you look around you, just imagine a slightly longer yardstick and you’re there.
Liters: Most people in this country are already familiar with two-liter bottles of soft drinks, so that should help make things a little easier, but there are almost four liters to the gallon (3.78541 according to the calculator I just used). That means that volumetrically it shouldn’t be too difficult to conceptualize one quarter of a gallon, but pricing changes might trip people up at first. HOWEVER, stores could really help speed this along if they get their labeling act together and get those “cost per unit” stickers up so it’s easier to make price comparisons. (Something we might think about specifically asking for.)
In the kitchen, I can’t image there are many people who don’t already have measuring cups with milliliters already on them. I have several and I wasn’t even trying. In those rare cases where people don’t and are truly too poor to buy a new one, maybe we can chip in and bring them along into the previous century (yes, the last one, we’re way behind). Mutual support will go a long way in speeding implementation.
Grams: This would probably be one of the biggest shifts in the kitchen since everything needs to be weighed if it isn’t liquid. Allow me to quote Alton Brown, of the Food Network, and one of the nicest, smartest people I’ve ever had an opportunity to spend time with: This is as he references flour, brown sugar, etc. [and I can’t control how the “block quote” works in this thing]
It is impossible to measure these ingredients with consistent accuracy by avoir dupois—that is, volume. Heck, I’ve seen a cup of flour weigh anywhere from 3 to 6 ounces. If you want to measure flour, you have to do so by weight. End of story.
That’s from I’m Just Here For More Food, Alton Brown, Introduction, page 14.
In fact, he continues to praise the metric system for its ease of use in the kitchen on that same page. Check it out for yourself.
Of course, post conversion would entail other measurements in grams. To make the transition easier, a little rounding means that recipes that once needed one pound of chicken, beef, shrimp, or whatever, now need a little less than half a kilogram (one pound=.45 kilograms). Remembering .45 shouldn’t really be that difficult.
I’m still working through the best way to convert my recipes and I’ll share my thoughts once they are better formed.
I also need to address temperature and some other basic measurement issues, but as Alton might say, that’s another blog.