cooking by oil

leticiapuravida

Senior Member
USA
English (US) - Spanish (CR)
As I've mentioned in other posts, I am reviewing a textbook meant to prepare students for Cambridge oral exams.

There is a model question that reads: "Do you cook on a stove / by gas / by oil or by electricity?"

I'm having a couple issues with this. The terms separated by slashes (strokes) are meant to suggest terms that might be included in the question, but apart from being a weird question all around, it also feels like weird phrasing (except for the first option):

(a) Do you cook on a stove?
(b) Do you cook by gas?
(c) Do you cook by oil?
(d) Do you cook by electricity?

(a) is just weird because it just seems an odd question to ask. What else would you cook on at home? I suppose you could say you cook using a microwave or a grill or oven only, but.... ?

And (b), (c), and (d) seem oddly phrased to me.

I would more likely ask, "What kind of stove do you have?" But then maybe I've been looking at this too long and it actually sounds OK to others. I would be interested to hear some feedback on this.

Relatedly, I have a separate question about "cooking by oil". I'm not familiar with oil stoves for cooking (at least outside the context of camping/backcountry use). This textbook is full of things that are out of date or just wrong, so it's not always clear to me whether I'm coming up against a contemporary difference between current UK/US usage, or whether the book is trying to use an outdated term.

Can anyone enlighten me?
 
  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    "By" should be "with" or "using." In some parts of this country, people heat their homes with fuel oil / heating oil. Camp stoves are generally kerosene, propane, or something else specific. If someone said "Do you cook with/using oil?", I would assume they were asking me if I fried things or used the edible kinds of oils in my food.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    I would say that (b), (c) and (d) would sound more natural as "cook with ..." rather than by.

    However, "cook with oil" would then suggest using oil to fry with, rather than having oil as the fuel for the stove. I've never come across a stove which actually used oil as the fuel and although such things may exist, it's probably not a good idea to suggest it in a textbook for students learning English. :eek:
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I see nothing at all wrong with any of the options. To "cook by gas" is a perfectly ordinary expression. As for cooking by oil, many thousands of people use oil-burning stoves and it is highly likely that a significant proportion of students learning English will come from countries where cooking by oil is normal. There are plenty of examples of "cook by gas" to be found in Google Books, but I cannot copy and paste text from there.

    The ngram "cook by gas,cook with gas" for BE has low frequencies, but shows that the "by" form is as well established as the "with" form. The links at the bottom take you to the many books which have sentences using "cook by gas".
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Moreover, I don't recall ever seeing an oil-fired cook stove. It seems to me that the smoke would be extreme.

    Anybody"?
    The affluent middle class here have an obsession with the Aga. Many examples are oil-fired, burning heating oil. Paraffin/kerosene stoves have been around for well over 100 years, some using pressurised burners (Primus, 1892), some using wicks. You might note that the address on that third link is "tradeindia.com".
     

    leticiapuravida

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (US) - Spanish (CR)
    Hmm. Well, I confess I'm stumped as to what to do with my text, but I appreciate all the helpful responses here. I, like @sdgraham, was not aware of modern home cooking stoves that use oil.

    It does seem that "cook by" is an acceptable formulation, but I think I may rephrase the entire question/answer in the text. It would sound more natural to me if I split it into two questions:

    What kind of stove do you have in your kitchen? Does it use gas, oil, or electricity?​

    Thanks, all!
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Your solution is much more elegant.
    I would certainly haves stumbled with understanding cook by oil without the insight shared in here.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    What kind of stove do you have in your kitchen? Does it use gas, oil, or electricity?
    But what is the target audience? When I saw your first post I assumed the book was aimed at what is referred to as the developing world. "Do you cook on a stove?" "No, I have a charcoal fire". This was reinforced by "Do you cook by oil?" As is clear from this thread, that's seen as an odd question to ask of a resident of the developed world.

    Without any intention of patronising the potential audience for the book:
    "What kind of stove do you have in your kitchen?" "What's a kitchen?"

    It seems to me that the original has a cultural context which your revision would destroy.
     

    leticiapuravida

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (US) - Spanish (CR)
    A good point. This textbook was written for Hungarian learners of English. "Do you cook on a stove" would be an odd question in this context. But very well noted -- for a broader audience, the assumption that a cooking stove is something that everyone his could easily be culturally inappropriate.
     

    Kirill V.

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Hungary is a pretty developped nation, and I don't think they've had stoves fueled with oil for a 100 years at least, if ever.

    Therefore, I very much suspect that the book was written by not a native speaker of English, and he/she actually meant to ask whether you cooked / fried your food using oil.
     

    leticiapuravida

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (US) - Spanish (CR)
    ...he/she actually meant to ask whether you cooked / fried your food using oil.
    I doubt that. If you look at the original sentence in the original post, your understanding would mean he/she also meant to ask whether you cooked / fried your food in electricity or gas. o_O
     

    Kirill V.

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I doubt that. If you look at the original sentence in the original post, your understanding would mean he/she also meant to ask whether you cooked / fried your food in electricity or gas. o_O
    Not really. Those questions may well have related to different things.
    If this book was written in the times of socialist Hungary, I wouldn't be surprised at all, because I know how poor the foreign language textbokks where in the "socialist camp" back then:D
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    This textbook was written for Hungarian learners of English.
    Then your suggestion seems perfectly reasonable. :)
    Hungary is a pretty developped nation, and I don't think they've had stoves fueled with oil for a 100 years at least, if ever.
    Hmm. The Hungarian company, Kolibri, made this, much less than 100 years ago. The liquid in the bottle marked "Petróleum" is paraffin/kerosene, in other words, "oil".
     

    Kirill V.

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Then your suggestion seems perfectly reasonable. :)
    Hmm. The Hungarian company, Kolibri, made this, much less than 100 years ago. The liquid in the bottle marked "Petróleum" is paraffin/kerosene, in other words, "oil".
    Yes, you are right. I've found other links to this Hungarian thing, too...
    I never heard about these stoves before. This must be a unique Hungarian tradition then:)

    The question Do you cook with oil? is still pretty odd, in my view, as it is a camp stove, so I'd expect something like Do you cook with oil when camping? or something like that
     
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