I used to think I was a terrible cook. Any time I tried making something, it always came out awful. I had a failure rate of about 95% with new recipes.
Then I realized that it wasn’t that I was a terrible cook. It’s that this is what “cooking” means.
As bloggers, we tend to choose anecdotes from the far ends of the bell curve. We proudly display our successes and bemoan our disastrous failures. It’s only natural – that’s the stuff of high drama, the stuff that makes the best stories. But real life lies in that big middle part of the curve.
In cooking blogs, you only see the successes. Prepped and gleaming, looking too perfect to eat. And you read about the occasional failure. But you don’t hear much about the “meh” results, the stuff that just didn’t quite turn out for one reason or another.
It gives someone like me the wrong idea! And I think a lot of knitting blogs do the same, which gives entry-level knitters the wrong idea. Both knitting and cooking are basically the process of creating mediocre semi-failures, analyzing what you did wrong, and doing it over again only better.
Last weekend I made cheesecake for the first time. I have learned to make “first time” recipes for myself at least a week in advance, because they usually fail. Such was the case this time.
In hindsight, half the problem was the recipe. I would have thought Paula Deen would know her way around a cheesecake. Looking back now I can see that the recipe is to blame for the cooking problems (it scorched at the edges from baking too long at too high a temperature), the blandness, and the could-be-better graham cracker crust. (Most other recipes have you bake the crust first, before putting in the filling.)
And on the “one-off problems” category we have the issue of cloves. Turns out I didn’t have any ground cloves, so I hand-ground some whole cloves in a mortar and pestle. Not super successful with that. Every once in a while you encounter a big chunk of clove.
But the biggest, most objectionable problem is squarely my fault.
At a certain point as I was mixing it I just gave up. “These little cream cheese blobs will surely melt into the rest of the batter as it bakes,” I thought.
But they didn’t, and now it looks like scrambled eggs, or maybe cheesecake filled with boogers. And also it is a dead ringer for the stuff my cats throw up on my carpet.
But next time? Next time I’m gonna crush it! And when people ask about it, will I admit that I made a few bad ones before I finally got it right? Oh my, no. And the cycle of “editing out the failures so I look better” continues.