At some point in our lives, we all have to learn to cook. There’s just no getting around it. If you want to live for any length of time after leaving the nest anyway. How we learn, or how much we learn, depends on what our taste buds are willing to tolerate. For some people, a plate of boxed mac and cheese and a hot dog is all it takes to make them happy.
I am not one of those people…
Nope. I enjoy good food, and wanted to learn to cook from a very early age. But it was from that very early age that I realized that even adults weren’t always successful in the kitchen.
One of my earliest memories is of my uncle and his wife babysitting my siblings and me. He thought it would be a good idea to make some fudge (we thought it would be a good idea, too). Only this fudge wasn’t exactly fudge as we knew it. The consistency was more like a really soft taffy that you had to eat with a spoon. It was a very delicious mistake. In fact, every now and again I try to screw up my recipe so it will turn out like that. So far I haven’t had much luck with it.
Next on the list was a Saturday morning cooking class my mom signed me up for when I was in the third or fourth grade. It was just kind of a fun thing the school offered, but I loved it.
Each girl was supposed to bring in one ingredient for the recipe we were making that particular week. I got to bring flour the day we made chocolate chip cookies. The teacher instructed us every step of the way, from mixing the batter to spooning it onto greased cookie sheets. Only problem is, she forgot to have us add my flour. Made for an interesting first batch…
Maybe it was those early experiences, seeing recipes both exceed and dash expectations when not followed correctly, that led me to a whole lot of experimentation in the kitchen.
I’ve turned into a pretty good cook, so obviously I managed to do something right through the years. But I have to admit that there were some spectacular failures along the way.
For instance, my first try at making a pizzeria style pizza.
Way back when, in much the same way bakery cakes were few and far between (remember The Worst Birthday Ever?), so it was with take-out pizzas. We didn’t get them very often so, of course, it was high on the ‘need to have’ list.
I don’t have a clue why I thought oregano was the key to magically turning a homemade, Appian Way pizza into a pie worthy of Little Caesar (which was really, really good back then), but there you go.
My oldest younger brother and I made pizzas for the family every Friday night, and one of those nights I seriously wanted take-out. So I decided to put my theory to the test, generously sprinkling the sauce with oregano (can we say green?). Mom caught me before I could doctor up more than one, and that’s the pizza I was stuck eating from. Let’s just say I learned the hard way that oregano wasn’t the magical key.
Don’t start thinking that this was my only learning experience with that spice though. Because my next run in with it made the pizza look good.
This lesson came after I moved away from my parent’s house. And this time it was my first batch of homemade spaghetti sauce. Because I hadn’t wanted my mom to know I’d used a heavy hand again (extremely heavy), I wound up calling my grandma to find out what I should do…because…well, there are no words to describe how green the sauce was. She said I could add an additional gallon of tomato sauce, if I didn’t mind eating spaghetti for a month, or just throw it away and start over. Unfortunately she mentioned it to my mom, who has a memory like an elephant, so I still hear about it occasionally even now.
It was a good five or six years after that before I bought another bottle of oregano…
An early attempt at chicken stew…with cauliflower added for extra veggies didn’t go over very well either. I can still summon memories of the horrible taste if I think about it very long. Which is why I rarely think about it. Who wants to remember something that nasty?
But there is one experiment I love thinking about. One that will make me laugh until I have tears in my eyes, even to this day. It happened when I moved back home for awhile.
It was one of those days when nothing sounded good and, for some reason a box of dry soup mix caught my eye at the grocery store. I picked it up to read the recipe on the back. Hmm. It sounded pretty good, so you just know I had to give it a try. And I was so excited about it. The second my dad got home, I met him at the door and told him I’d tried something new for supper.
The expression on his face was a cross between, “Oh please, God, not again,” and “Just shoot me now.” There was also some muttering going on, to the effect that it had better not be as bad as my last disaster.
I have to give him credit though because, much as he was dreading it, he sat down at the table, resigned to choking down another ‘science project’ of mine. Lucky for him it wasn’t one of my less successful experiments. In fact, there was such a look of relief on his face when he realized that it actually did taste good, that it was almost pitiful.
Yes, I still experiment in the kitchen. But I’ve learned from my mistakes, and usually turn out meals that won’t result in the need for medical intervention, or anyone having to hug a toilet for awhile.
Can’t say I like beer, cause I’ve never acquired a taste for it, but this seems to go along with kitchen disasters quite nicely.
What about you? Have you ever turned out a dish that was so bad you’ll never live it down? What about happy accidents? Something you thought you’d ruined, but has now turned into a family favorite?