Many people being discouraged by their failures in the kitchen cook nothing but toasts and frozen pizza. But hey, even the best chefs and grandma-level home cooks mess up sometimes! Ingredients might be unpredictable: certain types of flour will not work in bread as well as some other ones, different kinds of pasta or rice might require different cooking time and so on and so forth. The temperature of your kitchen and your oven can also have its influence. Or sometimes you are just not in the mood, passing your worries and anxieties to the meal you cook.
I screwed up a lot in the recent months – had to throw away a pot of fancy Italian black rice which I was cooking for hours and it turned out burnt and undercooked at the same time. I ended up with a spread instead of sliceable cashew cheese because an agar powder hasn’t set properly (still turned delicious though). I also overcooked some seitan in the oven so it was rubbery and impossible to chew or mixed up smoked paprika and cayenne powder while making a raw sausage so instead of a pleasant spicy taste, sausages were painfully burning hot. But all these mistakes haven’t discouraged me from cooking, experimenting and improving my skills. Of course, I did get a bit upset and self-conscious, but took it as a challenge, learning opportunity and moved on to another dish. Or some take away in the worst case – sometimes it is just not a right night for cooking.
In some cases you just have to follow the recipe closely, or be attentive with the ingredients, using salt and spices carefully. But most importantly, you gotta love the process and trust your intuition. If you are freaking out that your pie will get burned, the Universe hears your thoughts and will deliver. So just relax, focus and keep experimenting. If you are in a pinch – aim for simple dishes and maybe don’t cook several things at the same time. If you want to try some complicated recipe or ingredient make sure you have enough time and no distractions. Very often (unless it is burned or too spicy) you can still troubleshoot and transform what you are cooking into some edible meal. For example, if you are making some veggie burgers and they fall apart you can mix it with some noodles or rice, extra veggies and sauce for a delicious stir-fry. Unsuccessful baking attempts can be used for breadcrumbs. Just get creative. Even soup or stew which is too salty can be saved adding a grated potato or oat/rice flakes.
Remember, many great foods were discovered by mistake – tofu, chocolate chip cookies, nachos, tarte tatin and a bunch of others. So keep cooking despite the failures and get playful in your kitchen. And if you are afraid to end up hungry always have some plan B – frozen leftovers, couple bean cans in the cupboard, jar of pesto/pasta sauce, hummus or some other easy foods for a backup.
Let me confess, I managed to kill several sourdough starters. And even though I am still collecting my courage to try it again I am pretty sure that one day I’ll make that amazing sourdough bread. When I am ready and confident when I do my research, but also relax and trust the process. Cooking and baking is magical alchemy!
Cooking, like any other skill, requires a lot of trial and error. It is an exciting process of discovery which will reward you with some delicious results. I challenge you to use something other than a toaster in your kitchen and share your mistakes and success with me!