Oct 2, 2009

Cooking really isn't so different from life...

melted pyrex dishI, like a lot of people who must depend upon my own culinary abilities if I want to eat, like to try out new recipes. The bulk of the recipes I learned growing up were Southern dishes (fatty, starchy, and delicious) and quickie foods (cheap, easy, and heavily processed) that, while often tasty, are not always good for you. And if the health reasons weren't enough to branch out, then the fact that I love food certainly is.

I'm not the best cook in the world. In fact, until I got my first apartment in college, I couldn't even boil water. (No. Seriously. I nearly burned the house down twice attempting to boil a pot of water to make tea.) And since then, I've had some pretty serious kitchen cooking disasters. In addition to overcooking and undercooking pretty much everything at least once, and accidentally leaving out ingredients or getting a little overly-ambitious with the ingredients, I once exploded an entire meat loaf all over my kitchen. EXPLODED. It went about 10 feet in every direction, and we were still finding errant pieces of pyrex and hamburger meat weeks later.

That being said, I have learned to cook a few dishes and cook them well. My vegetarian enchiladas are legendary, and my boyfriend thinks my meat loaf is the best he's ever tasted (as long as he doesn't have to eat it off the floor. *cough*) And because the possibility of delicious success is always enticing, I keep coming back to cooking, in spite of a few true disasters.

Take this week for example.

Wednesday night, while the boys (I have two male roommates, one being the boyfriend) were out doing other things, I decided to stay home and learn a new recipe. I've been eyeing this recipe for weeks and finally got all the ingredients together to make it. It was a challenging recipe for me. It was the first time I'd ever separated eggs whites from yolks on my own. It was the first time I'd ever even heard of a sabayon. It was the first time I'd ever whipped cream to soft peaks or folded whipped cream into anything. It was also the first time I'd had to improvise a double boiler on my own. In short, it wasn't an easy recipe, and I spent a lot of extra time trying to figure out the right way to do it.

The end results were magical. I was so proud of myself and all of the new skills I'd learned, and the best thing about food is, you always get to enjoy your success. The boys liked it too, and I gave myself a mental gold star for being so darned awesome.

Riding on the high of success, I decided to try another new recipe on Thursday night. I got some butternut squash last weekend at Kruger's on Sauvie Island. I've never cooked with butternut squash before, and I found a fairly simple recipe on Epicurious that I thought I'd be able to pull off with few problems. I had Kellen peel and slice the squash for me (he's my sous chef), and I basically stirred the cream and sage in a baking dish and made sure the squash was evenly distributed before I put the lid on the pyrex dish and slid it into the oven.

30 minutes later, I went to check on it, and...

Disaster. The lid on my pyrex dish was not oven safe. NOT AT ALL OVEN SAFE. Not only had it melted into the squash, I had little pools of red melted plastic all inside my oven. I was horrified. And embarrassed. Why couldn't this have happened the night before when the boys weren't home, and I could have dumped the evidence of my pretty epic mistake in the trash can without anyone finding out? And why had I been so stupid anyhow? I had my reasons (a friend of mine in college had had a plasticy baking dish, and I assumed wrongly that the lid for my pyrex baking dish was made of the same stuff), but it didn't keep me from feeling like a royal idiot. I got pretty upset about the whole thing, and really beat myself up about it.

But then, Max ran to the store to get a back-up side dish so dinner was still pretty tasty, and Kellen lifted my spirits, and the red goo was fairly easy to clean out of the oven. The only bad things that happened were I ruined a dish and still haven't gotten to make butternut squash. (And I probably added another item to the list of Ridiculous Things Katie Did in the Kitchen that No One Will Ever Let Her Live Down.) Oh, well.

Like most things in life, when you try to do something new, sometimes you fail. Sometimes you succeed, though, too, and often the failures are not as bad as they may seem at first. Either way you learn something from the experience. So whether you get delicious fig sabayon, or whether you get red-goo-covered butternut squash, the important thing is to keep trying, keep learning, and don't let yourself get discouraged by failure or the fear of it. Someday, you'll get it right.


  1. Hey! I just did a super random search on 20sb for other bloggers in portland! And I found you, I just love your blog! I think I will follow!

  2. this happened to me once, along with almost setting my kitchen on fire (twice) and having a frozen vegetable bag explode inside the microwave. I feel completely identified with this post because... well... I'm a kitchen mess but I haven't given up on cooking and trying recipies!! I love to eat. Good luck with the next experiment!!

  3. I never cooked until I met Justin. During the first month we were dating I decided to impress him with a home cooked meal of spaghetti with Italian sausage. The sausage was bad as it had been in my freezer forever and the hamburger I was attempting to brown was charred and stuck to the pan. He arrived just in time to help me clean up the mess and ended up cooking the meat for me.

    I've since gotten much better at cooking but I have a bad habit of spilling things...last week I made chili and absentmindedly took the entire lid of the crushed red pepper off - instead of just opening the shaker - and dumped it all over the meat. I spent 20 minutes scraping it all off with a spoon. The good news was it was nice and spicy. The bad news was I couldn't feel my tongue when I was done.

    FYI crushed red pepper loves to stick to raw hamburger.

  4. It's a running joke at work that my best cooking comes from microwave-able meals. I give you props for even making the attempt. I'm jealous of all of the bloggers that take perfect pictures of their recipes.