So many mistakes er, experiments


I was fortunate, in a way, to begin cooking very young. My mother worked two jobs and, as the eldest, housekeeping and weekday cooking fell to me. From about 4th grade, I’d done the summer 4-H cooking program, and had tasted the results of my classmates errors. Once you’ve had a cookie made with ½ cup of baking soda, instead of ½ tbsp, you never forget the importance of exact measurement and following the recipe. But I was very creative in the kitchen, and tried out flavor combinations that were never meant to be. Canned sweet corn? Let’s dump in a tsp of ground cloves! Eventually, I learned the value of a crowd-pleaser and started baking a pound cake for my brother and sister every day when we got home from school. We’d have it eaten and cleaned up before mom got home and she’d never be the wiser, except for the huge amount of margarine and eggs we were burning through.

There are so many mistakes just waiting to be made in every kitchen. Mistakes of equipment, whether failures or misuse; mistakes of ingredients, whether mismeasuring or mis-substituting or finding something crucial spoiled; mistakes of judgment. These last are my favorites, and the ones I seem to do best.

1) After candying some grapefruit peel, I couldn’t bear to waste the sugar syrup. So I took it to soft-ball stage, tossed in some cream of tartar and worked it into fondant fudginess. After cooling and shaping and cutting into creamy lozenges, I tried one. OMG! SO NASTY! SO BITTER! Truly, the most awful thing I have ever eaten. I tried two, just to be sure. They started out creamy and sweet and then POW!! Sheer nastiness.

2) Thanksgiving a few years ago, after moving to a new rental place with the worst designed kitchen I’ve tried to cook in, I start the process for pumpkin pudding, which is very involved and ends with steaming the bundt-pan encased batter in a gigantic stainless bowl. Except, the bowl doesn’t fit in the oven; the door won’t close. It’s 5 pm, the night before the holiday, so I decide to try to cook it with the oven door open. By 9 pm, the pudding is still unfinished, the refrigerator door is too hot to touch (it was immediately next to the oven) and the surface of the nearby cabinets has blistered and scorched from the heat. It dawns on me that I have another basin I could use instead of the traditional giant bowl. Doh.

3) There are three May birthdays in our family, within days of each other. One year, I decide to throw one giant birthday party at our house, and I will make each birthday person’s favorite cake from scratch. One carrot cake with cream cheese frosting – check! One white cake with fresh lemon frosting – check! And the final birthday person was me, and my favorite cake – Boston cream pie – was the last one I made. Or, tried to make. I baked the cake layers the day before, and they had turned out just fine. But I decided to assemble and frost the other two cakes before finishing mine. Oh, and make all the things for dinner too. When everyone started arriving, I was just finishing both the custard cream and the fudge frosting for my cake. I rushed too much though, tried to cool the custard in a sink of cold water, didn’t give it enough time, and slopped the whole thing together. Within minutes, it had completely collapsed, warm custard oozing all over the place and then I noticed the fudge frosting was full of lumps because I hadn’t sifted the confectioner’s sugar. Thoroughly pissed off at myself, I tipped the whole disaster into the trash.

4) I signed us up for 2 dozen eggs/week from a local farmer, and paid for the whole fall/winter/spring in advance. Then, family health issues meant we were not home for any weekends for almost 3 months. Eventually I realized we had 12 dozen eggs stacked up in the fridge. I gave a few dozen away, but 2 dozen more came, every week. I started making custard whenever possible, using twice and three times as many eggs as usual. I tried making pickled eggs (which I had never considered eating, personally – they really aren’t bad). We ate scads of hard-boiled, fried, soft-boiled, scrambled, poached, every way you can think of, eggs. I tried making several batches of slow cooked eggs (roasted in a 200 F oven for 24 hours – they taste like pretzels) which didn’t really justify the increase in the gas bill. I investigated possible ways to freeze them (it’s a pain, and not worth it). Thinking back, I can’t believe I didn’t whip several dozen up into pound cakes! Fresh eggs keep in the fridge for 6-8 weeks, and eventually we ate our way through them all. But 3 years later, it’s rare that I’ll seek one out to eat.



One Response to “So many mistakes er, experiments”

  1. iheartbacon Says:

    “We’d have it eaten and cleaned up before mom got home and she’d never be the wiser, except for the huge amount of margarine and eggs we were burning through.”

    My mom told me a similar story of many afternoons with her brothers and sisters making and eating an entire batch of mountain bars before the parents came home!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: