I would just like to take a minute to admit that I sometimes create atrocious concoctions in the kitchen. My desire to be creative and adventurous often leads to disaster, although usually it still looks delicious (prompting me to really want to post it on here anyway, so as not to waste the photo.) I know something I have made is destined for the waste bin when I ask my boyfriend to taste it and he takes 3 minutes to summon the response, “It’s, um, good”.
It’s. Um. Good? At least he is trying to be nice, but it is an obviously different answer than the usual silence that comes after a true success…while he is busy rapidly stuffing his face.
Sometimes these kitchen failures leave me with a sort of writer’s block of the culinary variety. I begin to question if I have ever truly made a delicious dish, or if it is all a fantasy I have concocted to trick my taste buds into eating the inedible.
The meal I created last night was such an unbelievable failure that I have begun to question my sanity (and if my taste buds are truly connected to the creative half of my brain). The epic response that left my boyfriend’s lips “I would be pretty unhappy if I ordered this in a restaurant.” Now, before you go thinking “what a jerk, why don’t you dump that tosser” I should mention that his comment was prefaced by me saying , “if I ordered this in a restaurant I would send it back,” as I scrapped my dinner onto his plate.
I then tried to salvage the one part of the meal that wasn’t terrible, and ended up drowning it in a sauce that was the color and consistency of crude oil mixed with bird seed. Deeper and deeper into the pit I fell…simply because I needed something to post on this blog!
The biggest lesson I have learned since I created Food Less Traveled is that you just cannot force culinary creativity. The more pressure I feel to create something delicious and innovative, the less I am able to tune into the unique epicurean creativity that runs somewhere beneath my skin. The truly great dishes I have made in my lifetime have come from a spark in my veins as I glance a golden yellow beet and an overflowing basket of plump purple raspberries serendipitously placed next to one another in a farmers market stall, or the surprise I sense when I suck watermelon juice off of fingers that had only moments before been ripping apart basil leaves. But even when I am not forcing a dish I still can create a truly awful mess, one that I would never feed to my worst enemy (but will feed to my boyfriend because he wouldn’t dare hold it against me.)
So what is it that leads me to cook these terrible meals? Is it simply that my skills in the kitchen are sub par? Is my persistent creativity really nothing more than a fools folly?
No, it is the fact that just because I have never seen something done before does not mean I am the first to try it. The biggest possibility is that someone else tried it, and failed, and had their boyfriend say “Its, um, good.” The biggest possibility is that whatever brilliant brainwave-tingiling thought I have just had is actually quite a horrible idea.
So what am I left with? Should I stop experimenting altogether? Choosing rather to stick with the tried and true, occasionally substituting dried cherries for raisins but never really breaking new ground? Or do I instead accept the inevitability of a failed attempt at dinner every so often and continue to mix like Dr. Frankenstein, hoping that one day I will create a delicious monster?
Me, I choose the latter. I choose to seek new culinary territory and relish my failures. For each scrunched and disgusted face made after the first bite of a new concoction only signifies that I tried to create beauty, and that I will try and try again until I reach a truly delicious dish. And once I have created such a dish I will continue to search for the next, ever wading through the mire of misplaced ideas and drowned dinners until I reach yet another masterpiece.