Thursday, May 26, 2011

Trial and Error

“Are you a good cook?” 

This is a question I have been asked a lot recently, mostly because of my new adult English conversation students.  We talk about hobbies and interests.  One of mine-as you have possibly deduced from my previous blog posts-is cooking and baking. 

So am I a “good” cook….? 

I recently read a wonderful book: My Life in France.  This book is Julia Child’s memoir.  If you have not read this book, do.  It is very interesting and just as funny as watching her antics on “The French Chef.”  Watch this video and you will see what I mean. 

Julia Child’s story is inspiring.  The way she wrote about her learning experiences with the language and Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris is amazing.  She takes you through her experiences with vivid descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells. 

I could not put that book down.  Karl had to force me to go to sleep at a reasonable hour every night until I finished it.

At the end of the book, Julia says something that really sums up what cooking is for me: “This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook-try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”

This is so. true.

Trial and error.  Sometimes I make great food. Sometimes ok.  Sometimes inedible.  Cooking and baking is truly an ongoing learning process.  But that is what makes it so much fun.

A few months ago, I was dying for some good homemade bread.  Now, I can make bread.  However.  We have a small convection oven/microwave.  And thank GOD we at least have that.

I had a thought.  Bagels! I can make bagels.  So I found a recipe and got to work. 

Things were going along marvelously…until my own stupidity got the best of me.  I wish this was a better, more exciting story.  But no.  It’s not. 

Have you ever made bagels before?  This was my first time.  For those of you who have not attempted this feat, I will briefly explain one of the steps.  After you have shaped the dough into your bagels and they rise for a bit, you are supposed to place them in a pot of boiling water and then put them into the oven to bake. 

Before disaster/my own stupidity strikes, the bagels happily rising.
 Everything was peachy until I misread some directions.  You are meant to boil each bagel for one minute per side.   

I didn’t do that.  I boiled them for ten minutes. Per side.


The bagels on their way to disaster.
 So basically what happened was they disintegrated.  After I realized my mistake, I tried to plow forward with the recipe and bake them.  Ahahaha…it sooooo didn’t work.  But it was worth a try, right? 

No. Not really.  The bagels were gooshy masses of dough that just sort of flopped across the baking pan. 

The moral of the story-read and reread every recipe BEFORE you start cooking or baking. 

As I read Julia’s memoir, I was reminded of my bagel episode.  And how interesting human failure is.  As my father-in-law always says: “Failure is intensely interesting.”  It’s true.  Failure certainly gives life some flavor.

There is always something to learn from mistakes.  But sometimes, the mistakes can still be delicious. I am not sure about you, but I have certainly had my share of “burnt” cookies. ;)

Pin It!


  1. Oh dear. Bagels are finicky things.

    One of my worst cooking disasters was last year. All Ben's family had come down for Christmas and my sister-in-law was planning two turkeys. Now turkeys are rare birds to find here, at least in the supermarket. Since I had done a rather nice one (if I say so myself) for Thanksgiving last year, I was delegated to prepare and cook the two birds.

    Brining went well, I had them all prepped and ready to go. The problem Sarah and I were running into is they have a very small oven, we have a very small oven, our's was too far away anyways, and their's was going to be full from early morning to just enough time before to cook a turkey.

    Notice that? A turkey? A? We had two. So Sarah and I decide that putting both in a giant pan and cooking them like they're a single big bird. Well, we discovered you really shouldn't do that when it was the projected dinner time and there were two nonbrown, raw inside turkeys lurking in the oven. They ended up taking an extra 1 1/2 hours to cook, after taking one out and doing them properly one at a time.

    I was such a nervous wreck, holding back the main dish for my parents-in-law, sister-in-law's family, brother-in-law's family, great aunt, sister-in-law's mother-in-law, and friend's family (total of 15 people) who all insisted that it was all right, that I ended up going and passing out for three hours after the meal.

    tl;dr Don't treat two turkeys in one dish like one big turkey. :/

  2. Oh Kate how you made me laugh!!! LOL I love it...and yes, I certainly have my share of burnt everything! Once you return home, we will have to cook dinner together.