Misadventures in the kitchen
Many express frustration over difficulties in cooking and baking. Not surprising–we put so much stock in food and when it doesn’t turn out, there’s either disappointment, shame, embarrassment, or self-doubt (I usually experience some combination of these).
Such kitchen-failure-induced self-hatred is unwarranted, of course. Any number of things can mess up your food. Sometimes, the culprit is an outsider of the backseat-driving kind. This past Thanksgiving, my husband and I were preparing the turkey, as we’ve done for the past few years. My mother and one of my aunts kept expressing doubt over our cooking method, even though it’s tried and true, is well-liked, and is often requested for social gatherings. Worried that I intended to serve raw bird to the family, my aunt kept insisting that we “check to see whether it’s cooking properly,” which elicited an eyeroll from me several times. “I’ll check it at 11:00, it’ll have been roasting long enough by then, stop worrying” I reassured her several times. My husband and I ran out to the store to buy something and when we came home, we found the turkey with a big gaping hole where my aunt had decided to cut into it during my absence without my permission, the roasting pan now full of liquid–the precious juices that had completely run out of the bird, never to go back in. I was livid, and didn’t look at or speak to her for the rest of the afternoon.
Sometimes, the culprit is you. Sometimes you just…overthink it. Way too much. Two weeks ago at my book club meeting, my best friends and I were laughing hysterically and gasping for breath, listening to our dear Monica tell us about her recent baking disaster. She wanted to cheer up her husband who had been under a lot of stress lately, so she decided to make him cookies. She bought ready-to-bake dough and some big I LOVE U shaped cookie cutters. She laid out her supplies and studied them. Red flag #1: (which she was not aware was a red flag at all) she had three packs of the wrong kind of dough–the one pictured below, which is already perforated and cut into rows for pull-apart-and-bake-right-away action:
Though she didn’t realize she had the wrong kind of cookie dough for cookie cutter use, she did figure that this already-perforated dough had to be altered in some way to fit her vision. Her solution? She opened the three packs of dough and balled and kneaded them all together to make a giant, perforation-free ball of dough.
Problem #2: The cookie cutters…. What do you do with them? How do you use them? Monica thought the issue over and over. Her (over)thinking led to the conclusion that cookie cutters are meant to be used as molds. That is to say, shapes that ought to be filled with dough. Satisfied with her thought process, she placed the giant cookie cutters on a baking sheet and began to stuff them with chunks of the dough. Once the three cutters were completely filled with cookie dough (roughly thirty-six-cookies-worth), she carefully removed the cutters, doing her best not to mess up the tall I-LOVE-U shaped stacks of dough. She popped them into the oven.
She checked them about fifteen minutes later, and was puzzled that the cookies weren’t cooking properly. She added more and more time on the clock until baking eventually took up the better part of an hour. The shape of the cookies wasn’t very apparent when all was said and done–her husband had to ask her what the cookies’ message was–but he was touched nonetheless and ate his cookies, which proceeded to give him 24 hours of awful digestive ailments, most likely because the dough was essentially raw, and because he ate three bags-worth of cookies.
“My next attempt is a cake!” Monica told us cheerfully. My best friend is a brilliant woman with two master’s degrees who works at an international bank; (sh)it happens to the very best of us. Her response to our raucous laughter? The following disclaimer with a smile: “I never claimed to be Betty Crocker.” She remains undeterred and well intentioned. And so should we remain in 2011 with all our endeavors in the kitchen.
***Photo credit: “Cookies gone wrong” by xikita