You Will Fail

Epic FAIL, in fact.

God damn you tasty snack


Picture credit to The Oatmeal and his blog. Also, he wins a free internet.

I’ve talked a lot about the wins that I’ve had with food, seemingly by accident. Fish tacos. Breakfast sandwiches. You must think I’m some sort of extremely gifted food-a-ma-jig sent here to make you feel sorry for yourself and the spawn of your loins (or cats/dogs/gerbils/hamsters) ridicule you mercilessly.

Well, I am here to make you feel sorry for yourself and the ridiculing, of course, but I’m by no means gifted.

In any way.

Need proof? Ask anyone I’ve dated.

Kidding aside (not really), one of the most important things to learn about food simply that, you will fail. Braising bison burgers at home, ordering diver scallops at a barbecue joint, drinking a wine that was slightly corked, you’re going to do something stupid.

And no one cares.

I fail countless times a second in the kitchen. My two personal favorites?

  • Pulling a pan out fresh out of a 400 degree oven and setting it on the stove
    • Then grabbing it with my bare hand thirty seconds later
    • Then grabbing it again another 45 seconds after that
  • Assuming that I don’t need to measure the amount of chili flake I’m adding
    • Then adding Chipotle powder
    • Then adding Ancho powder
    • Then adding a minced Habanero
    • To the same dish

You’re not always going to be brilliant, but the important thing is to try it out. I’m always dissapointed in the amount of times I hear, “I’m just afraid it won’t taste good.”

Actually, that’s the whole point. And if it does taste like the taint of a rain forest boar, well, try again next time. And leave out the zucchini (which often tastes like said boar taint).

I learn a lot from my culinary failures. For example, I once made an African Marinara sauce: my favorite jarred pasta sauce was running low, and I needed something to stretch it out. I recently saw a demonstration of simple African style food that combined peanuts and tomatoes (amongst other things). So I mixed them. It didn’t quite make the cut. But I did learn that peanuts make a fantastic salty/savory background note and can thicken things up beautifully.

Just not marinara sauce…

Side note, Thai Peanut Sauce on it’s own is really one of the finest uses of peanut butter in a sauce, other than smearing it on…never mind.

It’s really about finding what flavors go together for you. Sweet, sour, salty, smoky, spicy: If you like it, everyone else will. And that doesn’t mean you have to stop just because you found a combination you like. Keep tweaking it. I’ve been working on my turkey chile recipe for about ten years, and while I got it to the point I converted everyone I know to turkey chile, and am famous in…Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Vermont, Alaska, Michigan…eight states, and I still don’t think it’s finished. The original recipe may become yours in another post, but, it remains a secret for now.

When you are experimenting, be it a new recipe, or just cavorting about in your kitchen (please wear at least an apron, grease spatter is mighty painful in the nether regions), don’t serve it to guests on the first time out. That’s just asking for disaster. Even though we all had sex the first time without full experience, I’m fairly certain most of sampled it before-hand as a little hors d’oeuvre or amuse bouche prior to partaking in the whole meal.

Practice makes perfect, right?

Well, not in my case — go ahead, ask those dates of mine again. They haven’t laughed this much since, well, that time.


Be your own guinea pig. It’s fun! Moreover, you know exactly what you’re serving your friends (or enemies) and what clearly would make it better. Failure is not the end; it is the beginning. Sure this sucks, but what if you replaced the water used in that soup with chicken stock? Or added in parsnip to increase the sweetness?

The same approach goes for restaurant dining. Order something different that no one else has. Try it out. One of the E-Ho’s (and my friends and family’s) favorite restaurant activities is the, “I’d love a taste of that,” ritual. On the outside it may seem a little unsanitary, but there’s no better way to experience new flavors than having four other flavor combinations to try and dissect.

Sometimes that strategy will backfire, and you’ll find out you could have ordered better. But you’ll learn all sorts of interesting facts about which restaurants do certain types of food best, and how you can recreate and avoid similar pitfalls in your own kitchen (if you so choose to recreate).

True, rarely is failure an option. But Failure needs love too. He’s actually a pretty cool dude once you get to know him, brah.

4 comments to You Will Fail

  • princesszyrtec

    I invented potato chip cookies. In 1979.

    No, really! Growing up, I loved to bake, but we were on a very strict budget, and my mom planned every meal and never overbought. While we rarely threw a thing out, we also rarely had a steady surplus of staples.
    Thus I found myself one summer afternoon, with a hankering for oatmeal cookies, pawing through the cupboards, not unlike the polar bear in my ferocity for MOAR SUGAR! I began to pull the essential ingredients and started mixing things up in the bowl. We didn’t have enough flour, and we had no oats.

    My first thought was “cornflakes” as a binder, but the crumby remnants at the bottom of that Kellog’s box were for mixing up with Raisin Bran and Lucky Charms, if and when my mom purchased more at Food Town.

    Bread? Oddly, that was one thing that often went stale in our house. We weren’t big on the bread. Possibly it was the fact that it was white bread, i.e. sticky paste. I stopped eating paste in kindergarten. Oh wait – I didn’t eat paste when I was five, I stayed over at my grandma’s and she made me chicken livers sauteed in wine based on her Julia Child’s cookbook.

    But I digress.

    I finally found an opened bag of chips in the bottom cupboard and poured the whole thing into the bowl. Not very thickening, those thin, thin greazy chips…

    As I spooned the runny mixture onto the greased baking pan (I know, I know) I thought “this can’t have a happy ending…” That’s a lie. I actually thought “I can’t wait till these are done so I can gorge myself on cookies and I hope my sisters don’t come into the house and try and take any.”

    Yeah. It was like that.

    I must have cranked the oven to over 400, and I watched as the spoonfuls spread. And spread. And spread.

    After some time, I took the pan out. The cookies (cookie) covered the entire surface, was exactly 3 millimeters thick, and resembled a sheet of greasy vinyl more than any crisp cookie.

    Then it began to separate and pull apart. Quickly.

    Just as quickly, my sisters came in and I made them my guinea pigs. With spoons.

    They were delicious. Sweet and salty, every last mouthful of potato chip cookie.

    If failure tastes that good, how can it be wrong?

  • Queendopple

    I cannot wait to have you whores cook for me this summer. I also cannot wait to visit a farmers’ market, or even shop in a grocery store with the ability to paw through the shelves and read labels. But I should return with a taste for moose and the knowledge of how to make home brew.

  • princesszyrtec


    As I sit here with my mom, discussing former culinary arts skills possessed by her and her mom, Top Chef re-runs are re-running on Bravo.

    The episode? The Muppets – yaaaaayyyyy! (I love Elmo, sincerely I do)

    So the first challenge is to make cookies, which makes the Cookie Monster very happy.

    One of the contestants proceeds to process a bag of potato chips to incorporate into his dough.

    He winds up being the winner, judged by the Cookie Monster and awarded $5000.

    I am vindicated.

  • […] how I said you will fail? As usual, I […]

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