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Thursday, November 8, 2012

What I have Learned From My Cooking Failures

By Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD

Pot Boiling Over

My husband came home to the feeling of festivity in the air on a Friday afternoon.  My kids were creating pizza masterpieces from the homemade dough I made, I was sipping some wine, and we had fun music playing in the background.

But once the kids left to go play and my husband helped me transfer the dough to the pizza stone, it all went downhill.  The dough didn’t feel sturdy enough and it was clear that we couldn’t move it without destroying it.

“I think we’re going to have to make something else,” my husband said.

“No way — we’re eating it,” I insisted.

We managed to get the pizza on a pan (not the stone) and cooked it in its degraded glory, serving it with salad.  My son, who loves pizza, refused to eat it while my daughter gnawed on the crust.  It was clear this meal was a disaster.

That night I reflected on all my cooking failures.  You see, when I started a family I didn’t really know how to cook.  I ate healthily, putting together simple meals, but cooking for a family was not something I was the slightest bit prepared for.

But I knew in my heart of hearts that to raise healthy eaters, I needed to expand my cooking abilities.  So I dug right in, making my daughter’s baby food and incorporating family dinners around her 2nd birthday.  She’s now 6 so we’ve been doing this for four years.

When I started cooking meals my failures were epic!  I picked recipes that were too complicated and  didn’t match my skill level.  It was not uncommon for me to call my husband on his way home to have him pick up something due to an inedible meal.

But I didn’t give up – I couldn’t.  I soon learned which recipes were more likely to work and which ones would leave me in tears by the end of the night.  I started to build a list of the meals that turned out well and things were looking up.

I couldn’t help but notice, over time, that each cooking failure was leading me to the way of cooking that fit me and my family’s preferences.  So I started looking at these failures as a teaching tool and encouraged the clients I worked with to do the same.

Now, four years later, I don’t just follow recipes, but have started to create my own.  And to my surprise, these are often the ones we like best, whether it is chicken and black been quesadillas, my specialty salad that everyone asks me to bring to parties, or white bean banana bread.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to cook everything well.  After all, isn’t that what family, friends, and restaurants are for?

I may never be good at making pizza dough or roasting a big piece of meat (I overcook it due to my food-borne illness paranoia), but I’ve come to actually enjoy cooking and accept my cooking failures as a necessary part of the process.

How has cooking gone for you?  Do you get scared away from cooking failures or learn from them?

Photo: Pixland

Posted by: Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD at 6:19 am

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