I’ve always pictured food writers deftly administering to their culinary tasks with ease and calm, knowing exactly where everything is, never forgetting an ingredient at the store, and having a profusion of measuring cups and nesting bowls to dirty without needing to wash them. While I do believe in mise en place and do try to stay organized, this is not always the case, and I’m going to own that I make mistakes in the kitchen, some small, some enormous, and some hysterical.
The most recent near-disaster was this past Saturday. I had invited a few close friends over for dinner. PT and I had decided to spend the day shopping in Wrentham, planned to be back in Boston by 5 and home with the groceries by 5:30 – more than enough time to prep for an 8:00 meal. Well, as they say, I stayed a bit too long at the fair… I don’t want to bore you with details, but Kate Spade was having an unbelievable-we-have-a-major-recession-on-our-hands-and-have-to-get-rid-of-inventory kind of sale, and, well, it was hard to pull myself away.
I began cooking at 7:00, a menu of spaghetti with meatballs and a sherry olive oil poundcake, and still had to get myself ready. Not only was there a time crunch, but PT’s kitchen is not exactly stocked with extra measuring cups, nesting bowls, and other equipment that I take for granted in my own kitchen.
At one point, I did all of the following:
- Creamed olive oil, eggs, and sugar by hand (recipe instructed to use a mixer) in a casserole dish
- Measured 3 cups of flour using a half cup measure from the food processor, which was neither convenient, nor accurate
- Used a salad spinner to strain the pasta
- Used another part of the salad spinner to mix the meatball ingredients
- Unceremoniously ignored the recipes instructions for adding certain ingredients in stages, and just dumped all of them into a bowl, mixed, and poured into the baking pan
- Made whipped cream in a pot, placed in a saute pan filled with ice (no, I’m not kidding)
Given the rogue disregard for convention that I employed in making this dinner, you would think that at least one part of it would have been a disaster, but, it was anything but. Once my hair was dry, guests had a glass of wine in their hands, and we sat down to eat, I found that everything had come out wonderfully. Despite the fact that I was not using the latest, most expensive gadget, that I had skimped on some basic instructions and generally cut corners wherever I could, and even disregarded the baker’s gravitas towards incorporating ingredients, the meal was delicious.
I know that this is going fly in the face of everything you would read, but the moral of the story is, unless you’re competing on Top Chef or selling your creations, don’t stress if you can’t follow directions to a T, have to cut corners, make substitutions, and don’t proceed with caution. As long as you use good ingredients (the one golden rule I won’t break) the results will still be phenomenal.
Now, I’m off to strategically place Williams-Sonoma catalogues around PT’s apartment, so that I never have to whisk sugar and eggs in a shallow casserole dish again.