Five Things I Learned from Food TV: Day 4 - Enjoy Your Mistakes
Thursday, December 14, 2006 | posted by Mike
I get frustrated easily. (Mrs. TVFF.com is nodding her head as she reads this)
I like when things go according to plan and everyone is happy with the outcome. This is true at work, at home and, especially, in the kitchen. Of course, the world being what it is and me being somewhat less skilled than Thomas Keller, sometime my attempts at dinner turn out a bit less than perfect.
When I am cooking with the aforementioned Mrs. TVFF.com, there is sometimes a bit of confusion when we try to tag team a particular recipe. Something or other will be simmering away and I'll say, "Toss in a teaspoon of dried thyme."
Now, Mrs. TVFF.com is, by nature, a baker. I do the majority of the cooking in the house. So, as a baker, when I tell her that we need a teaspoon of something to be added, she reaches for the measuring spoon. Of course...if a cake recipe calls for a level tablespoon of baking soda, you put in exactly one level tablespoon. If baking is a science, then cooking is an art. And an art where the cook can feel free to color within the lines only when it suits his or her whim.
I'll usually grab the thyme, measure out something vaguely resembling a teaspoon and toss it into the pan. But I'm only confident enough to do this because I have learned to embrace the mistakes I have made in the kitchen.
I would love to be able to sit down, memorize a recipe out of a book or off of the Internet and recreate it perfectly in my own kitchen. I can't do that, though, and the reason for it is one that I heard time and again from TV chefs. You have to take into account a million different variables and apply your own judgement. And then, if something goes wrong, throw it out and try again.
As I said, I've internalized this mindset and become at peace with the continued mistakes and missteps that happen from time to time. But the point was really reinforced when I was reading through Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, which I recently received. After explaining how to make Bearnaise sauce, he tells you that, if this is your first time making it, you probably screwed it up, so go ahead and throw it out and try again. Bourdain does not think any less of you as a chef for this and he's not assuming that you're incompetent (although you may be).
He just knows that becoming a good cook is a task that requires both successes and failures. The important thing, and the thing that I have learned, is to make sure that you enjoy the process of cooking and that you can appreciate when things go well and when things go wrong. When it comes to my cooking "mindset," this might be the most important lesson I've learned.
And I learned it by watching food TV.
Labels: Anthony Bourdain