|Improvised citrus squeezer|
No plan survives contact with the enemy.
Ominous gray clouds hang over Put-In-Bay. It rained all morning, and every now and again I feel a few seconds of sprinkles before it stops again. The wind alternates between gusting and light breezes.
I'm grilling burgers for my brother-in-law's birthday. The grill is a metal box on a post, with the grill grate attached by a short chain. The kind of grill built so it can't be stolen, not so it's easy to use. My Weber kettle and my chimney starter were left behind - we got here by boat, and we only brought the essentials - the food and beverages we needed for the picnic.
*Don't forget the beverages!
I'm trying to light a pyramid of charcoal using wadded up newspaper as the starter. After a few failed attempts, I realize the ashes on the bottom of the box are soaked. The paper is absorbing the water, and not staying lit. After a quick trip to the island market for lighter fluid, and the addition of a shredded visitor guide, I get the coals going…barely.
An hour and a half after we arrive, the fire is going. The open side of the box is facing the wind, and the heat is blowing away from the burgers. Eventually, lunch is served…except for me. There wasn't enough room on the grill, so I have to cook one last burger for myself. The heat is almost gone, so I put the grill grate right onto the coals to finish cooking my lunch.
Hopefully, your weekend of cooking went better than mine. I'm not just writing this to complain. (Really.) There's a lesson here. Cooking doesn't always follow the script. Just because the recipe has timings down to the second (turn after 2 1/2 minutes), doesn't mean the food will cooperate.
Cooking has so many variables - what kind of grill is it? How thick is the bottom of the fry pan? Is it a humid day, and the bread's going to rise slower? Are these steaks cut thinner than the last batch?
And those are normal variables. What if something goes wrong? A forgotten cup of flour, still sitting on the counter after all the ingredients are supposedly in the batter. Pork chops that refuse to brown. A stir-fry, interrupted by a howling kid with a scraped knee. No butter in the fridge or freezer, and the recipe needs a half a stick.
|Don't leave the cedar plank with the brie|
directly over a lit burner, or it will go up in flames...
If there are any beginning cooks out there, remember, things go wrong in the kitchen. Even for a food-obsessed blogger like me, someone who lives and breathes cooking, things go wrong. That's OK - it's part of the process.
And, I love it when things go wrong. Not when I'm standing there, cursing myself for forgetting to buy more butter. I love the moment when I stop blaming myself, the gears start turning, and I start working on a solution.
*We're out of diced tomatoes? How can I make salsa without tomatoes…what kind of an idiot doesn't keep a pantry full of diced tomatoes…oh, wait that's me. Now what? I've got it. The peaches from the farmers market - peach salsa!
Figuring out a way forward, so dinner can go on, turns a meal into a victory. It feels great, working around complications, hurdling obstacles, finding substitutions. Maybe it wasn't what you meant to do, but it came out all right in the end. You adapted, and the meal survived. Excellent!
|No mortar and pestle? No problem.|
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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