Advent 2013: Kitchen Misadventures

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I was thumbing through the cookbook Keepers recently, and the authors say one of their strategies for overwhelmed beginner cooks is to recount their own kitchen failures. It helped the novices have more realistic expectations and keep trying. If you're in that place, today is for you. Here's a recap of my day:

1) I made Molly Wizenberg's caramel corn with salted peanuts. Thankfully, it turned out as beautifully glossy and addictive as ever.

2) I poured myself at least 8 cups of coffee which all went cold and missing.

3) I made the custard for my traditional Cranberry Cognac Trifle. Twice. The first time, I used whole eggs instead of just yolks. Big curdled mess. 30 pans and 20 eggs later, I made it right.

4) I finally stopped for breakfast. Leftover black beans and roasted squash from last night with an egg on top. Delicious. I left the skillet on with a silicone spatula in it.

5) I couldn't find my toffee recipe (why didn't I think to look here??) so looked something up online. It didn't include water, which meant it heated up too quickly and became a big coagulated mess. I won't tell you what Wyatt named it since this is a food blog. Dumped that out. A whole pound of butter!

6) Made it again. This time, perfection.

7) And my kids will remember this one forever. I filled up our ELECTRIC teakettle with water, put it on the gas burner, turned it on high and walked away. Wyatt alerted me to a fire a minute later and to the rubber dripping all over the stove. The whole house still smells like an electrical fire, and I can hardly function 5 minutes without that kettle. This will probably be the highlight of the kids' Christmas.

8) Also made cranberry jam, cognac syrup, and sponge cake for the trifle.

9) Yancey suggested we go out for dinner. Love that man.

And then we put on our headlamps, took the dog, and went for a night hike. Much as I love my kitchen, it felt wonderful to be out of it, under the stars, laughing about all the days catastrophes.

I haven't had a day like that in a long time. It reminds me why cooking is so frustrating or terrifying for lots of folks. You spend money on ingredients, a crapload of time trying to get it right, and end up dumping the whole thing in the garbage.

But Emily was still here keeping me company, and I got to flit around while Wyatt played games with Yancey and Loretta painted her fingernails. I guess that's worth a lot more than perfection.