Wednesday, 6 August 2008

It Doesn't Always Turn Out Quite As Expected...

One of the things about trying to cook creatively is that once in a while, things will go wrong. A dish won't turn out like you planned or you may even have a complete disaster in the kitchen. It can be very disappointing. Last night, that happened to me.

I had some pork and apple sausages in the freezer, and I also had some apples in the crisper. I started to think about what I could do with them. I had an idea to do a dish around couscous. (Remember I'm trying to clear out my fridge and store cupboard, so I didn't want to go out and buy potatoes.)

When the sausages were thawed I cut each of them in three pieces and fried them with some olive oil and chopped onion. This is where things started to go wrong. Instead of staying together like many sausages I've used, the meat began to fall apart. So suddenly I appeared to be cooking a sort of hash when that was the furthest thing from what I wanted to do. Adding my chopped apples didn't help. I carried on regardless though and flavoured the dish with a tablespoon of mustard and a dash of cider vinegar. Then I added some prepared couscous. By this time, I was getting pretty upset. My husband insisted I serve the dish though as it smelled absolutely gorgeous.

Well, the dish tasted lovely. But it looked awful. And as a result I felt an utter failure, despite the fact my husband raved about the combination of flavours. Even I had to admit it did taste good - actually really good. But as far as I'm concerned, you eat with your eyes, and I wasn't enjoying that part at all.

I was anorexic in my late teens and even all these years later I still occasionally (okay, often) obsess about food. I still count practically every calorie I put in my mouth, and I hate to "waste" calories eating something I do not think tastes "worth it". So when I have a disaster in the kitchen it's a double wammy, as not only do I feel like I've failed, but I also feel disappointed that I'm eating something I don't absolutely love. So even though my dish tasted good, I got really cross and discouraged.

However, the key to really cooking creatively is not to let one little disaster make you feel diminished in any way, and especially not to let it stop you from taking culinary chances. The kitchen is a place you can be really creative, and let's face it, being creative sometimes means making mistakes.

So the next time one of your dishes does not turn out as planned, learn from my mistake and don't beat yourself up about it. If it tastes good, eat it. If it doesn't, open a can of good old Heinz Baked Beans and have beans on toast and laugh about it. You can have a culinary post mortem the following day. (I'm thinking perhaps if I baked the sausages and then cut them up, adding them to the onion, apple and couscous mix at the end, it might create a much more aesthetically pleasing outcome.) But whatever you do, don't let it discourage you from taking chances in the kitchen and enjoying cooking creatively. If we don't make mistakes we never learn anything.

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