Tuesday, January 5, 2010

good intention, poor execution

Here's an example of good intention, poor execution.

Of course, like most people, I always intend to eat better once the holidays are over. I also wanted to get back into cooking, since I seemed to have fallen back into my grad school habits since last summer (aka a lot of cheap food, little chopping or use of pans, and lots of carbs). I blame this loss of interest on cancelling my cable and missing the Food Network.

Anyhoo, one of my intentions was to not only get back into cooking, but take out my cookbooks and try some new recipes. Aside from a shrimp and broccoli stir-fry from Cooking Light magazine, I also wanted to try a raspberry pie recipe in Dr. Andrew Weil's book Eating Well for Optimum Health. It also includes an "Easy Bake Pie Crust" recipe.

When making my shopping list, I remembered that a couple of recipes called for sesame oil, so I jotted it down.

You can already see where this is going, can't you.

I decided to make pork chops with a maple-soy glaze instead of the stir-fry, and the raspberry pie for dessert since the easy-bake pie crust also called for maple syrup.

Turns out it also called for sesame tahini.

Further turns out that I never put sesame tahini on my list, either forgetting to or confusing it with sesame oil.

I'm not exactly a bad cook, just an amateur one. Maybe one rung under "amateur" and one over "underpracticed". I've never used sesame oil nor tahini in anything. So the first thing to do was text my wombmate, who is a fabulous cook. When he didn't respond, I went to Google. This answer was the most helpful: "The difference between sesame tahini and sesame oil is like the difference between peanut butter and peanut oil."

Aw, crap.

My wombmate is a whiz at substitutions. Mine don't always go so well. In fact, my substitution blunders have become legendary, complete w/ my wombmate's parody: "I didn't have any ketchup, so I used battery acid instead."

This was supposed to be a healthy alternative pie crust and pie, so what would make a good substitution? Apparently sesame oil was out once I learned the difference between the two. I considered peanut butter, but I had no idea what that would do to texture (especially since I only eat crunchy peanut butter), and I couldn't afford to screw this up 'cause I was down to my last package of graham crackers.

I used butter. Good ol' artery-clogging butter.

Poor Dr. Weil was shaking his head, I just know it. Not to mention my wombmate, who finally got back to me and laughed, as usual. Turns out he had his own blunder after attempting to make caramel ice cream. "It didn't come out," was his only admission.

In my own defense, the pork chops came out marvelous. The pie wasn't so bad either, but I admit that the crust left something to be desired.

There's a reason why so many people use cooking as a metaphor for the writing process. There's a lot of trial and error, playing w/ combinations and substitutions and improvisations along the way, and there are also times when sticking to the recipe is crucial. It's also crucial to laugh at yourself along the way, to have good tools, good support, and to keep trying.

Thank goodness books don't require massive cleanup.

Got any cooking (or other) blunders you'd like to share? Post a comment!


Elspeth Antonelli said...

I haven't had many cooking disasters *knocks on wooden spoon* but I certainly understand how well-meaning substitutions can result in, shall we say, interesting food.

I don't substitute unless I know the recipe, or I know the type of recipe. I'm like most people, I may have a prodigious supply of cookbooks, but I actually use about three.

Writing-wise, I write what comes easiest, which for me is mysteries. I'd like to branch out, but for now I'm sticking to familiar territory.


Verification word: gastoroc (Which is somehow strangely appropriate. It sounds like a word which would be applied for a dish that was meant to be stupendous but went badly wrong,)

Elisa said...

Loved your substitution story on FB! Equally love your word verification def!!


Nezzy said...

Livin' in the middle of Nowhere USA on the Ozarks Ponderosa this farm chick is the Queen of substitutes, some gooooood and some we won't even talk about. Heeeheehe!

Ya'll have a wonderfully blessed day!!!

Elisa said...

Wow -- the Ozarks! Thanks for stopping by, Nezzy!