I just made muffins. I sorta followed a recipe, but the recipe wasn’t gluten-free or egg-free, so I kinda ran with it and did my own thing. How many times have I made muffins that have come out just fine without me following a recipe? But you know what? I didn’t really make muffins, because they didn’t really come out as muffins. They were wayyyy too gooey even after nearly an hour of baking, even though they seemed the right consistency going into the oven.
This usually doesn’t faze me anymore. I don’t usually cry over a failed recipe unless I have dinner company arriving in 10 minutes—and sometimes, not even then, anymore. There was The Great Chili Disaster of 2008: I forgot you can’t cook beans in acidic water, and I put the beans in the same time as the tomatoes. I didn’t remember until I’d wasted a lot of ingredients (beans, meat, corn, tomatoes, gf beer, spices) and company was due any minute. Company arrived—laughed, commiserated. We discussed possible remedies. We discarded them. I threw away the chili, and we went out to eat.
I’ve accepted that being gluten-free and allergen-free means you have to roll with it. It means I waste some ingredients, yes, and it definitely means I waste some time. But it’s also true that those wasted ingredients and that wasted time are, in another sense, not wasted at all, because they often lead me to new understanding. Failure can either set us back or teach us, right? Certainly, it’s sometimes both. I prefer to try, to try, to think about the growth and not the setback.
That doesn’t mean I never get frustrated. Last week, I wanted to make a hazelnut pear cake as one of my fall recipes. I can’t tell you how many loaves and pans of pear cake I made (the texture was all wrong, seemingly no matter what I did, and I tried a huge number of variations) before giving up and moving on to another idea. The next morning, I knew the kind of pie crust I wanted to create for the magazine article. I was a day behind after wasting a day on the pear cake with no usable result. I proceeded to spend the next 14 hours making pie crust, sometimes baking it with a filling, and always throwing it away. At 11 p.m., my back, arms, and legs ached; it was well beyond being fun anymore. Fortunately, when the 11 p.m. iteration came out of the oven and I bit into it, I went, “This is it.” Finally. My husband agreed. Yesterday, when I used that same pie crust recipe for the groom’s ‘pi pies’ at the reception of a friend’s wedding, people were shocked to learn the pie was gluten-free, and they—truly—gobbled it up. The 14 hours of experimentation was worth it just for that, not to mention for the tasty treats that that pie crust will offer my future.