Failing in the kitchen: the key to culinary success

There is no defeat as bitter as failed cooking. After drooling over beguiling recipe photos, spending precious money on special ingredients, and dedicating time and life-force to creating a meal, something went wrong and you are left with an inedible monster.

After shamefully scraping the remains of your meal into the garbage, you stare vacantly at the piles of greasy dishes strewn across your kitchen. Your stomach growls with disappointment, understandably mutinous after seeing all the food you just wasted. Before you try to regain your honor by disemboweling yourself with a vegetable peeler, please consider your options.

You could go ahead and end it now, but that’s going to make an even bigger mess. You could drown your failure in whiskey and fried chicken, but that has the possibility of making even more of a mess than the first two combined.

At this point, you might as well accept this disaster as a necessary step for progressing as a cook.

Every cook worth a roiling boil has been where you are now. Although you rarely see it on TV cooking shows, failure is a fact of cooking.

Sometimes it’s caused by trying out a recipe beyond your skill level, or forgetting to set your timer, or mixing up your sugar and your salt. Many people fail on their first try and just throw their hands up and declare themselves unable to cook.

But do not allow yourself to abandon cooking. Dealing with disaster is an ability that comes from experience, not theory. You won’t recover from this debacle until you cook something successfully.

The path to resurrection requires forgiveness and inspiration. Forgiveness can only come from within, and inspiration can be found by remembering why good food is worth the pain.

Go eat at your favorite restaurant, or grab some convenient frozen pizza at the store. Eating at the restaurant will give you an ideal to aspire to, while the frozen pizza will remind you of the value of learning to cook.

Load up a couple episodes of your favorite cooking show with the understanding that these culinary wizards are only able to cook so well because they have wrestled with failure.

After a few days of recuperation you should be able to boil water without flinching. Try the easiest recipes you know, plain eggs or oatmeal.

Their blandness will spark a hunger in your belly, a yearning for dishes with more depth. With your confidence restored and your resolve now tested by failure, you will emerge a better cook than before.