I’ve always fancied myself a good baker. I know that I am okay at cooking, but I love baking because if you follow the recipe, you’re pretty much guaranteed to end up with the product you desire. In high school my friends and I made brownies or cookies or cake pretty much every weekend. We took turns reading the recipe, mixing the batter and risking salmonella poisoning by eating the uncooked dough. Naturally, we had a few disasters.
The first cake I ever made by myself was when I was probably 7 years old. Granted, it was an Easy Bake Oven cake where you simply mixed some water and the chocolate mix together and voila- cake. Unfortunately my Easy Bake Oven was not baking the cake fast enough and after two hours of waiting, my mom finally put the half-baked batter in our real oven. My treat was decent, but I wanted the satisfaction of using my own pink and purple Easy Bake Oven like the girls in the commercial.
My first REAL cake was a few years later. My sister Katie was babysitting me and she got me all the ingredients and measuring tools. I was determined to follow the recipe and make the Hershey’s Chocolate Disappearing Cake BY MYSELF. Unfortunately, in my independence, I forgot one vital ingredient. And as my sister and I bravely tried a fork full of the cake when it left the oven, we instantly recognized my fatal flaw. Sugar. I had forgotten the SUGAR. I was heartbroken because I had wasted all the ingredients on this inedible travesty, and we didn’t have enough eggs to make another one. I was especially miserable knowing that I wouldn’t have this special cake to show to my mom and dad when they came home. Luckily for me, my big sister is a kind superhero, and took me to Larry’s Foodland where we bought more eggs, returned home and together made a delicious chocolate cake.
Then there was the time in high school when my pal Olivia and I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. This was very standard for us. We spent many days making cookies, brownies, pies. I loved baking at Olivia’s house because all the bulk ingredients were in the same cabinet in handy storage containers. We carefully measured out all the ingredients and threw the cookies in the oven. When they emerged we knew something was off. They were sweet but kind of runny. They didn’t have enough substance. Oops! We realized we must have measured the flour incorrectly. So we took a 1/2 cup of flour from the Tupperware cylinder in which it was stored, and added it to the mixture. We threw some test cookies in the oven and watched some YouTube videos while we waited. But again— something was wrong. We still didn’t have enough flour. Had we forgotten to put it in completely? Were we so caught up in discussing the drama from the recent cast party that we completely neglected a primary ingredient? We added more flour, and tried some more cookies. Still not enough flour so we tried it again. And again. We must have added a whole cup and a half of flour to our mixture and the cookies continued to emerge from the oven in a strange meringue-ish type shell. Then we realized. We were not adding flour to the batter. We were adding powdered sugar. The Tupperware containers for the flour and powdered sugar were almost identical, and all this time we were adding more sugar to an already flour-less, sugar-filled cookie disaster. We collapsed on the floor from laughter, threw away the unsalvageable mixture and ate the remaining chocolate chips out of the bag.
So even with baking, there can be disasters. But I guess that’s life, too. Sometimes we go in to a situation with what we think is the perfect recipe. Then, we realize we forgot an important step, we get confused and choose the wrong piece of the puzzle by mistake. Sometimes there are circumstances that are out of control that derail our best efforts. Hopefully, we are able to get help from a sibling or friend, laugh it off, try again, or accept the situation and move on.
Julia Child said “The more you know, the more you can create. There’s no end to imagination in the kitchen.” I think that goes for life, too. The more we learn, even from our mistakes, the more we can create and imagine. The older I get, the more I realize how learning from mistakes, rather than dwelling on them, is crucial. I also realize that life is a zillion times better when we use our imaginations.