Fudge Metaphor

I started this blog to celebrate, in a lighthearted way, the disasters of everyday cooking and supermarket food. But sometimes a photo sums up the darker side of life. Like this gem from my friend Vanessa, who was trying to make fudge. It strikes me as a perfect summary, in culinary form, of the past few weeks. Because sometimes you think you’ll get smooth sweetness, but you wind up with grotty, crumbly failure.


Chocolate crepes

It’s common knowledge that the first crepe always comes out looking a bit wonky. Reader Jen sends in this picture of her attempt to make chocolate crepes. On the right are crepes 1 to 4, on the left is the final, glorious, crepe 5. With strawberries and maple syrup though, all mistakes are edible.

Breakfast mush

My facebook friend Susan knows from good food. Like, she really knows from good food. But she also gets that sometimes food is not about how it looks. Like this post bike ride breakfast mush I’ll let her describe:

Bad food that tastes so good. Because. Sustenance. Terrible plating makes it taste even better. Scrambled Farm eggs (cooked slowly following the French method), crappy supermarket chorizo, and hash brown cooked rendered chorizo fat.

What makes this a standout dish is the technique — scrambling the eggs gently, only to throttle them with a meaty, fatty, goopy topping. Also, that it looks terrible, but probably tastes amazing.

A lot of the people I ask to contribute hesitate. “But it was really good,” they say, “even if it looked ugly!” That’s the point. Food gone wrong is often very, very right.

Lentil dreams

I will let my friend Mary Kate tell this story:

This is what happens when you try to make delicious Mediterranean food in a tiny town in the Midwest, with not the best selection of products. After not really cooking for a few months.

First, you see a beautiful recipe with lentils. Then you can’t find the lentils mentioned, and end up with the lentils you can find at the Kroger. You cook, starting to feel trepidation. The lentils do not look like the picture, but hey, there’s still a bunch of steps.

So you persevere. Then you take the eggplant out of the broiler, where they said to put it for an hour. It is glowing. This is not good. Still, you’re not eating the outside. You put in the last of the veg to bake. Luckily the eggplant’s insides look better than its outsides. A minor mishap has you put more red wine vinegar in the lentil mush rather than the eggplant, but you recover. You persevere.

The carrots. Will not. Cook. Note, this was supposed to take an hour and is now well on its way to two. You finally say, whatever! And decide they are done. You’d put the lentil/mush into the oven to keep it warm for a minute, but had just taken it out. A slew of expletives later, you realize you left the fork in them in the oven too. (Burn still hurts four hours later).

You assemble veggie’d mush, plop some eggplant on top, and finish with a dollop/pool of creme fraiche.

By some miracle the result is delicious, but clearly perfect for food gone wrong.

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Dog puke chicken?

I’ll be straight with you. A German-language Caribbean cookbook, published in Munich in 1987, and found in my local free book box recently, is not the most confidence-inspiring object. I had even less faith in it when I read the introduction to find the author assuring me that all the well-stocked grocers of the land carry ingredients such as fresh coconuts, chayote, ackee, and plantains. (To those of you not in Germany: three decades later, most well-stocked grocery stores would not have those things. Maybe fresh coconut. Sometimes. Maybe.)

But I made this chicken in mango-lime-rum sauce anyway, and it was so ridiculously good. I posted the photo on facebook, and a friend wrote that it looked exactly like some dog vomit her dog ran across, ate, and then vomited up again.

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Vegan pizza tots

My friend Frances is a vegan and a passionate cook, but even in the lives of great cooks, some failure must come. For example, when a quinoa-and-olive-based recipe for pizza tots results in bland, tooth-breaking nuggets of horror.

“The baked quinoa was like eating sand,” says Frances, and adds, “did I mention that they look like the turds of a dehydrated terrier?”

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