“Oh it’s nothing like the picture.”. “Not my best effort.” “I should have used x / made it with y / cooked it for longer.”
Stop. Please. If you’ve cooked something, that deserves praise. If you’ve made something to share with friends or family, they are loving your kindness, not judging whether your lemon chicken bake is a faithful-in-every-detail recreation of Yotam Ottolenghi's or your chocolate cake looks as good as Nigella Lawson’s.
Indeed, Nigella Lawson certainly isn’t judging you. In an article published last year on the website Lenny, the celebrated TV star, domestic goddess and maker of excellent chocolate cakes urges home cooks to “stop apologizing, desist from outlining the ways in which our talents, abilities, and output fall short”.
We couldn’t agree more. Whether you cook for basic sustenance, to show love for others, to flex your creativity or for the sheer joy that cooking brings, we hope it never makes you feel apologetic.
Sure, we all have dishes that aren’t quite what we intended. And everyone has a total kitchen disaster every so often. And owning up those disasters helps other folk feel better when they forget something is on the stove and turn it to charcoal, or drop a hot jar of strawberry jam on the floor, sending bright pink splotches everywhere, including a two-metre swathe of the ceiling (yes, this has happened. Little random pink spots were found for days…).
If you’re hanging with peeps who share your passion for homemade sourdough / kimchi / vegan bacon / insert your particular culinary passion then having a debrief about what went right and wrong and what you might do differently next time is all kinds of fun.
And saying “it’s not as good as my mum’s” or “I can’t quite make it like my nonna” – well, that’s not an apology. It’s perfectly understandable! After all, when we recall great food that our mothers, fathers or grandparents or made for us, those taste memories come with a side serve of love. And a few decades more of cooking experience went into those dishes too!
But we’d love it if everyone was kind to themselves about their cooking. Next time your cake sticks when you turn it out of the pan or your pavlova cracks or goes oozy, remember that a ) what the people you are feeding appreciate most is the fact that SOMEONE IS COOKING FOR THEM; and b ) a lot of “disasters” can be saved.
A dropped jar of jam – nope, that’s gone. But a bit of creativity can turn “oops” into “that was great”. You know how a cat has a spectacular trip when chasing something and then gives you that “What? I totally meant to do that” look? It works for food too. That not-quite-right pavlova? You can hide a lot under whipped cream and fresh fruit, but if it’s really sad, you can break it up and layer with custard or cream and some fruit to serve as a parfait or Eton mess. Something fell apart, or got burnt on the edges? Scoop it into ramekins to create individual serves, or if it's a cake or slice, use a cookie or scone cutter to cut out shapes and serve those.
Eton mess - like this dulce de leche version - is basically good things layered in a glass, a great way to save something that didn't turned out as you planned.
And then present it with pride. Whether you talk about the disaster or not is up to you.
If making yourself smile can help you deal with stress, and “fake it ‘til you make it” can be an effective way to become better at things you do, including work (author Justin Bariso does a nice job here of explaining why it’s not about being a fraud, but becoming a better you), then why not apply it to food as well?
Comparing home cooks with chefs, Lawson writes “the spontaneity of the home cook is by contrast gloriously anarchic. Don’t apologise for that: revel in it.”
Paella is a one-pan wonder. Its trademark soccarat - that crunchy layer of rice at the base of the pan - infuses the saffron rice with a caramelised flavour. After five hours in the oven, the lamb will literally fall off the bone, and the aromas that fill your kitchen will have you coming back to this gorgeous roast again and again.
Paella is a one-pan wonder. Its trademark soccarat - that crunchy layer of rice at the base of the pan - infuses the saffron rice with a caramelised flavour.
After five hours in the oven, the lamb will literally fall off the bone, and the aromas that fill your kitchen will have you coming back to this gorgeous roast again and again.