To be a home cook is to befriend imperfection.
If you've ever...
...accidentally grabbed the sugar when you reached for the salt,
...settled for the lemon when the recipe calls for a lime,
...roughly chopped veggies instead of giving them a pristine julienne (because the kids are screaming or you're hangry or you're just absorbed in conversation with the folks hanging out in your kitchen),
...then you know what I mean.
Imperfection is what sets home-cooking apart from the perfectly plated restaurant meal.
It's what makes us nostalgic for the dish grandma made by wielding her dull paring knife. It's what we invite into our kitchens when we try and learn a new craft through iteration after iteration.
It's what happens when we try to make good use of the apricots getting soft on our counter, while simultaneously providing a nice treat for our in-laws' evening visit, by following a recipe written in a language we haven't mastered that contains a complicated element that we're sure we can 'just figure out.'
Well, at least that's what I did last Sunday.
And in those final seconds – between Bjarke announcing it was time to yank the cake from the oven and him locating the oven mitts – the golden-browned meringue turned into a charred-black crust. Smoke rushed from the oven when we opened the door, and it smelled like those kitchen disasters we've learned to fear. The cake itself was a grizzly sight.
After the initial shock I realized that the burnt part but was just a thin layer at the tippy top of the cake. Not all was lost.
But I was embarrassed by the thought of presenting it to my in-laws. And I definitely wasn't going to take a picture and show you all. I'm supposed to be a good cook, dammit!
Well, a few hours later, I put that cake down in the middle of the table (after preparing our diners for the rough first impression).
And you know what? Everyone had seconds.
And you know what? Here's the picture.
We have become so programmed through our culture that worships restaurants as gods and drools over 'food porn' on the internet that we've forgotten that this is what food looks like sometimes. If you're providing for yourself and others on a daily basis, if you're dabbling and experimenting and growing on this lifelong journey of cooking – this is what it looks like.
Imperfection is the indicator of your bona fide home-cook status. Wear it like a badge of honor.
P.s. If you feel as strongly about this as I do, would you share this post with a friend that may also resonate with it? Of all the things I've written, this is one that I especially hope can reach and encourage a lot of other home cooks out there.