(Note: This is my answer to Gluten Free Girl’s challenge to finish the above sentence. I hope you enjoy it!)
…not to be afraid of failure.
Early on (and way long before going Gluten-free), I used to become so discouraged when a recipe didn’t turn out like the photo in the cookbook. I’d practically have a meltdown if I got past a step in the recipe and realized that I’d forgotten an ingredient. I remember one particular time that I left the eggs out of the cookie dough and they were actually in the oven when I realized it! You can imagine the results, and my embarassing attempts to add the eggs in AFTER baking. Not pretty at all. Now, when I have a bad result – and believe me, I still do – I at least can blame it on a newly-found poorly-written recipe, rather than on myself!
…practice makes perfect.
Through the years, as I’ve gained experience in the kitchen, I’ve also gained confidence. This was no easy task. When my husband and I were first married and returning home from our honeymoon, we found his mother had left a few meals in our fridge for us to just heat up in those first days of married life at home. I guess she (bless her heart) realized that as newlyweds, we had better things (ahem) to do with our time than cook! Anyway, it seemed easy enough to throw the pot on the stove and heat up the stew, but I even managed to burn our first meal at home! Fortunately, my husband could cook, so we didn’t starve those early years.
Several years later, when we moved out to the country, I could make a few dishes on my own, but for the most part, my husband was still the primary cook in the family. This actually served quite well since when we had our first child he became the stay-at-home parent while I went off to the office each day. I would come home to find a meal on the table, laundry done and a clean house. I know – every woman’s dream, right? Unfortunately, this made it too easy for me NOT to cook!
…to treat cooking like a hobby, not a job.
As the kids grew, and once I began working from home, I had more time on my hands. I used these hours to do those things I enjoyed: scrapbooking, gardening and even cooking! Even though I wasn’t experienced at it, I still did enjoy cooking and relished those occasions when things turned out just right. When I did have failures (like the aforementioned eggless cookie incident), I would just tell myself it was okay and try, try again. Eventually, as I had more and more successes, I became more daring - trying things like Cream Puffs and Lemon Rice Soup. At that time, I considered it a near superhuman feat to add raw eggs to anything hot and have it come out smooth and creamy, rather than curdly and lumpy!
…recipes aren’t all that important!
Once my confidence was firmly in place, I was ready to venture into unknown territory. Certainly, I would always use a recipe as a guide, but if I didn’t have a particular ingredient or spice, I’d freely substitute. Some of my family’s favorites now were the result of a missing ingredient, substitution or improvisation of some sort. My husband’s Love Soup was created entirely without a recipe! He always just “eyeballed” the ingredient proportions, but when folks began asking for the recipe repeatedly, he finally had to pin down some measurements. My (Nearly Famous) Spicy Szechwan Peanut Sauce was the co-mingling of several internet recipes combined with a lack of ingredients. Yet, the result is perfection and an often requested recipe! My Gluten Free Brownies are the adaptation of a recipe off the back of store-brand chocolate chips and Gluten Free Cream Puffs are an easy adaptation of my tried and true Cream Puff recipe that first built my cooking-confidence level many years ago.
…to accept (and believe) compliments about my cooking!
I’m the first to point out my own flaws. That applies to every aspect of my life, not just my kitchen endeavors. And it’s hard at first to quiet the comments that want to flow from my lips “Isn’t it too soft? Too hard? Too spicy? What about the sauce – don’t you think it’s too thin? No? Well then what about too thick?” You get my drift, right? But if somebody – particularly unsolicited – says something nice about something I’ve dished up - I have learned that a simple “Why, thank you!” is not only the most polite response but also much better on the ego!
I’m really greatful to Gluten Free Girl for initiating this challenge. It’s really been good to look back at the lessons I’ve learned which have proven themselves invaluable in my newer foray into Gluten Free cooking and baking. I wouldn’t trade these experiences, both good and bad, because they are all part of the the wonderful journey that led me here, to this blog. Now that I’m ready to share my story and my recipes with you, I just hope you can take away something that can be helpful to you in your own journey!