When it comes to cooking, my philosophy is that anybody can do it. I firmly believe this. Anybody can cook. Not everyone loves it and not everyone wants to do it. But really, anybody can do it. That’s the one lesson we all need to know.
When writing recipes I try to keep them simple for two reasons. Firstly, the simpler the recipe, the more likely people are to try it. And secondly, most people are time poor. Who has 89 hours in their day to make home made filo pastry? Not me, that’s for sure.
Let’s not fool ourselves though. Just because anybody CAN cook, and just because I (like many other food bloggers, celebrity chefs and cook book authors) try to create simple recipes for others to follow, does not mean that everything will always go according to plan.
There is no guarantee that the outcome will always be a success.
The truth is, cooking leaves plenty of room for error mostly due to the reality that there are always so many variables.
For example, Everyone’s ovens are different and have different “hot spots”. One person’s 180 degrees Celsius is another person’s 165. Some people assume all ovens are fan-forced while others assume all are not. “A large handful” of an ingredient can be interpreted in a multitude of different ways.
A recipe may call for an egg – is that small, medium or large? Sometimes people substitute ingredients that just don’t make appropriate replacements. One person’s “mix” is another person’s “fold.” I could go on and on and ON.
The list is endless.
I have had a billion failures in the kitchen. Burns, breaks, shreds, bumps, cracks. The most recent can be seen in the gallery below.
My friend Cass’ little girl was turning one and I was responsible for the birthday cake. Cass had chosen “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” as a theme and had purchased beautiful themed cutlery and plates and lots of other accessories to decorate the venue.
She had also planned a menu that would have put Martha Stewart to shame. Caterpillar sandwiches, boxes of caterpillar food, little labels for everything and even a perfectly piled platter of sultanas posing as Caterpillar poop!
After consulting with Cass, it was decided that the cake should be a large red apple with worms, grass and other garden type props next to it as decoration.
This sounded reasonably basic to me. Immediately I got the idea to do two bundt cakes upside down on each other, covered in red icing and then doused in gorgeous red edible glitter. I would do a green stem that would be a polystyrene cone covered in green icing and green edible glitter. Very straightforward. Or so I thought.
I made one of the bundt cakes the night before (note: being super organised STILL can’t save you from cooking disasters) and I stored it in an airtight container. The next morning when I woke, straight away I could feel it was going to be a very, VERY hot day.
Anyway, I knew I had a lot to do so I got on to making the second bundt and the icing and then to putting it all together. I had the air-conditioning blasting away so the house was very cool and I’d even got a babysitter to come and look after the kids so that I could focus on what I was doing. (I normally cook with a child on each hip and just hope for the best!)
The cake was coming together pretty well but then I opened the door to carry it outside so that I could take a few pictures before I delivered it to the party. With one hot gust of wind, the cake basically dissolved before my eyes. The icing started to melt and droop all the way down the sides until the “apple” appeared to be pretty much sitting in a pool of “blood”. Charming. Happy Birthday!
I was SO upset that I genuinely considered placing the entire thing into the bin and picking her up two large chocolate muds from our local patisserie… and a huge bunch of flowers to say “I’m sorry!” Thank goodness it was Bubba’s 1st birthday and not her 21st!
Making the birthday tag...
I’ve been cooking since I was about four. Maybe even earlier. But my PROPER cooking memories are from four. And my list of kitchen stuff ups is as long as long can be. That said, cooking is still my absolute passion and I would never let a melted apple, a sunken cheesecake or even puff pastry that never puffed, put me off doing what I love and what brings me so much joy!
My advice to you is the same. When it comes to cooking catastrophes, make a note, learn from the mistake, laugh and then order take-away.
Phoodie’s culinary obsession began when she was 3. Cooking, recipe writing and eating, with both her Greek and Lebanese grandmothers, comprise her fondest childhood memories. After graduating from high school, Phoodie decided to study Architecture and Interior Design in Sydney and California, and was employed in the industry for several years. She enjoyed her work but ALWAYS knew her passion, Food, is where she would ‘end up’. Phoodie is a cookbook, restaurant, and supermarket obsessed blogger and Mum of 2. Phoodie blogs here is on Facebook here and tweets here.
Have you ever had a cooking disaster? What happened?! What’s the worst cooking catastrophe that you’ve heard of!?