Failing fast in the art of cuisine
If you follow this blog, maybe you already know: I love to cook.
There are few things I enjoy more than sippin’ a little wine and gettin’ creative in the kitchen. I reap so much joy from the simple ceremonies of following a recipe (or going off-script). Dicing onions, smashing garlic, quickly whisking a roux, rolling out pie dough, or setting a pot to simmer.
Obviously I’m happiest when my meal’s a rousing success; but, most of the time, cooking’s a tremendously humbling experience. My apple pie turns soup-y, my frosting skills are lacking, and my carbonara sauce clumps. I get ambitious, maybe a bit too confident, and before I know it I’m serving my friends lumpy gnocchi.
Those are the posts that I don’t share to the blog.
But every time I experiment, every time I flounder or straight-up fail, I learn so much. My gnocchi was sticky and full of potato lumps the first time I made it. The second time? Well, it wasn’t as good as my dad’s, but you can bet it wasn’t full of potato chunks.
I’m learning to cultivate a “fail fast” attitude to cooking. It’s not too different from what you might see in a serial startup entrepreneur. You fail fast, you learn, and you apply those learnings to your next startup (or dish). You keep trying until you get it right, or you move on to something else.
If I made lumpy gnocchi a second time, maybe I’d try a new approach and hope for better results. If the gnocchi was no good, say, five more times? I’m not going to continue torturing myself or my poor dinner party guests with pathetic potato pasta. There’s no shame in abandoning the pan and moving on. In fact, I think it’s better than cooking bad meals ad nauseam. And why continue to make failed dishes when there are so many other foods to try? Maybe you can make a sumptuous sauce for store-bought gnocchi. Maybe your salad game’s on point. You’ll never know until you give up on a failed endeavour and divert your energies elsewhere.
Some excellent advice in a similar vein is to read your next book the way you would run a startup. William Johnson writes “If you are 75 pages in to your next read and you are not enjoying it — in other words, you haven’t seen any return on investment — stop. Close up shop. […] Yes, it can be hard to see opportunities on the horizon if you find yourself in an unpleasant chapter in your life. But despite the number of setbacks an entrepreneur inevitably faces, he or she is always clamouring to build their next enterprise.”
Build your next bomb-ass meal with this “fail fast” attitude. Find your specialité, and don’t be afraid to give up on something that’s not working. The beautiful thing about making a meal is, there are so many different elements; so many opportunities for success and failure; and endless chances to try, try again.