Oh cookbooks – even after my praising words last post, you had to go and do this, didn’t you? You had to show me that blind obedience to what I saw written, ignoring my instincts, was a Bad Idea.
So yesterday my wife decided to take care of dinner, asking me only to make a side dish to go with. Lately I have been finding myself coming across recipes for Cornbread a lot, and thusly craving said sweet, gritty bread. I grabbed a few of my cookbooks, and upon coming across the first recipe for cornbread, decided to go with it. (Mistake #1: Never assume the first recipe found will be the best)
I checked that I had all the ingredients, noting with a bit of surprise the 10 teaspoons of baking soda being called for in a dish that only used a total of four cups of flour and cornmeal — a very unusually high ratio, but I figured it must be right and went, without comparing against any other recipes. (Mistake #2: If your instincts scream something is wrong with a recipe, listen to them. Double-check it somehow)
Everything went together well, and the batter went into a pan to cook quickly before I had to run a quick errand. Upon taking it out of the oven, the edges and top a beautiful golden brown, I sliced off a quarter-inch off an edge to taste — Holy baking soda blast, Batman! We are talking the wonderful taste of baking soda with just a hint of cornmeal in the background – not exactly what I was going for. As I’ve got a bit of a cold, I was hoping it was my own taste buds which were out of whack, so I made my final (and least forgivable) mistake of the evening — after I failed to get my wife to taste a piece, I went ahead and served it with her dinner anyhow. (Mistake #3: If you won’t eat it happily, don’t assume others will! Never serve something you’re not happy with!!!)
There are all sorts of ways I could have looked at the events up until this point:
* The recipe was published – that assumes a certain standard of quality, doesn’t it?
* Publishers have proof-readers and editors to make sure typos don’t happen, so the recipe has to be correct, doesn’t it?
* I tried to get her to taste it before serving it, and my wife was too busy at the time, so it’s not my fault the final product wasn’t something she liked, was it?
Well, sadly, all three of those things are wrong, and my failure to catch the three of them, let alone just a single one(!) puts the final result squarely on my shoulders – a large pieces of cornbread sitting on her plate at the end of the meal, one small bite all that was taken of it.
I’m happy to say that it is relatively rare that I make those kinds of errors, especially all together like that, but let the Cornbread Catastrophe serve as an example to all of you — no matter how good you think you are, no matter your training, and no matter the sources you are drawing upon, if you don’t exercise critical thinking skills, failure is *always* an option.