If you’re cooking a lot and like to try new things, at times, you’re gonna fail. This is the part of cooking I hate. I take failures in the kitchen very personally. Spending hours making something that doesn’t come out the way you wanted it to is like being in labor for 28 hours and then have someone say your kid looks ugly. (I imagine, I have never been in labor so it’s a guess.)
For New Year’s, I decided to make lemon meringue pie for the first time. Like the Wellington, I’d wanted to make this for a long time, but for some reason I imagined it would be very difficult, almost impossible, to get it right. I think it’s the meringue that put me off. Funny, maybe, for someone who loves cooking, but I had never made meringue before. Meringue seemed to be out of my league. But New Year’s with all its fresh starts and exploding fireworks seemed like the perfect night to, well, try something new.
I was slightly nervous. Since it’s one of my boyfriend’s favorites it came with some expectations and, like I said, then there was the meringue. It started of nicely, though. I made the crust and it got moist and yellow. I made the lemon curd and it tasted fresh and sourish. I made the meringue and it was firm and white. So I put all the pieces together and then I got a little cocky. Real cooks clean up their kitchen as they go, I thought, and started doing the dishes. I’ll be just next to the oven so I’ll see that it won’t get burnt. Of course it got a little burnt. Not a lot, but enough so the meringue looked more all over beige than white with dark ridges. “It’s OK” I said to myself, “it’s not really burnt, just a little more beige than I wanted. It’s all good. I’m fine.”
The real disaster came, however, when I was leaving to go over to my guy’s house. I picked up my pie, and as I did, the meringue started sliding across the lemon curd, from one side to the other. I put it down in panic. Sweat happened. “It’s OK, it’s fine, I”m fine” I mantrad (made a verb out of mantra here). I picked it up again, and this time, not just the meringue but the whole crust started sliding. It seemed so unfair. I had worked on it for three hours. Everything tasted like it should. It looked fine (minus the beige). THIS WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPENING!!!
I carefully carried the thing out to my car, placed it on the passenger seat and tried to hold it steady with one hand as I drove. I might have jumped a red light once, but it seemed justified, considering. I was in a state when I arrived.
“I failed” I greeted my boyfriend.
“I failed. The lemon meringue pie is a failure. The meringue is beige and the whole thing is sliding out of the dish. It’s too loose. I failed.”
“No, let me look at it … This looks great! Like bakery-great! It looks perfect.”
“I’m a failure.”
“Let’s try it … Mmm, it’s delicious! You’re a master! You should be in masterchef.”
“It’s ugly and too loose. I wanted it pretty and perfect.”
“It’s perfect! I love it.”
“Why must everything I do be a little bit flawed? Why can’t it look and taste great at the same time?”
“You’re overreacting, this is a great pie!”
“I’m not overreacting. I suck at everything I do.”
In retrospect, maybe I actually did overreact a little. The pie did taste pretty good. It was a little beige and the crust had let go of the dish on one side, but it was still pretty tasty. I still don’t know why it behaved that way, though. Next time, I’ll try to cook the lemon curd a little bit longer. Maybe that’ll do it. What I do know is this: even though, in the long run and greater perspective of things, a failed pie is not the end of the world, it still hurts. Cooking might not be everything, but don’t say it’s not personal.
Malin’s eating is now on Instagram at malinseating and on Facebook at facebook.com/malinseating