The day that the grill gets its first test drive around the block. Who doesn't love to grill? It's virtually foolproof!
Until it's not.
Let's start with the grill. I know there's a raging debate in America (no, not that one!). Gas vs. charcoal. They both have their merits. Charcoal certainly provides great flavor, and the ritual associated with its preparation is worthy of anyone's attention. But gas is so convenient. And what about smoking? (No, that one!) I usually smoke a pork shoulder at least once a year, but that requires getting up early on a weekend. Otherwise, your guests are doing the 10:30 p.m. Continental dinner thing.
At with least grilling on the back deck, with copious amounts of beer, there is a wide margin for error One reason most red-blooded American males love to grill. A mere 15 feet and you're in the kitchen where, of course, it can all go so wrong, so horribly wrong, so easily.
Everyone who loves to cook and cooks often will, at some point, make something that is simply wretched. Something just plain awful and which looks nothing like the dish in that glossy photograph in the cookbook. For example, I recall one morning when I had this burning desire to make hash browns. After a cursory glance at a recipe, even before I had my morning coffee (big mistake!), I made something that only barely resembled hash browns—but if only hash browns were GREY!
Though I doubt she ever made grey hash browns, Julia Child recounts a similar event in her memoir, My Life in France, which involved eggs Florentine for a friend she had invited over for lunch:
I suppose I had gotten a little too self-confident for my own good: rather than measure out the flour, I had guessed at the proportions, and the result was a goopy sauce Mornay. Unable to find spinach at the market, I’d bought chicory instead; it, too, was horrid. We ate the lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine. I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one’s hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as “Oh, I don’t know how to cook . . . ,” or “Poor little me . . . ,” or “This may taste awful . . . ,” it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, “Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal!” Maybe the cat has fallen into the stew, or the lettuce has frozen, or the cake has collapsed— eh bien, tant pis!
My Life in France, pp. 89-90.
I think this is valuable advice for amateur cooks everywhere. We cannot be perfect. Besides, us mere kitchen mortals should take comfort in the fact even the great Julia Child made a dish which she described as “vile.” This pressure to be perfect in the kitchen has become worse in our media-saturated age. As Melissa Clark of the New York Times once pointed out in her column, A Good Appetite, “food porn” in foodie magazines and T.V. shows has created a “cult of foodie perfectionism.” (Melissa Clark, No Apologies Necessary When a Dish Goes Awry, New York Times, p. D1, Oct. 10, 2012) So, we should all fight the urge to stress out about the meals we make and by all means, don’t apologize. It’s probably not as bad as you think. But, if it really is that bad, then just order a pizza!