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I've lost my confidence- I made something terrible!

Most of my cooking is improvisational. Occasionally I use recipes, but mostly I know what works and what doesn't, and just go for it, and rarely measure. And it works somewhere between awesome and pretty damned good. Most of the things I create are based in an amalgam of recipes, experience, etc., so it's not completely out there, and last week's dinner was the same idea.

I was confident that it would be amazing- it was awful. AWFUL. I can't even bring myself to tell what it was, but at least the dog liked it, which is good, because the people (myself included) declared it dog food.

Then yesterday, as I'm throwing together a lasagna, I had an idea for a change- a separate layer with the spinach and herbs in the middle, instead of mixed with the meat sauce. Then I panicked. What if my instincts were as off as the dish-that-can't-be-named? I've never doubted myself so much.

Have you ever made something so colossally bad that it shook your confidence?

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  1. i always like the spinach and herbs mixed in with the ricotta. not the meat. :)

    2 Replies
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        I mix those and browned sausage into the ricotta, along with a lot of shredded mozzarella.

      2. 1. even great cooks have bad days.
        2. we can always learn something from a mistake, so it's never really a complete failure/loss.

        you're being WAY too hard on yourself, and believe me, as my own toughest critic, i know of what i speak. you can't let one setback in a sea of successes discourage you so much! like you, i'm an improvisational cook. i rarely follow recipes, i rely on my palate and my knowledge of ingredients and technique, and the results are usually pretty darned delicious. but every so often i do make a misstep. yes, it's frustrating, and i beat myself up over it temporarily...but i always get back on the horse. sometimes i try to improve on the failed dish to prove a point to myself :) other times i recognize that certain things just weren't meant to be. either way, you have to just get back to doing what you do.

        for the record, i'd really like to know what this spectacular failure was - perhaps we can all help you identify what went wrong and maybe even help you turn it into something enjoyable...?

        in the meantime, if you're really doubting yourself, hold off on the riffing for a few days. prepare some of your tried-and-trues that you know will turn out well, and rebuild your confidence a bit. before long you'll feel comfortable taking some risks again.

        1. Bwahahaha - I've made super, colossal, horrible, unedible mistakes WITH a recipe, so no - do not lose your confidence or your willingness to experiment. Like you said, at least the dog got fed.

          1. Oh, man. I was making cincy chili for friends about a month ago. This is a dish I've made dozens of times, usually with fantastic results. But this last time I put it all together, let it simmer for a bit, tried it, and it was AWFUL. Truly disgusting. I screwed up proportions or something along the way - understandable because I was hammered drunk when I was making it, but still. It's chili and takes a little work to mess it up as badly as I did.

            I just tossed the whole pot and made a more traditional Texas red instead. That came out great, and all was saved.

            But now I'm lined up to make cincy chili again next weekend, and my confidence is clearly shaken. Now I'm questioning the method and recipe I've used for years. Not a good thing.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MonMauler

              Try it sober and report back. ;-)

            2. Just means you're completely normal -- I don't screw up very often, but when I do? It's a hum-dinger.

              It gets filed in the "things we laugh ourselves senseless over lager" file and we call for pizza.

              ETA: That was supposed to be "things we laugh ourselves senseless over LATER" - but I just might have gotten it right the first time!