What Traumatic Cookie Fails Have Taught Me About Myself
I’ve always loved cooking. When I was a kid, I would take a stool to the tall counter and messily chop carrots for my “carrot salad” that I thought was incredibly unique and invented by me.
Growing up, I spent hours watching Masterchef, imagining my own recipes being presented to the judges. I fantasized about having them take that first bite with enjoyment and wonder on their face.
But, baking? Not my terrain at all. Leave that to someone else.
However, during quarantine, the constant viral baking recipes that everyone was trying out during their lockdown got to me. Suddenly, I wanted to try my hand at baking; an urge I’ve never had before.
So, I scoured the internet for easy and delicious recipes to bake; perfect for a beginner yet still delicious and impressive.
What better than chocolate chip cookies?
Surprisingly, I had never made chocolate chip cookies before so I was eager to try and bake what so many people enjoyed baking.
I got out my ingredients; eggs, flour, chocolate. The works.
I set out my ingredients and started following a recipe from a YouTube video that “guaranteed perfect cookies!”. I browned my butter and refrigerated my batter. I was confident.
However, an integral part of the cookie-making process was neglected. The baking powder. At the time, I was baking in a French kitchen. So, I, lost in translation, used baking soda instead of baking powder.
My cookies came out crispy and crunchy. They were biscuits; not chocolate chip cookies. I was gutted and humiliated. How did I manage to mess cookies up that badly? The look on everyone’s face when I announced my “chocolate chip cookies” would be comical if it didn’t sting so bad. The cookies tasted great, but the appearance and the essential composition were off. It was an imposter!
I wanted to get my cookies perfect, to impress the crowd. A perfectionist and people pleaser (a dangerous combination) at heart, I felt awful about myself more than I did about the cookies. It was a swift fall from confidence to shame.
However, I’m not one to give up easily. I was determined to make the best dang cookies, dang it. How hard could it be? The second try was sure to be the charm.
Charm, maybe. Lucky, not so much.
Again, the perils of baking in a French kitchen as an American plagued me deeply. (I hate you grams!) Turns out, baking is more of a science than any class I’ve ever taken in school. I tried converting the recipe’s call for flour from cups to grams. Every source I found on Google gave me a different answer and I wasn’t ready to eyeball or estimate the ingredients. Not after the first traumatic cookie incident.
So, I foolishly tried to replicate the cup measurements with an actual mug. Finding a mug that looked similar to the recipe’s measure was hard enough, but the batter seemed to be okay. At least to me, the cookie non-expert.
Wrong again! The mystery baked goods were cookie-shaped pieces of cake. Dry, cakey, and everything a cookie isn’t.
This time, I was truly, truly embarrassed. The first time is an accident but getting something as simple as cookies wrong to me, felt less like an accident and more like incompetence.
I felt horrible. Yet, I tried again. And failed again.
So, I took a break from baking and addressed the feelings baking had arisen in me. Among others, my cookie fails brought upon feelings like shame, embarrassment, and low-self esteem. I realized this had to be addressed or I would never be able to bake again. I didn’t want to traumatize myself from baking.
I had found something I wasn’t good at. It was hard to accept and I didn’t take the news well.
You see, it’s important to recognize our strengths and weaknesses. It’s also equally important to embrace the two. I had trouble accepting the weakness of mine. Not because I kept trying to perfect the cookies (perseverance is good!) but because I beat myself up mentally for the failures.
I failed (pun not intended) to see that failure is a part of the process and doesn’t make me a horrible baker. At most, a struggling one. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t improve.
My attitude toward my failures turned me away from baking. But, I researched other baking fails and realized I wasn’t the only one. Heck, even top bakers and pastry chefs have fails. I’m not the only one. It has nothing to do with me as a person, but everything to do with baking. It’s as simple as that. There’s no hidden meaning.
Now, I have learned to embrace the fact that I’m not the best cookie baker. But, I can be. And I’m willing to preserve until I am.