Can I Just Take This Pass/Fail?

A couple of weeks ago we had a great friend come over for dinner. She asked me if every dish we cooked turned out fantastic or if there was ever a failure. We said sure there were.  Lots of nights experiments happen and we say, "Meh- not so much".  The night immediately after that was one of those nights. I had some leftover lamb shank that needed to be used and not much else so I did lamb quesadillas that were just bad. They needed everything different except the lamb.  After dinner I commented rather tongue in cheek that we must have been jinxed. That then started a discussion about failure which has re-presented itself in varying forms with several friends over the last couple of weeks.  It must be in the air.

Failure is, of course, a taboo word with many of us.  We are trying to figure out how to teach failure to our students.  With failure there is an implied risk.  If you failed, it means you went out on a limb to do it different than the last time (or you just refused to do anything...which in itself is a risk if you want any favorable outcome...but I digress).  But the risk is one of the most important parts of the learning curve.  How do we take failure and turn it into simply a "lessons learned" without allowing our egos to take such a beating in the process?  If it was truly your best effort, the voice in the back of your head telling you that your best is just not good enough is rather daunting.  With cooking, it's not that deep.  We will just cook something different next time.  But when it is your life's work?  Or a grade you really need how do you teach the process of failure?  

For both of us, that lesson came from our undergrad programs.  We had fantastic professors that knew how to create a critical thinking environment.  Granted we were both in the arts, but we both came out knowing how to dissect a project, defend what was good, and talk about why something failed specifically.  I don't know many students that know how to do that anymore.  Or adults for that matter.  Even artists I meet regularly have a hard time communicating their vision or defending choices when I ask questions about the work.  The pressure to succeed becomes more and the process by which to discuss failure disappears.  We will be embracing more failure on the road to success in this house.  As much of an ego blow as it is, it is the fastest learning curve I know and the results are usually pretty profound if you know how to read the info.

On the "Pass" side of things, I have done some cooking and canning this week that has been a resounding success.  It is, after all, Thanksgiving week and my favorite holiday food.  Even more than Christmas, I think.  I canned a new Cranberry Chutney recipe (and several variations of it) that was in Cook's Illustrated this month.  It is fantastic and exactly what I personally want Cranberry to be; simultaneously savory and sweet.  I also did a Roasted Garlic Onion Jam that is rocking my face off.  That with some good cheese and a crusty bread is heaven on a plate.
Canning is, as you all know, a huge pain in my ass.  I took it on this time because I want to send it as Christmas gifts to foodie friends across the country and canning is not nearly as bad when it is cooler outside.  It was almost pleasant and that sound of those lids popping into place and sealing is a happy sound indeed.  They all look so pretty cooling on the counter.  Tomorrow is the turkey and cornbread stuffing to take to my grannies and Thursday will be the Persimmon Pudding for my aunt's. 

The scary thing is that the calendar is already a disaster.  I actually had to schedule a dinner visit with my BFF three weeks ago because our calendars are so full.  Ridiculous.  Anyway- I will be dragging all of the Christmas out this week and trying not to let the Bah Humbugs get me early this year.  Til next time, cross your fingers that you are on the receiving list of the canned goods (seriously...the chutney is to die for) and cheers to the beginning of "The Season"..whatever form that takes this year. 


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  1. Love your blog and love this post. We are working on teaching our children to embrace failure when it happens and learn from it instead of taking it personally. I know that this is easier said than done, but a much needed lesson at times. Thank you for sharing your insight. Your cranberry jars look wonderful. Happy Holidays!

  2. Thanks, Lady! I am THRILLED you all are having those failure discussions in your house. They are so very important! I know it has been a big learning year in your house, too this year. Hope the Holidays are just right for you all! You have certainly earned it!!