[Details of competition after the fold]
My last piece (the one about lamb breast) was my 250th. By means of celebration here is one about when things go wrong. More fun than any self-congratulatory nonsense.
One of the great things about being a food writer is that you can maintain an air of smugness buoyed by the impression given off through writing.
You can bask constantly in the warm glow of success, or at least give the impression that you bask in the warm glow of success as you eat meal after meal of perfectly focussed, well-lit, delicious food.
Whether it is a plate of faultless and delicate macaroons or the glorious, greasy simplicity of a full English breakfast, readers can be left with the impression that each and every mouthful is one that skirts close to that idealised standard we call ‘perfection.’
If only that were the case.
The reality is very different. Oh, the joys of selective writing.
Witness exhibit (a): dried peach crisps:
Barely recognisable as peach, they were certainly dried. And crisp? They looked as if they’d been through a Hindu funerary rite of passage.
This is by no means a unique occurrence. One of my best tricks is leaving things in the oven overnight to cool, coming down bleary eyed in the morning and immediately turning on the grill. A man needs toast.
Only the faintly acrid smell of burning is enough to jolt me into action and extract whatever it was that now has a swiftly blackening crust.
There have been others.
Barely a month ago I managed to block our entire drainage system whilst experimenting with spherification. On cool quiet nights I can still hear my girlfriend’s faintly indignant (tinged with faint humour) tone ringing in my ears with the words ‘You’ve blocked our drains with molecular gastronomy!’
Only two days ago did I read the words ‘Caution: dispose the sodium alginate preparation in the bin, and not in the sink.’ Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
But my culinary bête noire remains Christmas cake – still the subject of more cooking related disasters than I would care to remember.
Last Christmas I sliced off an entire nail chopping dried fruit. On eventually completing the cake it was cooked too long and emerged from the oven dried and blackened. Only generous sousing with booze and careful removal of the outer layer rendered it edible.
Until a hungry mouse decided to gorge itself whilst we were away for three days.
The year before I snapped a wooden spoon whilst stirring the thick cake mixture, a painful splinter piercing my hand. And on lifting the cake into the oven the tin slipped from my hands and splurged its thick contents all over the floor.
As a final ‘up yours’ that cake, too, ended up burnt after my father decided it wasn’t cooking quickly enough at the designated temperature.
There are more, but here is where I hand over to you. What have been your biggest and most comical culinary failures, faults and fuck ups?
The best will be immortalised in a personalised short story. Typed out (on a typewriter, no less) by me and then published right here.
Comment below, email or tweet me your tales.