Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sometimes perfect is the enemy of the delicious

Every Christmas my mother bakes these ginger cookies for my stepbrother. He lives out of town and doesn't spend too much time at my mum's, but he adores her ginger cookies and so my mum, because she's amazing like that, never forgets to include them in her Christmas baking. Since mum has come to rely on my help with baking (and by rely I mean I show up and beg to help), I have been in charge of the ginger cookies for the past two years. I'm a pretty decent cookie baker, or so I thought.

Last year I accidentally doubled the butter. Rarely do I think too much butter is a bad thing, but in this case the cookies drowned in it. They swam in oceans of butter. They still looked like cookies but they were too soft and just not what I set out to bake. Hoping to prove myself as at least an average baker this year, I tried again. And failed, again. Who leaves out half a cup of flour. Half a cup? All the time and energy one devotes to properly scooping and sweeping my flour with just the right technique falls to the gutter when one abandons the recipe in favour of not paying attention. To be fair, I was paying attention, but not to my cookies. I would wager my entire bank account that my attention was held by two exceedingly blonde children who take up residence in the middle of kitchen each and every time I turn my mixer on.

My cookies were a mess. Without the right amount of flour the cookies couldn't reach their intended round shape, and instead became one single, enormous cookie. We were left with three of these colossal cookies, one from each cookie sheet. With her glass half full attitude my mum dug out the pizza cutter and simply cut cookie shapes from the flat, soggy, cookie mess. We set them aside on the cooling rack and crossed our fingers. By the next morning they looked like this:

For those of you who can't decipher the iPhone-captured shape in front of you, I'll just tell you what it is. It's a Ginger Blob. A blob of crystalized ginger, molasses, butter, sugar, and (a little) flour. It was already Christmas morning at this point, but I couldn't handle my failure. My mum asks so little from me and I didn't want my stepbrother to think I did care enough to make him a single, round, edible cookie. So in between making Eggs Benedict (my mum's Christmas morning specialty) and prepping for our family dinner, I made a new batch of ginger cookies. They were round and they were perfect.

But then. In the middle of the Christmas day chaos, we never threw out the Ginger Blob. It sat there on the back counter next to the gorgeously round, neatly presented, real cookies all day. That's where the magic happened. Every time someone new walked through the kitchen they would pop a piece of Ginger Blob in their mouth. Not only did everyone start snacking on Ginger Blob, they declared it to be delicious, over and over again. All day long my perfect cookies remained untouched and the Ginger Blob slowly disappeared.

We are all so hard on ourselves sometimes. Afraid of failure, afraid of being judged, afraid of anything less than perfection, we can make our life a lot more difficult. I should rephrase that: I can make my life a lot more difficult. Besides being delicious, Ginger Blob taught me an important lesson: don't overlook opportunities, new possibilities staring you right in the face, because they are less than perfect. While I'm wasting my precious time trying to live perfectly, to make the perfect decisions and take the perfect steps, opportunities are passing me by.

So here I am, a little voice on the internet, asking you to find something in your life that doesn't seem to fit, and look again. Take a second look at that job opportunity, that chance at a new friendship, or the beginning of a new habit that at first glance seems to hard or wrong or out of reach. Does it match perfectly with the things you think you want? Maybe not. But might it end up surprising you with unexpectedly deliciousness? It might. Let's find out.

In a week filled with resolutions (and I'm brewing up a few of my own), let's take a moment to be a little easier on ourselves. Try something new, not something perfect.


Update: My husband informed that I misspelled "perfect" in my post about perfection. Of course I did. But I corrected my typo, not because I'm trying to be perfect, but this is a writing blog and it's time I start editing my work. Baby steps. 


  1. Maybe the "perfection" cookies were intimidating while the ginger blob looked inviting for tastes and nibbles? True, too, for blogs and other things in life (isn't it easy to hate those blogs where the house/children/cooking/crafts look too perfect?)

    Ugh. You should hear all my (private) whining and moaning about the imperfections in that little (ahem) project I endeavored last year. But the feedback I get is that the wonky-ness is welcoming and endearing (ummm... okay... I'll go with "endearing", I guess...)

    And here's something for you -- a "perfect delicious" which is my "enemy." I made it yesterday and can't resist it -- I've eaten so much I am making myself feel sick. Have a look at the recipe in this blog post

    (but oh, your blog post brought back funny memories of baking disasters -- like the time I added twice the amount of milk to a cake and then compensated by adding some extra flour. it was not a very tasty cake -- no amount of frosting could mask it's deficiencies in the flavor-department.)

    happy new year!
    and xo

  2. That recipe! I need to make this. And I adore her writing.

    Perfect is awfully overrated, isn't it? Thanks for the good thoughts. And I probably would have eaten your cake no matter what.

    Happiest of new years!