When recipes fail


25 Feb When recipes fail

NavyBeanKaleSoupDull winter days. Steaming hot bowls of soup. A hunk of cheese and a slice of bread makes it a meal. Wouldn’t you just love the recipe for this delicious, nutritious, palate-pleasing cold weather solution?

Well, I’m not giving it to you.

Not because I’m mean or precious. I’m withholding the recipe because my would-be fabulous creation turned out to be one of those confounding dishes where the ingredients add up to less than the sum of its parts. Far less.

How bad was it? I gave a bowl to my husband hoping for, “This is why I married you!” or “Good heavens, darling. You’ve outdone yourself — yet again.” Instead, Andrew stoically finished the serving and, in what I can only hope was honesty born of deep and abiding marital love, said, “It just doesn’t do it for me.”

Not the reaction I’d planned on. You see, I set out to present you with a soup that would inspire love letters, rhyming couplets or at least a few complimentary notes in the comments section. Instead, I ended up with a pot full of disappointment. And I don’t know why.

On paper this should be a winner. Roasted garlic, homemade chicken stock, organic navy beans, fresh thyme and cream. But even my husband, who is contractually bound to love me and all my culinary offerings, couldn’t muster any enthusiasm.

I’ll admit. A part of me wanted to post the recipe so all my efforts wouldn’t go to waste. And when you wrote to complain? I would blame you for the failure, undermine your culinary confidence with an authoritative voice extolling the virtues of The Best Navy Bean and Kale Soup EVER. “You didn’t like it?” I’d say. “That’s odd. Did you roast the garlic just right? Was the cream off? Are you sure you used thyme that was perfectly fresh and not a minute too old?” I could have messed with your head.

But having been a victim of more than one lackluster recipe — usually from the local newspaper– I just can’t do that to you.

In all good conscience, the best I can give you is a photo. It probably tastes better than my soup. Stupid Soup. I bet the fancy roasted garlic messed things up…

Have you ever been duped by a recipe? How did you feel? Did it destroy your trust in the author or your self-confidence?

  • Jill
    Posted at 08:57h, 25 February Reply

    Soup dupe?

    At least that little bon mot came out of it.


    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:15h, 25 February Reply

      Good one, Jill. Bon mot indeed! Wish I’d thought of that.

      • Jill
        Posted at 18:41h, 25 February Reply

        @Charmian Christie, I like to think ‘grandpa’ got his sense of humour from me.

  • Kathryn
    Posted at 09:40h, 25 February Reply

    Hate to admit it because it seems so unfair, but when recipes fail, I tend to blame the author. On the positive side, I guess that points to a good level of self-confidence. Best example: after a couple of baking failures from UK authors, I stick to good old Canadian baking recipes. However, I am not so confident that I always blame the author: I definitely blame myself when it comes to pastry and fresh pasta.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 20:25h, 25 February Reply

      @Kathryn, glad to hear you have self-confidence in the kitchen. That’s half the battle.

      In defense of UK authors, I think part of the issue is differences in our flour, which can derail baked goods.

      When living in London years ago, I discovered the hard way there is also a difference in our spices. Here chili powder is relatively mild and cut with cumin. There, the chili is hot, more like cayenne. The first batch of chili I made there was so hot I couldn’t eat it.

  • Cheryl@5secondrule
    Posted at 13:18h, 25 February Reply

    Well, I truly love that picture, and honestly, I don’t care that the soup was lackluster since I can’t taste it through the computer anyway.

    p.s. Tell Andrew there are more important things than faking enthusiasm for a mediocre soup, but that it’s an important marital skill to at least TRY to cultivate nonetheless.
    .-= Cheryl@5secondrule´s last blog ..Concierge =-.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 20:29h, 25 February Reply

      @Cheryl@5secondrule, I’ve taught him that “It’s okay,” and “It’s fine.” are not acceptable answers when asked “How’s dinner?” Hard as it may be to hear, I’d rather have him be brutally honest than let me present a recipe that stinks.

      To give him credit, I suspect he was trying not to hurt my feelings. “Honey, I’d rather drink toilet water” wouldn’t go over big but was likely closer to his real reaction.

  • Heather(eatwelleatgreen)
    Posted at 15:02h, 25 February Reply

    It’s a beautiful photo but you are right not to post the recipe. I agree with Kathryn, I tend to blame the author if it doesn’t turn out right.
    When we were kids, Mum used to make a soup out of “whatever was in the fridge”. If it didn’t taste right, she’d just add a whole lot of vegemite, basically a patriotic way of adding a whole lot of salt. Maybe you could salvage yours after all.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 20:30h, 25 February Reply

      @Heather(eatwelleatgreen), Vegemite? That’s too funny. It might be patriotic in Australia, but we have no Canadian equivalent here — unless you count dousing food in ketchup or Tabasco sauce.

      Great story nonetheless!

  • The Diva on a Diet
    Posted at 17:06h, 25 February Reply

    Don’t you just hate it when a recipe breaks your heart. So many nice ingredients, so much anticipation … and then … meh. I’m sorry. If its any comfort to you, your photo is magnificent and so inviting. :)

    I’ve had a soup break my heart … way back in the 1980s. It was a potato soup with jalapeno from one of the Moosewood cookbooks … spent all day preparing it and it was simply awful. It put me off that series of books but good. The cookbook didn’t belong to me, it was a friend’s, and I sure wasn’t motivated to buy my own copy after that recipe.
    .-= The Diva on a Diet´s last blog ..Thirst Thursdays: Spice & Ice Edition =-.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 20:33h, 25 February Reply

      @The Diva on a Diet, funny how one failure can turn you off a book or series. And it is heart breaking to put a lot of effort into something only to find it inedible.

      On the flip side, produce a stellar recipe and I’m yours forever.

  • Amy Proulx
    Posted at 17:12h, 25 February Reply

    When it comes to cooking Iranian food, I have an impossible feat ahead of me – cooking from an oral tradition without the benefit of a guide, and cooking for a husband who loved his mother’s cooking. I never had the honour to meet my mother-in-law, and because of this disconnect, I too suffer from failed recipes.

    Dolmehs, the little stuffed delights made of grape leaves, eggplants, peppers or other vegetables are one of those “issues” that I have encountered in happy married life. When we were living in Iowa, a friend of mine, and a passionate fan of Central Asian cuisine, Jean, told me how she had gone to the woods and picked wild grape leaves for most delicious dolmeh. Following her lead, I spent the afternoon picking perfect grape leaves, followed by an extensive internet search for Iranian dolmeh recipes, then hours of rolling and rolling and rolling, followed by a few hours cooking.

    My husband’s friend, Maziar, showed up before my husband came home. Hungry fellow that he was, he snooped around the kitchen and saw the steaming pot. “Bah bah! Shoma dolmeh dorost kardid! You made dolmeh! They look delicious! I love dolmeh!”. I was beside myself. Just wait till Hassan comes home, he’ll be so pleased!

    In comes Hassan. He looks in the pot. A large worry line formed across his forehead.

    “The dolmeh have sauce on them.”

    Where did I go wrong? I didn’t even get points for trying.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 20:37h, 25 February Reply

      @Amy Proulx, you PICKED the leaves, scoured the web, ROLLED dolmehs for hours and got criticized? You get triple brownie points from me for the effort alone. And judging from your cooking, I bet the dolmehs tasted fabulous — even without sauce.

      Thanks for sharing a great story. This and the microwave confession put you in the running for some sort of prize I’ve yet to invent.

  • Mickele Bragg
    Posted at 17:14h, 25 February Reply

    Yes! I was so bummed on Valentine’s day when I made gnocchi for the first time for my husband and step-son. My husband had just had the 9 course tasting menu at Tru in Chicago and his favorite thing was the gnocchi. My Salmon Wellington turned out amazingly, but the gnocchi was glue! I watched all the videos online; YouTube, Food Network. Read all the comments on Epicurious and yet, the dish was a failure. And a pound of Shitake’s? It’s a crime!

    Here is the recipe I used: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Gnocchi-with-Mushroom-Sauce-102460

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 20:45h, 25 February Reply

      @Mickele Bragg, oh no! Bad gnocchi is absolutely horrid. Glue is the perfect description.

      I’ve only made it a couple of times myself and it can be tricky. I checked out the recipe link and it looks pretty standard. Nothing weird there.

      I’ve no idea what went wrong but gnocchi is a MAJOR pain to make and to have it come out as pasty globs is beyond wrong. And to waste all those mushroom? It makes me cringe.

      Rouxbe has a great video about using a ricer for gnocchi. If you’re up to it, check it out. But I’ll understand if you’re all gnocchied out. This seems to be important since overhandling can be an issue.

      Glad the Salmon Wellington worked.

  • Kerry
    Posted at 14:08h, 26 February Reply

    sometimes i know it’s me, as I tend to use recipes for inspiration rather than to follow to the letter. other times, well, I figure people have different tastes and this just didn’t play ut the way I’d thought from reading it (being a musician helps — I find that in music sometimes too…). I’ve also run into the different sort of spices/ingredients from different countires thing, and expect that plays a part sometimes too. interesting topic, Charmian. I agree that you are right not to post the recipe, but the photo is inviting, even though the soup wasn’t.
    .-= Kerry´s last blog ..Carrie Newcomer: Before & After =-.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 17:09h, 26 February Reply

      Altering or using imported ingredients can play a big role. I, too, tinker with recipes, so sometimes I don’t know whether to blame my failures on the recipe or myself. Setting the microwave on fire? All me.

  • Lorraine
    Posted at 16:09h, 26 February Reply

    It happens.

    And it’s very disappointing when a recipe fails and you realize–after all your culinary labors and photo-taking–that you won’t be able to blog about it.

    I’m still fuming over a stew that looked gorgeous and tasted…meh.

    At least you salvaged a terrific post out of the lackluster soup. : >
    .-= Lorraine´s last blog ..Copywriters’ Kitchen Weekly Menu: February 21, 2010 =-.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 17:12h, 26 February Reply

      Thanks for understanding. I’d be really unhappy too with a stew that didn’t work out. Beef is expensive and stews can take a long time to cook. I once tried one that marinated in wine for three days. In the end, I learned that I don’t like cocoa in beef stew. Live and learn….

  • Maggie
    Posted at 21:48h, 26 February Reply

    I tried a recipe from a Martha Stewart article on making a french baguette. What with all the resting, kneading, etcetera, I started on Saturday and finally was able to bake it on Sunday. I was proud of the result until I tasted it. Durn thing tasted like that bread that kids like in the bag with red, yellow and blue polka dots. I’m sure it must have been my fault but what a disappointment.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 15:26h, 02 March Reply

      @Maggie, oh no! I’d have cried. I can’t believe a recipe would take so much work and turn out to be no better than store-bought bland.

      Martha Stewart is usually reliable — even if her recipes can be time consuming. I wonder if your flour let you down? Some people refuse t use grocery store varieties and only use special brands like King Arthur.

      But still? A whole weekend for something on par with WonderBread? Sigh…. I feel your pain.

  • Lisa MacColl
    Posted at 10:26h, 04 March Reply

    I can make pastry. My specialty is (was?) lemon meringue pie, from scratch. No box filling for me. When my husband and I were dating, I cooked him a lovely birthday dinner, complete with a gorgeous lemon meringue pie….except the pie didn’t set, and it was lemon meringue pudding…I was devastated, he grabbed a spoon and ate every scrap.

    I married him.

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