It takes guts to own imperfection in the digital age. When Instagram and Tumblr accounts are being reviewed in job applications and by ex-partners alike, not to mention potential partners, it’s easy to throw in the towel and hide under sight, lest your imperfections be deemed boring at best. But I think that apps and tools, and other ways of expressing oneself to friends, are getting wise to the imperfect theory of presenting oneself perfectly as we progress. Be it over a dinner conversation or a Twitter convo, we’re understanding the reality of a certain catch-phrase that a friend of mine says I say about twenty times a day, which is “Oops” or “Oopsies.”
Someone recently told me that she avoids following food blogs, because they all tend to make her life look less-than—more mundane and certainly less-photogenic than it should. That sucks then, because I think that at the very least, home cooking-focused blogs should empower and encourage do-it-yourself bliss and instead it’s doing the exact opposite. This person’s beef was with both the writing and imagery of a certain class of food and lifestyle digital domicile that I think we can all grasp without naming names: “Exploits in Perfect Life,” in other words. “My toddler just salivated over these brownies” and whatnot. “My husband loved me so much more because of this fig appetizer.”
Actually, home cooking does not produce these outcomes as often as we’d like. It’s something that I touched on during a recent interview on the Leonard Lopate Show on the subject of home cooking: That home cooks tend to be their own biggest critic.
I can’t tell you how many times people tell me that they decline cooking for their family or friends because they feel that their cooking is “not good enough.” Enough with that already! I have been food blogging for almost ten years, and I recently made a gochujang-marinated chicken that was not only burnt rather than beautifully browned on the skin, but came out blurry in photographs to boot. I made and shot it on one of the only days I could use natural lighting to photograph it because it had been so rainy before.
But you know what? After scraping off the burnt specks of chicken skin, I ate it, and I’m sharing the poor photograph for it now. Because it was still really good.
I also made a carrot-lime slaw using shavings of the carrot from a regular vegetable peeler, and I roasted juicy slabs of broccoli (halved lengthwise from a whole crown) along with the chicken leg quarter to go with it. It ended up looking like a sloppy pile of What? but it was very tasty all together, with refreshing and savory components complementing one another.
Well, oops. Another time I’ll have better luck with timing and precision. Maybe I’ll know that gochujang is a little too sweet to try to marinate and make a good crust with on chicken quarters. Maybe I won’t break another ceramic bowl while I’m going for culinary grace and exemplar, too. But it happens. And at the end of the day, this was another experiment, like so many, that we must do in order to be our best selves in the kitchen by learning from it as we go on. Regrets, I’ve had a few. Let’s celebrate them instead.