When I was in high school, about 100 years ago, my main goal in life was to be perfect. My teenaged version of perfection included a lot of exclamation points, as in “Look great in a bikini!” or “Pass the AP math test!!” … and don’t even get me started on question marks, like “Why didn’t he ask me out?” (and who knows who “he” is anymore, right?!)
My version of perfection is a bit yellowed now. Getting my Gigi to school on time, not forgetting to pay the mortgage, and wearing my lululemon yoga pants right-side out all count as wins in my book.
But lately, I’m taking a different approach, and I’m now full-speed ahead on the Marie Kondo bullet train. And if you’re not familiar with her little blue book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, check it out on Amazon and my recent review.
So far, I’ve worked my way through an entire guest room (from the closet to under the bed to the dresser) and one closet in another room. Admittedly, I’m not as gung-ho as Marie would want me to be. The notion of removing everything from a room, or even a closet, before putting it all back in seemed daunting, time consuming, and nearly impossible given the everyday realities of life.
Instead, I settled for a California, kumbaya approach to clearing away, and in the process successfully hauled two carloads of stuff to Goodwill; filled an entire recycling trash can with old papers, magazines and the like; and generated so much trash that I’m currently eyeing my neighbor’s trash can to see if he’s got any room for the miscellaneous extra bags that didn’t fit in our bin (today is trash day).
This laid-back approach to tidying up means that while there are fewer Polly Pockets floating around in the abyss of our guestroom, there are still way too many cookbooks cluttering that same closet. Marie wants everything in your house to bring you joy (in my mind, it’s more like JOY!). In reality, holding onto the roasting rack for my slow cooker brings zero to possibly negative joy, but at least I know it’s there when I need it.
Which brings me to my kitchen, where my approach to perfection wanes and waxes with the moon. There are times when I so long to NOT cook one more meal that it’s all I can do to restrain myself from Ubering to the nearest Mexican food joint. Other times, I’m so ambitious, I surprise even myself.
Take this pork tenderloin, for example, a la the Barefoot Contessa. It appears perfect, does it not, with its lovingly wrapped prosciutto and those sweet bows of kitchen twine lined up like soldiers. And yet, and yet … not quite perfection.
When you’re a food blogger, everyone assumes you know everything about food and that each and every recipe comes out perfectly every single time. And yet as I wrote a few weeks ago, nothing could be further from the truth.
Fact is, while being a food blogger has definitely improved my cooking (which was my original goal), sometimes I find myself too big for my britches and there I go again! Over salting! Undercooking! Over-exclamation pointing!
This gorgeous pork tenderloin was way too salty, and there’s no one to blame but me. (As an aside, I will share with you that most of Ina Garten’s recipes are way too salty for my family, so I typically, drastically reduce the salt called for in her recipes.)
In my quest to get a real dinner on the table, one in which even my husband seems surprised that I’ve created, I rushed through the recipe and didn’t read the entire thing. So instead of one tablespoon of salt over two tenderloins (Ina’s recipe), I poured all that salt over just one tenderloin.
Which brings me back to the subject of perfection. Is there any place where failure is more frustrating than in the kitchen? I believe this high-impact frustration is brought on by a few factors:
- You’ve spent real money on food that is now tasteless or even ruined beyond comprehension.
- You pretend you’re Parisian, or at least international, and so you shop for only a meal or two at a time. Or, you’re simply lazy and haven’t been to Trader Joe’s since last week. Either way, you have nothing else to offer your family for dinner. NOTHING.
- You’re flat-out hangry and need food, but don’t have it because of (1) and (2) above.
At the end of the day, there are areas in life (such as your spare room or bikini-wearing aspirations) where you can let your perfectionist tendencies slide. But never, ever, under any circumstance, attempt a new recipe without a backup plan.
Or at least a box of gluten-free pasta in your cupboard.
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Liz Schmitt says
So funny – you are a natural comic writer – more, please!
Lisa Dearen says
Thanks, Liz, you’re so sweet!