Food Fails: How Failure Can Be Inherent to Creativity


If you casually keep tabs on my instagram (rather, foodstagram often enough) account, you might notice that 1) I make some tasty looking food things and 2) there’s a handful of folks that often leave comments along the lines of that they’re suddenly coming over for dinner, or would like to engage me as a personal chef somehow. No matter how many updates are pushed, you can’t taste an onscreen photo (Willy Wonka needs to get into app development rather than flavored wallpaper, right?).  Maybe, just maybe, everything you’re seeing might look delicious but in reality tastes like gym socks, post-gym class.

Thankfully, I’ve yet to actually stumble upon a recipe to evoke gym socks in flavor. And honestly, if what’s on my plate is making it to my foodstagram, chances are it is tasty. Editing, friends—you’re getting the highlights. By no means am I immune to over-baking, poor flavor combination choices, nor general failure. It’s just the food fails don’t get seen by the general public, I  don’t put them out there.


Which one of these is not like the other?


Until now. No risk, no gain, right? I’ll own this one.

This Food Fail was the result of me trying to will convenience vegetables (a.k.a. the ones I had handy) into a chicken dish by means of food processor and baking, basing most decisions on color. I do not recommend baking chicken in a sauce consisted of spinach, zucchini, onions, garlic, white wine and more all processed together into a green soupy liquid. The result was edible, but not so enjoyable. It was too punchy—I went too heavy on the onion, and should have sautéed it before incorporating it in with the other vegetables. I added some cream cheese to a portion of the sauce to attempt to cancel out the superfluous punch it had, which was an improvement but still did not bring the dish to an enjoyable level.

Coco Chanel is often quoted “Once you’ve dressed, and before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.” being a direct commentary on fashion and accessories, but the idea can transcend subject matter. I certainly over-accessorized my chicken, and by the time I’d realized that, I would have needed to take out not just one component, but a few. Once the food processor has done its dirty work there’s little chance to fish out an undesirable ingredient. It is worthwhile to keep track of what the twig that broke the camel’s back was when faced with this situation, and even more prudent to strive to be quite deliberate with each ingredient when attempting a similar combination in the future.

Failing big doesn’t feel great as it happens, but it can be an enlightening experience to learn from. Taking risks outside of your comfort zone (in your kitchen, or otherwise) leave opportunity for something great to happen, whether a great success, or a great fail.

Take home points:

  • Making slight variations to old favorites is a good place to start, but don’t expect mind-numbing taste surprises to come from just one baby step at a time

  • Know when to admit defeat, and move on. Take a second to jot down the perceived cause of your creation’s fail and any ideas for avoiding it in the future

  • When unsure about an idea, try it on a small portion first

  • Remember the Coco Chanel quote when adding a new component—would this one be the removable flavor accessory?


Got a food fail of your own? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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