October 13, 2010

Tip of the day—Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Every so often I’ll get a question from a reader or friend about cooking.  When I was teaching one of my interns how to cook (it was my wedding gift to her and her fiancé), she asked how she could learn how to cook intuitively.  My answer is to be willing to experiment and make mistakes.  Most of the real learning in life happens when we mess up.  It is one of the fastest ways to learn a lesson and to internalize the meaning behind the mistake. 

Trying a different spice or a different proportion of ingredients challenges you to learn through experimentation.  My dad is one of the best cooks I know.  We’ve shared lots of wonderful meals together made with his hands, but I also remember some experiments gone bad.  There were many times that he got it “right” and there were other times that we ate food that wasn’t as enjoyable because of a tweak in a recipe gone “wrong”.  He encouraged us to try the foods gone “wrong” so that we too could understand the “why” behind the mistake.  “See how different this is with hot paprika”  “Notice how different the taste is with a darker roux”.  

If you are hesitant to try something just because you will make a mistake or not be as good at it as someone else, you aren’t alone.  I want to start a project and be “good” at it right off the bat.  However, there really isn’t such a thing as right or wrong, good or bad—it is all about our perception and how we look at it.  The times that I allow myself to jump in head first and am willing to let loose of those right or wrong restraints (in cognitive behavioral therapy, we call this polarized thinking), I am amazed at how much I grow and learn. 

This week, try something new and different.  Tweak a recipe.  Start a new project.  Play.  Be willing to make mistakes and learn from those experiences.

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