When we shared our post about State Fair Ham Loaf a few weeks ago, we received this very good question from a reader named Mindy:
Guys - I love your site! But why go to the trouble of devoting a column to "eww, this is nasty, but here's the recipe" when there are so many wonderful recipes out there yet to be discovered?
That, Mindy, is an excellent question.
It's true. We post the good and the bad, the recipes that we love, and those that don't even make it to the table.
So why feature a recipe that doesn't work, either because of a bum recipe or our own mistake?
Well, first, we find it kind of funny, to be honest. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, we're the shrug-it-off-and-scrounge-for-supper kind of people. And things will go wrong in the kitchen -- they do in ours all the time. We over salt, undercook, step away for too long, completely forget to use or buy an ingredient, and leave guests waiting too long for food. And that's the short list. We have made all the mistakes. All of them.
And sometimes -- the vast minority of the time -- a recipe is the problem. The proportions are off, or the instructions omit something from the ingredient list, or the cook time is listed as being too long. Mistakes happen (we've made them in our own recipes).
Not all recipes are created equal, and there are no perfect recipes. Recipes are an endless process. Haven't we as a community of cooks perfected roast chicken, thereby no longer requiring new recipes? Of course we haven't. That's why you still find recipes for new takes on roast chicken in a magazine nearly every month. It can always be improved upon, or a new variant introduced.
We're not looking for "gotcha" moments here; our goal in featuring a "bad" recipe is never to find fault with a food magazine. No one is infallible, including those who work in magazine test kitchens. We don't envy their jobs -- cranking out a new batch of "perfect" recipes each month. Well, maybe we envy their jobs a little bit. But mistakes are bound to happen, just as they do in our kitchen.
There's one very practical reason we feature "bad" recipes. We want to let you know what we thought in case you dog-eared the same recipe in a magazine that month. If we thought it needed more hot sauce, or less salt, or half the cook time, we want to arm you with that information, should you decide to tackle it on your own.
But mostly we see things pretty simply: We cook recipes from food magazines, and share them with you, because we love seeing how they translate in real life. We want to take you along on our experience, learning together, laughing through errors and cheering through successes. Some of that will include glorious triumphs, in and out of the kitchen.
But there will be challenge and maybe a little heartbreak, too. After all, that's life. And we're proudly going to share the bad right along with the good.