Thursday, January 4, 2018

A New Year's Kitchen Resolution: Being Okay With Ugly

The other night Chef Reiton and I sat down to dinner. It was our first full day together after being apart for the New Year. A candle flickered on the table. We swirled the wine in our glasses, smiled into each other's eyes, then turned to our meal set on the table: a chunky Greek salad and a baked, fake-pasta dish (beef and bacon meatballs, simmered in tomato sauce made with our own homegrown tomatoes, and cubed-up and fried Italian eggplant, all sprinkled with a good picante provolone).

It all smelled heavenly.

And, dear lord, was it all SO ugly.

As I took bite after bite of my absolutely scrumptious, ugly dinner, I thought about my ugly meal: Does food being "pretty" keep people from cooking? Do they see all these Glamour Shots of food on food blogs like mine (not that my photos are at ALL glamorous compared to some) and on Pinterest and on TV and get intimidated by the prettiness?

I remember being intimidated by prettiness. I looked at how easily the pretty girl was...well, pretty. And I just thought there was no way that I could ever be like that. So I didn't really even try.

Here's proof:

(A lot of you knew me when. Big dork. But I was happy!)

And now I'm thinking that might be how people regard "being able to cook." It's intimidating. The "pros" make it look so easy to make such a glamorous meal, but when you try, it's not. It looks just plain awful. So you don't even try.

My friends, I'm here to tell you:
It's okay to be ugly in the kitchen.

Was I embarrassed by my ugly baked meatballs that broke up against the fried eggplant with cheese that didn't melt into a gorgeous gooey mess but instead only softened and congealed into a more plasti-cheese shape? Was I utterly ashamed of my Greek salad whose feta cheese chunks disintegrated in the olive oil and red wine vinegar and ended up coating all my beautiful veggie chunks in a murky white dressing?

No, sir! Why should I? Who was I trying to impress? I not only was experimenting with flavors and using what I had in my kitchen, but I was feeding my husband and myself a delicious, fresh, home-cooked dinner. THAT's what mattered. I wasn't doing a photo shoot for a magazine, using fake food. I was creating a REAL meal with REAL food that was REALLY delicious.

Do I like my food to look good? Yes. But the reality is that a good 5-out-of-10 times I forget the garnish, or my food looks lost on the serving plate, or every dish is the same color and my dinner plate looks like it's from a sci-fi movie, or I am just too damn hungry to care!

So, for all you burgeoning (or not-yet-burgeoning) cooks out there: DON'T be intimidated by all the pretty food (the sometimes really beautifully ridiculous food photos that make you wonder whether the cook ever even got to enjoy that warm pie after getting the mood lighting right, the apple blossom branches just so, the perfect bite mark on the perfect apple, and the sweetly drifting confectioner's sugar caught at the right shutter speed).

Don't think you can't cook because of the looks. Screw the looks. Like your momma told you, the looks don't matter. It's the heart and the soul that do.

And you know what? It's the same with your food.

SO. New Year's resolution for me—and hopefully for you: In the kitchen (and maybe sometimes elsewhere...), I'm going to be okay with ugly.


  1. As the sight impaired know, it's all in the taste.

  2. Canned Spam guarantees your meal will always be ugly; no special expertise required. And it has a 100 year shelf life.


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