Tomato-Corn Pie and Mayo Fail

4 Oct

Well, it was bound to happen.

I’ve written extensively here on the blog about my true domestic roots as a major kitchen flop. A mashed-potato-blending, smoke-alarm-setting, crying-over-the-piecrust flop. Sooner or later, I was bound to try to make something to share with you all… and fail at it.

The culprit this time (as I assure you, there will be more times like this in the future) was my first attempt at homemade mayonnaise. In trying to decide what to make for dinner this weekend and scanning the refrigerator, I discovered some really delicious frozen local sweet corn and a couple of farmer’s market tomatoes.

The last rays of summer sun were slanting through the blinds, and the temperature was a comfortable mid-70s. What better than a creamy tomato-corn pie?

In fact, the only ingredient I didn’t have for the pie was mayonnaise, a crucial component to the rich, lemon filling. Rather than run to the store and buy something full of preservatives, starches and other corn products, I decided to get out the eggs and oil and try my hand at whipping my own mayo. I found this recipe and ran with it, as it used exclusively olive oil, which I love more than any other oil, and which I had more of than canola, got out the whisk and went to town.

See that? That’s what “split” mayo looks like — when the oil doesn’t successfully emulsify into the egg, you get something that tastes like mayo, but looks like a runny mess. The internet tells me this happens when you add the oil too quickly while beating the eggs.

So I tried it again, adding the existing oil mixture drop by drop to a new egg, and used the electric hand mixer to beat more quickly. But to no avail. The mayo was just not meant to be.

Luckily, since in this recipe, the mayo is cooked and used just as flavorful pie filling (rather than as a spread) I was still able to use the runny mayo to make the pie. Still turned out delicious — just less fluffy and pretty than it should.

Of course, there’s always a silver lining here on We*Meat*Again. I may have failed this time around at making homemade mayo, but it gives me a chance to address something I know we’ve all felt at one time or another: kitchen shame.

No matter how far past my clumsy, undomestic girlhood I have come, no matter how radical a feminist I am, no matter how much I write about it, I still feel disappointed and angry with myself with I can’t succeed in the kitchen. The failure permeates. I pout. I pore over articles on the internet and then feel frustrated seeing the same answer over and over again, and think but I did that! in my best petulent, whiny voice.

But you know what? Who cares! We’ve all failed sometime or another, whether in or outside the kitchen. And my parents, like hopefully all of yours (assuming you had parents who met your basic needs) told me that mistakes are worth something only if we learn from them.

So I will attempt to learn how to make mayo again — I don’t stop trying something when I don’t get it right in the kitchen. I find another recipe, try with a little more patience, or help. But more than that, the lesson I take from my kitchen failures is that this is worth trying.

Homemade mayo (even if only hypothetical at this point) will be so much better for me, my body and my planet, than super-preserved store-bought mayo. No matter how many tries it takes, I will get this right, because there’s something real at stake here. And the only real failure would be not trying to succeed on something this important (Michael Jordan taught me that).

And if making my failures public to the world encourages all you to give it a shot, too, then all the better.

Alright, spill it! What are your funniest, clumsiest, or most frustrating kitchen fails? Let’s laugh at our misfortune together — and then give each other advice! Anyone know how to make mayo?

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4 Responses to “Tomato-Corn Pie and Mayo Fail”

  1. melsar93 October 4, 2011 at 10:28 AM #

    I know exactly what you mean. In the past year I’ve made some amazing dishes that turned out perfectly, but this weekend I nearly threw a plate against the wall because I couldn’t get a fried corndog to work.

  2. Cristina @ An Organic Wife October 4, 2011 at 2:54 PM #

    I’m not really a fan of frying stuff. Not because it’s fatty – because it’s hard! The last time I tried to make chicken fried steak, the outside slightly burnt before the inside was done. That was mostly fixable – the irritating part was that my egg/flour/milk/flour crust kept falling off of the meat!
    I’m sure part of it had to do with the fact that I am deathly afraid of hot, popping oil, and somehow in my fear I messed up somewhere.

  3. Erica October 4, 2011 at 11:19 PM #

    First, I have to say that even if the mayo didn’t turn out, your crust on that pie looks gorgeous.

    Second: I grew up in the kitchen. But still I found myself getting timid and stressed about cooking and baking when I started hanging out with foodie/sus-aggie types. I loved those people and their culture (and kinda became one of them, on purpose), but the perfectionist performer in me simply hated the fact that everyone else seemed to know more than I did, and that I might possibly bring something subpar to a potluck. I even sometimes avoided occasions where I might have to cook, or safely defaulted to bringing a bottle of local wine. I don’t know that I’m completely over this paranoia – it definitely flares up sometimes! There are some harsh food critics out there. But if I can manage to push away the feelings of intimidation, I’m able to instead embrace the opportunity to learn. And it comes through observation, imitation, experimentation, failure, risk, and feedback. Sharing failures is almost kind of a relief. Good to laugh over, and try again.

  4. Steve Gravelle October 6, 2011 at 9:45 AM #

    Exhibit A: Failures are part of the fun of cooking! Because as long as you can step back, take a look at what you’ve done and figure out what you’ll do differently next time, you’ve succeeded after all. You just can’t hold yourself to too high a standard. Because remember, Martha Stewart has a veritable ARMY of young, enthusiastic cooks/crafters that work tirelessly to make everything perfect. For the rest of us, the kitchen is a place to play, and sometimes win spectacularly, and sometimes fail in the same fashion. As long as you keep going back to the kitchen, you can’t lose! Persistence and play are the keys!

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