Let’s talk about failure for a moment – specifically,
kitchen/cooking failures. If you’ve ever cooked, you’ve probably experienced failure, right? Most of us have had numerous fails – if you haven’t, it’s probably a sign that you really don’t cook much (or maybe you’ve set the bar so low, everything passes muster in your kitchen).
I started thinking about this topic yesterday following one
of my failures: My church group is having an event this week, and I wanted to bring my delicious French vanilla
bean ice cream. I created a wonderful recipe for it that I’ve used many times, but… I COULDN’T FIND IT! Oh no – what do I do now? I did the only logical thing – I searched the
Internets for a similar one, and hoped it would work. Well, you know the rest… it didn’t, and I ended up feeding the mixture to the disposal.
Happily, my wife found MY recipe last night, so I made it today, and it’s egg-custard perfection, as it should be.
So what IS failure, exactly?
To me, it’s either:
- Failure to anticipate
- Failure to perceive
- Failure to correctly carry out a task
Why is this important?
Because, as an engineer, the first thing we do following an adverse event is called Failure Analysis (or Root Cause Analysis) – which is simply the process of figuring out the “rights & wrongs” of the activity, steps we could have taken to mitigate the outcome failure, and steps we can take in the
future to minimize the possibility of repeat failures. I’ll throw in another one: Could our failed final product possibly be
used in another context? In other words, did we inadvertently create something completely different that has value? Try applying this analysis following your next failure; see if it helps.
Another point I want to make is that the very best cooks
have failures – more than you may imagine. You’re in very good company! When you watch your favorite television
cooking show, do you really think everything goes as smoothly as depicted? Yeah, right… cooking shows are edited, folks! The failures are left on the cutting room floor; we never get to see them.
Me, I don’t get angry about my failures – usually. What does irritate me, however, is when the failure is due to my own inattention (distractions, etc.). Sometimes I blame my failure on the lack of proper tools – occasionally, I can whine my way into getting a new gadget for the kitchen, but I know my wife has been on to this trick for quite some time, and just lets me get something because she’s a kind and generous person.
Finally, the fact of a failure usually provides an opportunity for learning – so many times, I come into possession of a recipe, and when I make it, the results are not what I expected, so I modify and tweak the recipe until it meets with my approval. The beauty of this approach is, you’ve just created a new recipe!
I hope the foregoing will help some the next time you’re faced with a failure in the kitchen!