If At First It Doesn't Taste Right, Wait.
First, I’ll acknowledge that I realize this isn’t the type of thing anyone wants to hear from someone who’s making food and/or dessert for them to digest, but there’s a good story behind this practice. And of course, this doesn’t include when something “doesn’t taste right” on account of it having gone rancid or toxic to any degree. (Duh).
I’m speaking more to that experience of being in the midst of creation, burying yourself so deep into a hole and then, upon feeling like your original vision isn’t coming into existence, having that sudden urge to toss the whole thing out, burn it to the ground, forget it ever happened, etc… (Assuming it’s not just me here?)
I took a few art history courses in college (to be honest, not my favorite field of study) but a story of a certain artist’s big moment in her career became a takeaway I’ve held onto since learning about it. It’s a slight tragedy that I can’t remember the actual name of the artist or her painting. But the lesson is maybe what matters most in this case anyways :)
This artist. Let’s call her… Ree Anna, was commissioned to paint a large mural for a grand event. Up until this point, most of her paintings were no bigger than a few feet in length and width. This mural would be her largest painting yet, spanning the entire wall of a room within a fancy estate… or something. (Before continuing, I just want to chime in that I’m telling the “gist” of a story). Ahem, so anyways….
Ree Anna was nervous but also super excited about this opportunity of a lifetime. This painting could make or break her career! She began painting section by section of this vast wall. Bear in mind that she’s an impressionist painter, meaning that the brush strokes are visible, almost in movement, and up close won’t look precise. They may even look blotchy but from a distance, the whole picture comes together. Yes, like a “Monet.”
Ree Anna painted all day and all night long, filling inch by inch of the space she had been granted. When at last she was done, she stepped back to view her work…. And was horrified.
Her painting, still wet, was not what she had been expecting. She was feeling humiliated about having to show this garbage to the masses. Covering up her work with a large curtain, she walked away feeling depressed and defeated.
When her moment for the big reveal arrived, she begged and pleaded not to show her painting. But the people running the show weren’t having it. They were like “We paid you big money for this, we’re taking a look!” She drew open the curtains to unveil the now completely dried mural and everyone, including Ree Anna was stunned by its beauty.
The paint, textures, and colors, just needed time to set. And Ree Anna, just had to trust her hard-earned process and instincts, then walk away in order to see it with fresh eyes.
And this is the story I recalled when I was testing a recipe for s’mores ice cream a couple weeks go. (The situation was only slightly less dire than Ree Anna’s). I had the graham cracker swirl, marshmallow cream, chocolate ice cream, and dark chocolate flakes set up. But amidst the measuring, swirling, and pouring, I found myself getting tired and underwhelmed by each spoonful. I was close to tossing the whole thing into the sink and nixing the flavor from my core menu. But I wanted to save the cleanup for another day. Plus, I did have an inkling to “just wait a see.”
When I returned to the kitchen a few days later, I re-tested my s’mores ice cream (AKA I ate it). And I really liked it. Then I had a few other people in the kitchen try it and they loved it. I’ve applied this practice to all of my flavor concepts since. You can’t get a good hunch for some creations in the moment. You gotta let the ingredients set and bloom to really understand the results.
Set it, forget it, return to it.