I have told my daughter that she should heed my advice on matters regarding food and grooming because there is a great chance that said advice is based on something I learned the hard way. While my past reminds me that I am sometimes not the sort of person who profits from experience, there have been consequences for some of my actions that could not be denied. I have learned that I should not use both aerosol deodorant and hairspray, for in using both I take the risk that my upper arms may stick to my sides as my hair looks as if it has been sprayed with artificial snow. I know that I should not color my hair at home and then get a salon perm a few days later unless I want a crew cut in two weeks.
Over the years, I have run a true ultramarathon of food trial and error. Despite that I am very fond of reading recipes online and in magazines, I still struggle to resist the siren call of adding a mystery ingredient or an unlikely side dish to a meal. Usually these experiments are based in economy rather than originality. If I am missing an ingredient and have something that is going to expire soon, I will sometimes substitute what is in excess for what is not on hand. I do this even though the first time it happened the result was an utter abomination.
Back when I was around 12 years old, I visited one of my neighborhood friends, and we decided that our time together that day would not be complete without baking a batch of cookies at her house. Since no brown sugar or chocolate chips were available, we opted to bake sugar cookies, and we did not let an absence of an appropriate fat stop us. The closest thing on hand to butter was a bowl of roasted chicken drippings her mother was saving in the fridge. We figured that any solid fat could work in the cookies, so we creamed it with the sugar and plowed ahead with making the cookies.
By the time we finished baking, I needed to get home for dinner, so I did not try the cookies until I reached my house. As I walked in the door at home, I proudly unwrapped the plate of cookies for my mom to show her that I’d succeeded in baking without parental supervision for the first time. She tasted one of the warm cookies first and asked how in the world I’d created such a flavor. When I tasted one, I was horrified by its sugary chicken leg taste. I have not willingly eaten dark meat chicken in all of the years since.
As my daughter begins her odyssey of meal creation, I hope that she trusts my cooking advice. There is no need for another generation to discover that cabbage is not a good side dish for cheeseburger macaroni or that broccoli and chili should not be served together. Above all else, do not bake cookies without the right kind of fat.