Friday, June 6, 2014

Not Missing Ingredients

A couple of weeks ago I made a sweet potato pie, but when I opened the can of evaporated milk it was all yellow and separated. Somehow this particular can, the last one in the pantry, had survived ten years of baking and Kitchen Sanitation Months - its sell-by date was in 2004!

So, onto the compost heap with that mess and here I was, with the oven on, the shell ready, the eggs and spices mashed into the sweet potatoes, Damon had the car so I would have had to bus to the grocery store, and I thought - oh, what the heck? We eat mashed sweet potatoes, right? And I scooped the mixture into the shell, and baked it for 35 minutes.

It was the best sweet potato pie I'd ever made. It didn't take forever to set. It was light and fluffy and tasty. It did not seem to be trying to pass itself off as a pumpkin pie. It was great!

So yesterday, I made another one, again without the evaporated milk. (In fact I keep forgetting to put evaporated milk onto the grocery list.) And it's still good.

Did I ever tell you about the bananafanafofaser bread? We had friends over for board games and I was making chocolate chip banana bread, but I accidentally dumped in half a bag of butterscotch chips instead of chocolate chips. So I polled the audience - should I scrap the batch, keep it and start a second one, or throw in half a bag of chocolate chips as well and see what happened? The vote was unanimously for dumping in the chocolate chips. The result was gooey but good, and one of the guests insisted on getting the recipe because the banana bread recipe she uses never came out this well. We dubbed it bananafanafofaser bread because we were playing Star Munchkin and it seemed obvious. The situation on one level is the opposite of the pie; on another level, it is identical.

This is pretty much how I bake. And write. And live. Just because the recipe, or the literary formula, or the TV tropes list, or one of the cultures in which you are imbedded, includes an ingredient, doesn't mean it's necessary, to you, in this case. I substitute all the time; I leave stuff out; I throw stuff in because it sounds tasty; I screw up and I deal with it.

Sometimes you get an unuseable mess. Sometimes you get a supreme success you can never repeat. Sometimes you change your standard mode of operation. Sometimes you inspire somebody else to greatness - or to a new dish in their repertoire.

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