I glanced through the recipe eager to try an alternative to yet another pot of ratatouille. I could see there were a lot of steps but I enjoy chopping vegetables and I’ve succeeded at piecrust before. I planned it for Sunday but I hadn’t accounted for chilling the pie dough. Finally, on Tuesday I had enough time.
Make the pie dough, chill it for an hour, chop eggplant, onion, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes and marinate them with garlic cloves in olive oil, thyme, and rosemary. Roll out the dough, wrangle it into the pie pan and chill for another 30 minutes then cook it with pie weights for 15 minutes, then without pie weights for another ten. Turn the oven up to 400 and roast the onion and tomatoes on one cookie sheet for 35 minutes and the zucchini, eggplant, and garlic on another for 45. Mix grated cheese, an egg, and mayonnaise in a bowl.
At this point, I’d been in the kitchen for most of the afternoon. As I reached the final stage of the recipe, my partner came home from work. A charming and sunny woman she was full of entertaining stories about her day. She had gathered more produce from our garden and was working around me to get it cleaned and put away. As she talked, I filled the now cooled piecrust with the roasted vegetables, spooned the egg, cheese, mayo mixture on top, turned the oven down to 375 and put the pie in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. We both thought it looked delicious as we left the kitchen to continue our conversation in the living room.
When I went to check on it about 20 minutes later, I was surprised to see that while the cheese mixture had melted, it didn’t look as though it, or the piecrust had cooked. As I tried to figure out if this was how it was supposed to look I glanced up to see that the oven, though still warm from par baking the pie crust and roasting vegetables, was off. Confused, my first thought was that my partner had turned it off but in the next moment I realized it was my fault. When you change the temperature on our oven, you hit the stop button, enter the new temperature, and then hit start. I did the first two steps but not the third. I let out a loud expletive. My partner said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I forgot to turn the oven back on.” She laughed.
I’m happy to report that I did not shout at her for finding my afternoon’s wasted labor funny. However, I’m unhappy to report that my equanimity was shattered. I turned the oven to 375, pressed start, and walked upstairs. I sat on the bed screaming (quietly to myself) about all that ruined effort and if not ruined then certainly not the dish featured in the New York Times. I wanted to blame my partner for her distracting stories but I knew I had committed two of the cardinal sins of my mother’s house: Carelessness and wasted food.
The truest, deepest feeling I had in that moment was: There is no room for error in my life. I will always be thwarted in reaching my desires because I’m always going to make a mistake that ruins all the effort that preceded that mistake. The universe is just waiting for me to screw up so it can say, “You’re not good enough to get what you want. Even if all you want is to try out a new recipe.”
I stayed there for several minutes before I took three deep breaths. In the space of those breaths I was able to remember something important. I was never making the pie described in the recipe. The recipe didn’t call for a half wheat half white flour crust. I’d changed cheeses, skipped the olives, and sautéed the zucchini instead of roasting it because I already had a grated a bag of it to use up.
What had I wanted if not the original recipe? I’d wanted to spend an afternoon making pie dough, chopping vegetables, and managing the complications of a new recipe. The pleasure of making something with my own hands, using the vegetables from our garden, creating something I knew my partner would enjoy—all of that was real. The only thing that was going to ruin what I had done was my willingness to give my happiness away to the illusion that I am not allowed to make mistakes.
I wish I’d taken a picture of it. It looked nothing like the quiche I made a few years ago that’s pictured above but it tasted just as good.
When are you most intolerant of your humanness, your fallibility?