I love stories about happy accidents. The chemist who was trying to create a super strong adhesive, but failed miserably when he created an adhesive that would give away. But he wasn’t sad for long; that invention was the adhesive that made Post-It Notes possible (at least that’s the story as I heard it).
The discovery of penicillin is credited to the happy accident of Sir Alexander Fleming returning from vacation and finding a moldy growth on a laboratory culture plate. That blessed boo boo led to one of the greatest life saving medications in our modern arsenal.
I know that how someone responds to failure is a key indicator of whether or not I want them in my life. Failure is just a sign that your tried. It is not a statement of your value. Show me someone who has not failed and I will show you someone who has not accomplished much. We should normalize failures. They are badges of effort. All great accomplishments could have been a failure. Maybe this is a good time for a Schrodinger’s cat analogy: that every attempt is both a success and a failure until the attempt is made.
My favourite kitchen accident was not a happy one, but I did laugh my butt off. And that was delightful. It was one of the turkey holidays and I was to bring my supplies to another family member’s house, as I was the gravy queen. (Is Dancing Queen playing in your head? Young and free, only 17. You know it is.) There were confused faces when I was called into the kitchen. “There’s something wrong with the gravy.” I picked up a spoon and yup, it was … sweet. Huh, I looked around the kitchen and bent over laughing so hard I started to cry. I had packed a zippered bag of icing sugar instead of corn starch to use as a thickener. The gravy was inedible and it was perfect. Best kitchen fail ever.
So far, I have had two happy accidents and I am excited to share them with you. I was still sleepy and in my head one morning. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing as I boiled the kettle to make a drink. I was thinking about a chai tea or maybe I was sleepy enough that a hot chocolate would give me the kick that I needed to get the day going. After a few minutes is a fog, I gasped in horror as I realized that while on autopilot, I had made a chai tea in my French press and had just poured the hot chai into my hot chocolate and milk roux in my mug. Arggghhh. What have I done! I stared at the abomination in the mug and thought, what is that going to taste like? As I blinked away the morning sleepy (believe me, I was wide awake now) I realized that a warm spice infused hot chocolate was going to be … awesome. And it was. Do that.
The other happy accident happened in August of 2020. We had just discovered the joy of homemade nachos with chicken rather than the traditional ground beef and were having it as our easy-peasy Saturday night dinner. I had, as usual, taken a rotisserie chicken, organic tortilla chips, cherry tomatoes, onions and hot peppers to our summer get away place. The small diced chicken was put into a frying pan with some water and I looked in the cupboard for the L.o.v.e. Organic Taco Spice (lovingly referred to as L.o.v.e. Potion #1). There was only a dusting left in the bag. Blink. Blink. I thought about the punishment that unseasoned chicken on nachos would be and searched in the spice storage box for something: rosemary…no, cilantro…no, turmeric…no, thyme…no. Then I saw our Curry Powder (yes, L.o.v.e. Potion #4). Hmmm. Definitely flavour. Well, WTF. At least it would be seasoned. The short story is it was CRAZY good. How crazy? Chris asked me the next night what I wanted for dinner and I said, ” What we had last night.” We had Curry Chicken Nachos at least twice a week over the next month. I felt oddly proud of myself as I realized that the dish was a quintessential “fusion” of two styles of cooking…Tex-Mex meets East Indian. I shared this experience and how to make our Curry Chicken Nachos with a number of customers (okay, with anyone who would listen). Here’s what one L.ov.e. Organic faithful customer sent me via Facebook after he tried them for himself.
“I cooked up Curry Chicken Nachos last night. I don’t know if I can eat regular nachos again.”
As a tinkerer, I expect and hope for many more happy accidents. Even if they aren’t happy, they mean I tried something new.
Here’s to your next happy accident.