I am not a good cook.
This is not in question. My husband is the chef de cuisine in our home and for good reason. I have burnt gluten free spaghetti to the bottom of our pot, I’ve baked chicken into oregano-flavored press board.
I can’t make an over easy egg to save my life, and I spent three months making them every morning for myself to try and get it right without breaking a yolk or flipping it into an origami egg-nightmare.
Thankfully, I still have some time to try as my toddlers are still in a place where taste takes precedent over appearance. I still have time to learn to flip an egg or bake a souffle. For now, they like things that are tasty, and so I still have hope.
Last weekend though, when presented with an opportunity to make pancakes, I approached with my usual flair for flavors the kiddos liked, cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom. I threw butter onto the skillet and set to.
Round 1: Sloppy pseudo-cakes that were scorched on one side and wider on the other, obviously a product of having flipped before the batter on top was solid.
Round 2: Uneven in size, and randomly shaped, they flipped a bit easier and so weren’t as dark on the original side. But they were still overcooked. So I lowered the heat.
Round 3: I figured, well, can’t get much worse, so I grabbed a ladle and started using it to control the shape and size of the pancakes. These turned out to be pretty evenly shaped and cooked more evenly. The ladle definitely helped me control the size and shape.
Round 4: Produced the first ever Magpie-born pancakes that looked like actual silver dollars. No scorches, just golden brown delight-discs. What just happened?!
Round 5: Another set of four delightful pancakes that were evenly cooked, golden brown and restaraunt worthy! I was so thrilled, I called Mister Magpie in to come see what miracle I had just performed.
What happened?!? And how does this relate to art?
I learned a valuable life-lesson, something that I likely already knew. But what happened was, I made a mistake, tweaked my recipe, my heat, my tools and experimented with the process. I had made enough batter to feed my family and so regardless of how they looked, I knew I had to keep trying until all the food was made.
With art, I often find myself frustrated with the process if I create something lesser than my expectations. And since there aren’t hungry children waiting for my art, I have no reason to keep pushing me past my frustrations with myself to the point of experimentation. I haven’t gotten past the parts I can’t make work because there’s nothing pushing me.
But because of the pancakes, I think it dawned on me that the first two rounds of pancakes still tasted great, they still filled a belly. And they were needed for me to learn the best way make the perfect pancake. And while my drafts aren’t always going to be the best pieces I’ve ever made, they are the foundation for practice and experimentation needed to grow in my art.
Sometimes, you gotta burn a pancake to make good ones. And sometimes, you gotta scrap a piece, so you can find the right way to make a masterpiece.
So, go out there and practice, experiment and push past your own creative blocks to make something meaningful!