The Right Recipe

Have you ever tried to recreate a dish you’ve had at a restaurant that you thought was wonderful? Or, like me, maybe you had a relative who made something you loved but wouldn’t give you the recipe.

Years ago in my previous life, my then mother-in-law made the best baked beans I’d ever tasted. She did them in a crock on low for hours and hours. The end result was the most delicious, fragrant, tender balance of savory and sweet. Each year, for my daughter Christina’s birthday we’d have a BBQ and she always requested that Grandma make her special baked beans. There were none better.

I questioned her subtly and not so subtly over the years trying to get her to acquiesce and hand over the magic recipe. The most I ever got was a vague list of ingredients. I never knew exact amounts and I never knew if she left anything out. All I knew was that no matter how many times I tried, I just couldn’t replicate them. They were just never the same; never “right.”

The same can be said, all too often, when you meet someone new. You chat on the telephone, text, go out on a bunch of dates, each time looking for the right ingredients. Is he the right age? Check. Tall enough? Check. Intelligent? Check. Has a good job, takes care of his home and his car? Check. Check. On and on we check off the boxes . . . politically compatible, considerate, respectful, thoughtful, kind to animals? There seem to be a lot of the right ingredients, so maybe this recipe could work!

As with those damn baked beans, I tried and tried again. Maybe if I just lower the heat, raise the heat, add a touch more mustard, less brown sugar, perhaps? I tried. I tried to be mindful of and add the right ratio of each ingredient and wait patiently for them to combine properly, for chemistry to make something as delicious as I knew it could be; it should be- but no. The result was lackluster, at best. There was just something missing – a bunch of things, actually. Sometimes you know exactly what’s lacking and other times, you just don’t know why it’s no good but either way it’s so very disappointing.

As many good ingredients as there were, the combined result was beans I simply did not want to eat and I’ve learned that some things you just can’t force.

And then there are the instances when you actually have the recipe (like my Grandmother’s eggplant or artichokes) and although you’re doing it the way she said, it just doesn’t taste the same as when she does it. Correct recipe; different results.

Is it that special Grandma way of stirring? The Italian songs she sings and the random curse words thrown in that somehow make the difference? Maybe you’re just hung up on the memory and won’t even give this new version a chance. Perhaps it’s a little of all these things combined.

All I know is that cooking, like love, takes the right ingredients, a chemical reaction and a little bit of magic to produce something really extraordinary. Don’t settle for a substitute that falls short. Keep trying until you get the beans just right.

Thinking of You


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