Recently, I was Marion Nestle’s guest at a luncheon hosted by the Food Studies students at NYU. As Marion proudly showed me through the kitchen, she introduced me to a young woman dressed in a chef’s jacket and wearing a dismayed look on her face.
“Oooooo! Can we try some of those?” Marion asked the student when she spotted the sheet pan of coconut concoctions nearby.
“Oh, those. They didn’t turn out right. They spread out too much, and I don’t know what I’m going to do with them now.”
We tasted them anyway, and they were fabulous. The batter seemed to have separated as they baked, with the butter and sugar falling to the bottom and caramelizing into a sweet, brown, nutty, crispiness that turned ordinary macaroons into something extra special.
“Really? You like them?” asked the student, seeming surprised as we helped ourselves to seconds. “I’m glad. I guess I’ll serve them, but I still don’t know what am I going to do with these completely flat ones on the other tray.”
“If they were mine,” I replied, “I’d chopped them up and used them as a crust for a cheesecake. I think it would make a fantastic combination.”
“That’s a great idea!” she said, a genuine smile finally on her face.
More importantly, it was a good reminder for all of us that, in cooking, mistakes are really only opportunities to create something new.