When it comes to cooking, I don't go off-book. I leave writing the directions to the experts, and all I do is execute. This is how I do things because I am *terrified* of failure, and I rely on the expertise of the More Experienced to guide me. No matter what I'm doing, first, I follow directions until I've become comfortable with X, then make small changes for a while, THEN make big changes.
With my knitting, I was a hard-and-fast directions-follower for a long, long time. The difference between knitting and cooking is simple: short of a mis-cut steek, you can't waste yarn or ruin your knitting, 99.9% of knitting can be ripped out and redone. Food can be ruined, and while I hate wasting food, life is too short to eat bad food.
With knitting, a lot of the logic and "secret sauce" came to me fairly naturally; probably because I was doing a lot of on-the-job problem solving. Cooking is still part alchemy as far as I'm concerned. Laura'nge, the Joy of Cooking Fairy, has taken me under her wing as her apprentice, and she has been greatly contributing to (and lovingly guiding) my culinary education. This has been a lot of fun for both of us, but has also been the source of Great Anxiety for Yours Truly.
Call it OCD, call it fear of failure, call it cowardice. I don't go off-book, and I might have had to restrain myself from FREAKING OUT and getting my crazy all over Laura'nge the other night when she went off-book while making the marinade/dressing for dinner. It was a small - but important - part of the meal, but sweet holy Deity-(or-Not)-of-Your-Choice, I had to actively restrain myself from following my misguided, terrified, reactionary instincts.
With her usual flair, she took a glance at the recipe, started there, and then it was more like this:
Laura'nge: [Throwing together all manner of ingredients, non-chalantly, while carrying on a conversation about ... something.] *buzz of talking*, right?
Me: [Eyes wide in terror, OH MY GOD. That isn't in the recipe! What is she DOOOOOING?] Yeah, totally. [Don't panic. You'll only look like a crazy person. Crazier person.]
Laura'nge: [Tastes, then does something else off-book] *buzz of talking* Butter, butter, butter.
Me: [Stop freaking out. She's good at this. She knows what she's doing. Oh no, I'm totally not listening. I need to stop freaking out.] Mmmm... Butter. [Phew, good cover!]
Laura'nge: Here, taste. [Gives me a taste of the marinade/dressing.]
Hm. it was delicious.
- Trust Laura'nge, always.
- Going off-book doesn't always end in disaster.
- Sometimes a little emotional discomfort is okay, but if and only if it ends in a delicious meal.