The very first time I ‘cooked’ for my family was an absolute disaster.
I’m not sure quite how old I was, but I’m guessing around 7 or 8 years old. I remember having watched my mom prepare dinner for us almost every night and my grandparents host impressively large meals for our giant extended family whenever everyone was in town. It was always such a nice feeling, sitting around together eating food. And so I thought to myself, “I wanna make something my family can have fun eating together!”
Ohhhhh, ohohoho, little Molly. I mean you tried, right?
Let’s think about this situation briefly. I was seven and roughly the height of our kitchen counter. I had no idea how to cook. So I did the obvious thing and mixed together all of my favorite snack foods at the time, creating the most horribly well-intentioned trail mix in history.
It had everything you’ve never wanted in your trail mix, and more:
-Bits of torn up white bread
-Rustic pieces of broken pretzel rods
(Yep, two types of pretzel. For that textural difference, am I right?)
Long story short, it was awful, and I was super proud as I distributed my masterpiece among three plastic bowls decorated with cartoon animals to serve to my mom, dad, and sister.
They were so nice about it, the sweethearts. I remember them smiling while taking small bites and mmm-ing and ahh-ing over how yummy it was. And I was just there like, “Ok ya that’s great, fam, but like why is there still so much left in your bowls?”
Then I tried it, a bite with a fragment of white bread and a Pringle shard, and I understood.
I really love this story because it shows that no one is a hopeless cook. Anyone can learn. Sometimes people compliment my cooking and then say they wish they could cook. And I just think about how I began by making trail mix with ravaged white bread… You can cook!!!
I have so many stories about cooking mishaps like this, most of them embarrassingly dumb. But it’s ok because they’re hilarious, and I learn from them and keep going.
Like, this one time I was making these microwave French fries—I kid you not, they were these frozen, microwaveable French fries by Ore-Ida that I used to eat…USED TO–and listen to how simple it was to prepare them. You adjust the packaging a little bit by pressing in one side of the box so it lies flat against the fries, and stick the whole thing in the microwave for a few minutes, and BAM. Crispy fries. I know there are a lot of things wrong with this, but that’s not the point right now.
The point is that one time I managed to burn every single fry in the box to an absolute crisp. Black as coal, all of ’em. The whole house smelled awful. The smoke detector went off. I was home alone and confused and deeply ashamed. I think this happened early on in high school? I’m telling you, anyone can cook.
Here’s one more, from the first time I made bread. The directions said “rotate the bread halfway through baking.” So what did I do? I didn’t turn the pan around. No, I left that where it was, and I literally flipped the loaf of bread upside down on the pan.
I’m so serious, friends. That’s how I interpreted the directions, and I deflated my first ever loaf of bread. I remember telling my mom what I’d done and the look in her eyes said, “How do you think to do things like this??!”
So please, if I can rally from things like this, never doubt that you can cook.
Today I’m sharing a recipe for redemption trail mix. It still has snacks I like—chocolate, dried cherries, almonds, cinnamon chex—but it actually tastes good, I promise! I tried some before I gave it to anyone else this time. 😉
Do you have any cooking failures you’d like to share? Or a general memory including food? Tell me about it, anonymously or not, by clicking here!
Cherry Chocolate Redemption Trail Mix
4 cups cinnamon chex cereal (or any chex cereal of your choice)
2 tbsp. butter or Earth Balance
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
½ cup roasted, unsalted almonds
½ cup dark chocolate chunks, plus more for the drizzle
½ cup dried cherries
1. Line a large baking tray with wax paper and set aside.
2. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium-low heat until smooth. Gently stir in the chex cereal and almonds and continue cooking until cereal and almonds are coated, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.
3. Spread the mixture evenly on the prepared tray. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks and dried cherries over the cereal mixture.
4. In a microwave safe bowl, heat about 2 tbsp. chocolate chunks in 30 second increments in the microwave, stirring the chocolate after each 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Drizzle evenly over the trail mix with a fork. Let cool until the chocolate drizzle hardens completely, then break up the trail mix and enjoy. Store in an airtight container.