The Great Calzone Failure of ’01

Nobody thought I could cook, least of all me. For our wedding, a wrapped up warehouse store supply of macaroni and cheese came alongside a copy of “Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen.” There wasn’t much expectation of my providing Josh with anything edible.

Taking it as a challenge, I flipped through my condescending cookbook; placing slips of paper in the pages to mark the recipes I intended on conquering. Calzones, potato soup, fried rice, croque monsieur; I would learn to cook!

Every night I had dinner ready for Josh, and it all came easily for me. All I had to do was follow the directions. Confident in my newfound talent, I suggested we invite the in-laws over for dinner. I would make calzones.

Our local grocery store did not carry pizza dough; a necessity for the meal. Biscuit dough should substitute as a casing, right? I measured out the ingredients for one batch of biscuits…the recipe that is supposed to result in 9 biscuits. Rolling out the dough, I decided that it really was only suitable for one calzone. One giant, behemoth calzone. A calzone to end all calzones. A calzone that could feed a family of 6.

I made four of them.

Guessing at the bake time, since my outer layer was not the one intended in the recipe, we ended up waiting an extra 45 minutes for dinner to be ready. Unprepared for this delay in the meal, I had no appetizers or hors d’oeuvres on hand. Good thing too, I wouldn’t have wanted to ruin their appetite for the main course.

Pulling my calzones out of the oven, I marveled at the golden brown exterior, the smell of the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, the tang of the tomato sauce. Proudly I placed one mammoth half-moon pie on each plate. Anticipating the exclamations of delight and yumminess that would soon be emanating from my in-law’s mouths, I cut into my savory pastry. The normal result is a slight pop as steam escapes from inside, followed by all sorts of tantalizing smells.

Unfortunately this was not the case. Doughy. Underdone.

Raw.

I had just served my in-laws raw dough wrapped around molten cheese and jarred tomato sauce.

Failure…of epic proportions.

Maybe “they” were right. Maybe we needed to pull out the familiar blue and yellow box with its packaged cheese powder. Maybe I should just quit trying.

Luckily, I did not allow this setback to deter me. That year I had only one other significant inedible meal…Thai food. Other than that, everything I made was not only edible, but good. People wanted me to cook for them. They enjoyed what I served.

As the years have gone by, I’ve spent hours watching cooking shows, researching recipes and reading cookbooks. Never have I taken a class. Not one “How-To” book have  I cracked. But I’m a good cook.

How do I know this? People are happy when they eat my food. My husband encourages me in it. My children tell me I make the “best dinner ever.” I get asked to teach others how to cook.

I enjoy it.

I’m not a professional chef. Never once has James Beard given me an award. Cooking does not contribute to my income. Yet there’s not a doubt in my mind that it is a talent I possess.

Too often we allow our doubts and fears to hold us back. Cooking was one area I conquered those doubts, but there are others in my life that I still struggle with. There’s the expectation that if we’re good at it we’ll become famous for it, we can earn money from it, we’ll be better than others.

What’s the true measure of talent? Isn’t it all subjective? Who is the ultimate judge?

These are questions I keep returning to:

1. Do I enjoy it?

2. Do others gain from it?

Yes, acclaim would be nice; whether local or international stardom. Sure, being able to make a living doing it would be fantastic. But it all comes down to: would you continue to do it if no one ever knew?

For you it could be music, painting, basketball, speaking, writing, photography, knitting, film making, or fly fishing.

Regardless of the skill…keep at it! You might start out with raw dough and jarred sauce, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Have you ever felt like giving up on a hobby or interest because of an epic failure?

Did you? Were you able to overcome your fears and press on?

How do you measure success in those areas?

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28 Comments

  1. Janelle says:

    I’m attempting to overcome failure today, actually. I know it sounds really scary but, I’m looking for a kitten. No seriously, this is an area where I have failed many times. With the exception of a sweet kitty that wasn’t even technically mine, and who passed away a week ago after a full and happy life, I have never successfully owned my own pet. My first rats that mom wouldn’t let me keep when she found out I was hiding them in my room. My first kitten that I tried to keep at my boyfriend’s house, which didn’t work out. The second rats, that kept escaping their cage and turning feral in my couch. The second kitten that never could figure out what the cat box was there for, and cost us around a thousand dollars in vet bills before we gave up. The dog that was passed along to us and proved to be too much of a handful for our family. I’m hoping that by planning ahead this time, not just making a spot decision, I will finally be able to do what so many others seem to do easily, and actually have a cat. Wish me luck.

    1. Melissa says:

      Poor Poo. :( You never really know with pets. When Josh got Poo for me she was the runt, and he argued with me about getting her. He thought she would die because she was so small. She turned out to be a fantastic pet. We found her by searching in the classifieds. Of course, we found Shaft that way too, and he was a terror. Good luck with the kitty hunt…I’m jealous. :)

      1. Janelle says:

        I picked one! Turns out it’s not kitten season, but I didn’t want to wait, and it occurred to me that it might be a better idea to get one that’s big enough to defend itself against Jorja. So I found a one year old tortie-and-white kitty at the Humane Society. She’s getting spayed on Wednesday and I get to pick her up Thursday. I’m calling her Artemis.

        1. Melissa says:

          Yeah! I can’t wait to meet her. And I think that is some smart thinking regarding Jorja. :) Love the name…

          1. Janelle says:

            She’s super cute. I’ll post pics when she’s here. And yeah, I had a mental picture of Jorja trying to flush a kitten down the toilet, or put it in her backpack or something. I hope she learns to respect this new kitty’s space, because Poo was so endlessly patient that she would never scratch a kid no matter what they were doing. I’m calling her Artemis because Michelle and I were going to get sibling kittens and she wants to name hers Orion. So we have the Hunter, and the Greek goddess of the hunt. She’s still going to get a kitten in a few months. I was thinking maybe later I’ll get a boy kitty and call him Apollo (Artemis’ twin brother) so I could have a girl called Artie and a boy called Polly. :)

  2. Jason says:

    “But it all comes down to: would you continue to do it if no one ever knew?”

    It used to be that I would say yes. Now, no. I’m pretty shut down from doing anything. I’m at the point I feel like I need to be doing something that matters beyond me and nothing brings joy if it’s “only for me.” Sad, but true. :(

    1. Melissa says:

      I get that. When I write a post and it gets minimal hits or comments I feel like quitting. What’s funny is that I am now confident in my cooking, but so so so so so insecure in my writing. My question is: how do you know that it’s something that matters beyond you? What do you use as that gauge? I definitely look at site stats (regarding writing), but I don’t think that’s an accurate measure of impact. I also have certain people that I wish would acknowledge my words, ask me to speak or write for them, and when they don’t I feel let down. I’m pretty sure that if (when) they ever do that I’ll just move on to a new gauge. I’m rambling, because I’m totally still working this out in my own head.

  3. Moe says:

    This seems to be the theme this morning. :D

    I think if we have a passion for something, we should pursue it. What would the world look like today without the Steve Jobs’s and Bill Gates of the world. They weren’t exactly “special”. They just had a passion and ran with it.

    1. Melissa says:

      I know! I saw that on yours, Duane’s, and Jason’s blogs. I love it when that happens. :) So, what if following your passion doesn’t lead to the world of Steve Jobs or Bills Gates? What if you never get asked to write or speak or lead? What if people don’t ever appreciate what you’re doing? Is it still worth it? Because I know some people who don’t want to pursue their talent unless it results in success.

      1. Moe says:

        Good questions. I think most often, we misinterpret success. What if while failing at something, you learn a very valuable lesson you would have never learned? I think that can be considered success. I heard someone once say, ““Winners are not those who never fail, but those who never quit”.

        1. Melissa says:

          I agree with you. I think success is many times misinterpreted. Just because someone fails, doesn’t mean they are a failure. It’s important to take risk and to be persistent.

          That’s a great quote. :)

  4. Keri says:

    I can’t believe the wedding gift you got! LOL On our very first night in our first apartment, I decided to make lasagna. I don’t know what I was thinking. I had never even made lasagna before. It took about 3 hours, and I don’t think we ate until close to 11. But, I think it was edible.

    Actully for me, I don’t really know that I’ve given up on something because of failure. But, I do know that I’ve given up a lot of things in my life becausae I just feel completely overwhelmed with my current role of SAHM. :( I miss the old me who would cook really good food, take lots of photos, and stay up late talking to a friend. Some of those things I need to reintegrate into my life. And, some of them, just have to change. It’s finding the balance between who I was and who I am now that I find challenging.

    1. Melissa says:

      That cookbook turned out to be fabulous! It taught me so much about cooking. To this day two of my most requested meals are the potato soup and fried rice. I’ve modified them over the years, but the base began there.

      Balance. My current dirty word. I am struggling with this. I know that if I visited more blogs, tweeted more and all that I would build my readership. But at what sacrifice? My kids need their mom, my husband needs his wife, my home needs its maid. :) I wish I could do this a full-time job, but that’s not my current situation. I know people who struggle with this in other areas: ministry, music, sports… If you have not reached a level where your hobby provides an income, you have to deal with the tension of passion versus responsibility.

      I’m still trying to figure this all out.

  5. what a great post, melissa! so inspiring and fun! congratulations on your fortuitiveness! xo

  6. Levi says:

    Alright, this hits home for me. As you know, I write songs. I am a discerning music lover, so I have no illusions about my music being “genius” or even particularly “good” in so many words. However, I’ve been carrying around a conviction that I need to devote more time to writing music (mostly about life with Jesus or worship/praise) for quite some time – I just do nothing about that conviction. But, wrapped up in all of this is the question of “am I good enough at it?” Am I successful enough? Sure, I could simply do “all for the glory of God,” but is he glorified by my mediocrity (simply meaning my lack of recognizable genius)?

    Your post is a great reminder of the praise that God receives when we simply take pleasure in the joys of this life with grateful and humble hearts – the offering isn’t made glorious by beauty which I impart to it but by the association it has with my beautiful Savior.

    1. Melissa says:

      You hit the nail on the head. I know what good food tastes like. I know what good writing reads like. I want mine to be comparable. When it doesn’t meet up with my standards, I feel like giving up. By the way…your music is amazing. I have always enjoyed your version of “Fake Plastic Trees” more than the original. A reunion tour of Learning from Falling is muchly needed. :)

  7. Tony Alicea says:

    Oh man, that must have sucked! Especially after you had been on a roll with your meals! I’m glad you stuck with it and turned out to be a good cook. That’s the way to a man’s heart, you know! :)

    1. Melissa says:

      Don’t I know it. :) It’s the way to many college students’ hearts as well. If anyone wants to start a successful college age ministry, let me clue you in to one solid truth: Free Food!

  8. Oh, I so get this. I was the same way about cooking and it is one of my passions in life now. It’s such a pleasure to serve my family in this way. And as for the over-arching theme here, I get IT, too. I write because I love it. I have never earned a single, solitary dime doing it, but I’ll never stop.

    1. Melissa says:

      I frequently ask myself that question: what if I never make a dime from doing this? Sometimes I think that would be awful, and other times I’m ok with it. Each answer speaks to the state of my heart. :)

  9. Ben says:

    I’ve absolutely felt like giving up because of an epic failure, fortunately my grandfather and father instilled the “never give up” attitude. So I would persevere until I got it right, and then quit.

    If I ever quit trying to learn how to cook at a young age, many a BBQ would have been missed, and many awesome conversations around the pit would never have taken place.

    I would also probably be 10lbs lighter.

  10. My story as a cook is very similar! :P

    1. Melissa says:

      Haha! Glad I’m not the only one with an epic in-law meal. :)

  11. It has not always been an enormous failure that has caused me to think of quitting, but several smaller failures. But I have kept going. Because I enjoy it and others gain from it. And I know it is what I am supposed to do.

    1. Melissa says:

      Those little pin pricks can be just as difficult to endure, huh? “I know it is what I am supposed to do.” That right there is reason enough.

  12. DS says:

    Melissa,

    Did you all eat the calzones?

    That must have been annawkward meal. :)

    Good for you for not giving up.

    1. Melissa says:

      No. :) We pretty much just nibbled around the edges, where it was cooked. Haha!

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