This weekend, the Son and Heir was indescribably excited about making Gjetost (yay-toast), a Norwegian “cheese” produced by simmering whey for 12 hours until it reduces to a creamy, caramelized concoction. Norwegian children apparently eat it spread it on their breakfast toast.
Maybe it was the terms “creamy” and “caramelized” that fooled the Son and Heir into thinking that this highly ethnic dish — which the recipe mentioned one acquires a taste for (that’s always a warning sign) — would be delectably different.
Well, it was different all right, and our first thought upon tasting it was, “Those poor Norwegian children,” and the second thought, mine, was,
“All that time and anticipation is not going to waste. We are eating this stuff — not on toast! — somehow.” (You mothers understand this, I know. Our children are always our little cherubs, and their sad faces — even when they’re covered with beard stubble — spur us to action.)
“I don’t know, Mom,” the Son and Heir dejectedly replied. “This looks like a failure to me.”
“Kitchen failures are opportunities, son,” I replied. “And this is a greater opportunity than most.”
I made pizza, topping a Kamut flour crust with mozzarella cheese, roasted bell pepper, caramelized onions, garlic, and — shredded Gjetost. Even Small Person, our three-year-old grandchild, ate her portion, although, admittedly, that was after we told her she couldn’t have dessert until she did. But it was excellent pizza, really, and the unique salty flavor of the Norwegian product complemented the rest of the toppings. (By the way, the Norwegian Artist had no choice about eating the pizza, whether or not he wanted dessert, because he’s Norwegian after all, and this is in his heritage. If he has a problem with that, he can always take it up with his mother.)
The next day, Gjetost transformed dull, boring bean soup into Wow! This is really Norwegian! fare with its husky, deep, complex personality, and we all agreed that we’ll make it through the rest of the stuff yet, especially since it looks like it has a shelf life of 25 years.
The point of all this is not to urge you to flip past the page about Gjetost in your new cheese book — although I would encourage you to consider doing so — but rather, to reassure you that seemingly failed kitchen experiments can rise up out of the ashes (sometimes, if you’ve baked something too long, there are literal ashes, by the way) to a new, different, intriguing, and mildly edible concoction.
The very worst thing that can happen is that the dog will get an extra portion at dinner. Well, okay, the very worst thing is that the dog will refuse the extra portion and the compost pile will be enhanced, but worms eat anything, don’t they?
But the best thing that can happen is that you will have experimented — several times — and wound up with something edible, maybe even tasty, and you will have survived. And you’ll keep experimenting and trying new things, and each time you do, you’ll get more and more adventurous, and better and better about what you create, and increasingly versatile about what you eat.
You may not be invited to a lot of potlucks, but you’ll be able to eat anything at any of them once you get there.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, we have a fairly large chunk of Gjetost in the refrigerator, and I need to figure out what to do with it. Toast, anyone?
One area, outside of the kitchen, where many people feel like failures is their writing — they have bad, bad memories of too many English essay papers spattered with red ink. If you are one of these people, and yet you want or need to write, consider purchasing my book, Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” It’s fun, user-friendly, and inexpensive — $8.99 for the paperback, $5.99 for Kindle, through Amazon or directly from the Steve Henderson Fine Art website.