Food52 Life

The Mistakes We Made in 2015 (& the Lessons We Learned)

December 30, 2015

Remember earlier this year, when you made banana bread at 3 A.M., when you set your oven mitts on fire, when you meant to turn on the oven but only turned on the timer, when you let your black truffle go moldy?

Nope? We don't either! Let's all forget those embarrassing flops and move on with our lives.

But but but first, because our parents taught us that mistakes are made to be learned from, we're reflecting on some our biggest #fails and hoping we took away a lesson or two.

Well there goes $10.

A photo posted by Saddest Food of NYC (@saddestfoodofnyc) on

Here's my list:

  • I was convinced to make monkey bread for the Fourth of July. (Why? Your bet is as good as mine.)
  • In the most hypocritical move in history, I invested in an oven thermometer just yesterday. Turns out there is a very good reason why I've been burning all of my food!
  • I carried a Napoleon Cake on an hour-long subway trip.
  • I made Dump-It Cake but decided to go rogue with the mixing directions, dumping wet into dry instead of dry into wet. Yes, there were clumps of flour.
  • I bought the 10-minute pre-cooked farro from Trader Joe's and tried to pretend it was as good as the real stuff.
  • I abandoned our SCOBYs at one end of the office. Suffice it to say: Things did not turn out well.

Newest family member. Trying to make @rlevinsky10 proud. 😁😁😁

A photo posted by sarahjampel (@sarahjampel) on


  • I tried to mix the wet ingredients ahead at the office for Maialino's olive oil muffins for an important ad client meeting, ended up with gently-orange-juice-cooked clumps of egg in my muffins. To hide my shame, I bought new ingredients and rebaked circa 1 A.M. (Luckily it takes about 4 minutes to mix together.)
  • I spent all afternoon last Sunday making this, feeling extremely zen and proud and #worthit and then, instead of turning off the timer, turned off the oven.
  • Also a lot of this:


A photo posted by Kristen Miglore (@miglorious) on


  • I abandoned our sourdough starter, lovingly and thoughtfully gifted to us by the nice people at Hot Bread Kitchen.
  • I tried to make watermelon shrub by boiling watermelon chunks and apple cider vinegar and it was AWFUL and my whole apartment smelled acidic and gross for three days.
  • I made beautiful, delicious shrubs out of very expensive rhubarb and Concord grapes and put them in jars with reactive lids (which made them slimy and very undrinkable).


  • I made flourless chocolate cake for guests with a different butter than usual and it came out like soup. I couldn't serve it and have feared to make it again.
  • Tried to make a braided pie crust on Thanksgiving and after headbutting my husband out of the kitchen and not listening to him when he said I needed to anchor the dough around the rim, I had one shrunken pie. But we still ate it.
  • Made a huge pan of cherry shlumpf the day we were leaving for vacation. Why? I don't know. Ate a corner of it before we left and then came back 4 or 5 days later. Ate some more. It wasn't very good by then.
  • Remember when we cooked from Milk Bar Life and everything was kind of wrong?
Tang on toast was not a good idea. Photo by Sarah Jampel


  • Last night I mixed tahini with beets before roasting them. At best it was a grainy, mushy mess; at worst inedible. I thought it would turn out like this.
  • I started an herb garden fully knowing that I have no plant-growing skills and now I have several buckets of dirt hanging from Grundtal.
  • I thought that ricotta salata was the same thing as ricotta, then tried to toss regular ricotta into this salad for the first meal I made for my boyfriend's mom, which was a little like trying to smear cream cheese onto kale leaves (in my defense I was drunk because I was the lucky winner of a quart container of negronis from an event at the office).
Photo by Bobbi Lin


  • I ice-dyed pillow cases in a white roasting pan that then took on the color of the (indigo) dye and it took me a whole afternoon to clean.
  • I washed our kitchen scale under running water. It no longer works.
  • I bought a piece of art in an online auction thinking it was teeny tiny and, after paying $70 for shipping, realized it was poster-sized (and ugly) when it arrived.
  • Because my long curtains bunched up on top of my bed since it's flush against the window wall, I switched them out for cute little half-coverage cafe curtains. Darling, but... not quite private enough.
  • I burnt all the cheese straws (okay, okay, wafers) that I cooked for Thanksgiving because I think (?) my pans are too old and then I took them to the family hosting us in Staten Island anyway. They were nice about it.
  • I took the time to read The Martian.
  • I lent Tenth of December to a friend against my typical instincts about book loaning and have never seen it again.
  • I stopped watering our windowsill herb garden.
When our garden was young and there was still hope. Photo by Sarah Jampel


  • Ordered 2 capons from the meat hook for Friendsgiving, because duh and one of anything is never enough.
  • Arrived at the Meat Hook, realized it was $147 worth of bird and that I couldn't carry it all by myself.
  • Took an Uber home and quietly sobbed in the back seat.
  • Wondered if they would fit in my oven.
  • Realized they would not.
  • Roasted them anyway, nose to tail, the outside of each little one's leg touching the side of the oven. They were cozy! This would all be okay!
  • Pulled them when we were ready to eat, but their legs were completely raw. Salvaged the breast; hid the raw meat deep in the fridge to figure out what to do with later; poured much, much, more wine; hoped no one noticed.
Photo by Bobbi Lin


  • I left the baking soda out of a cake. Normally a lost cake would not be the end of the world, except that this one was for a very important taste test.
  • I rescued an amazing wooden-framed cot (albeit with a moldy cover) and two Eames chairs from the side of the road and have taken no steps towards rehabilitating any of them (other than cutting off the very moldy cot cover).
  • I thought that I could keep an orchid alive.
  • I did not get the bean recipe from our company field trip lunch; I did not get any of the amazing recipes from that lunch.
  • I decided that the best way to endear myself to my husband's new coworkers was by regaling them with urban planning theories, like the myth of free parking and why adding more lanes won't fix traffic congestion.
Photo by Lindsay-Jean Hard


  • I forgot the flour in a cake and it basically was like a pudding of butter, sugar, and eggs. My dad ate it anyway, over ice cream (bless his soul).
  • I consistently forgo washing salad greens and am then sad about the gritty lettuce.
  • I attempted to make Erin’s Deep-Dish Cherry Pie four times but never got past the crust because butter’s temperature and a boiling-hot Fourth of July day are not friends and things shrink like crazy.
  • I managed to overcook Broccoli Cooked Forever. The florets disappeared and everything was essentially mush; however, it still made an amazing crostini along with ricotta.
  • I dropped a layer cake onto the ground and cried.
If your pie springs a leak, that doesn't count as a mistake. Photo by Mark Weinberg


  • I tried to make blueberry simple syrup from fresh blueberries we picked with my grandparents. Stained the spoon, the counter, my shirt, the apron, the towels... but the blueberry Tom Collins was great.
  • I accidentally doubled the butter in a cookie recipe. Even my butter-loving self couldn't eat them.
  • I went to make a recipe for chocolate sauce I've made a thousand times and forgot to turn the burner down. The kitchen smelled like scorched cocoa, which is not pleasant.
  • Power went out in a snowstorm. Forgot to readjust my fridge. Went to grab the cheeses I had in there, and the cheeses were very sad. Lesson learned: Always have #backupcheese.


  • I decided to wash my curtains. And had forgotten that I hacked off the bottom of them because they were comically long. They came out as frayed disasters. This was three months ago and I keep finding threads all over the place.
  • I made my famous upside-down pecan pie (pulverized nut crust with gooey nut-free filling). In a Thanksgiving Day frenzy, I used my immersion blender and accidentally made pecan nut butter, then used it anyway, hoping it would be really cool and work out. It was neither cool nor did not work out.
  • Four of us went upstate for Thanksgiving. Four of us came back with food poisoning. I promise it wasn't the pecans.
  • There is much, much more that I have done my best to block out.
Photo by James Ransom


  • I made the Genius brisket and messed up every step of the way: wrong cut of meat, wrong pan, had to create a foil contraption, wrong temperature. The result was tough but I pretended it tasted good—to the entire editorial team. And then ate leftovers for days on end. Never ending.
Not Ali's brisket. Photo by James Ransom


  • Installed a bike rack!
  • Got organized!
  • Tried out my new amazing oven!
  • Made meat... hexagons!

My name is Bridget and I make meat-hexagons.

A photo posted by @bridgetwi on

  • Learned so much about food photography!

Not gonna lie. I was in the zone. #f52life Asian short ribs

A photo posted by @bridgetwi on

What were your biggest mistakes this year? And did you learn anything from them? Spill your guts in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Saffron3
  • Regina
  • Scott Basye
    Scott Basye
  • Scarlett
  • Amanda Sims
    Amanda Sims
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Saffron3 January 5, 2016
All these tidbits are great news! I am not alone in my errors and flopping farces. I laughed aloud! Wonderful to be human. Thanks for the exposure.
Regina January 4, 2016
Volunteered to cook for a junior league party in October...Assured organizer I had ALL the cookbooks. Who the heck knew they published one after I went sustainer? Was too embarrassed to buy from league house and ordered from Amazon. Made the double fudge cookies and pumpkin bars as requested....undercooked the pumpkin bars and they were gooey making the cream cheese frosting turn into an orangish lopsided mess and, shamefully, took them anyway hoping no one would notice...What was I thinking? Someone else had also made pumpkin bars...Obviously Martha Stewart's cousin was in the same league...They were absolutely perfect. I had to leave the party early and begged a neighbor/friend to grab my tray so no one could see my name written on bottom and prove I made the half baked pumpkin bars.She kindly dumped pumpkin bars on side of road with no witnesses and returned tray. I still think they are talking about me :-). I made note in cookbook "be sure to test for doneness with wooden pick prior to taking to league party"...Hope my daughter gets a laugh when I am gone and she inherits the cookbook!
Scott B. December 30, 2015
I made a double batch of bread and butter pickles to 'put up' - not only did I do the pre-brine with water, kosher salt and ice to keep them crisp, but I also added the said salt to the canning brine. Eight quarts later.....They came out SALTY sweet which is NOT what you are looking for.
Scarlett December 30, 2015
You know, I loved The Martian. It's a very human story that satisfies this nerd's need for scientific accuracy - even my mom, a very un-techy, non-nerdy person enjoyed it. But different strokes for different folks - I'll just enjoy the fact that Matt Damon (Mark Watney) is my commencement speaker in June.

Oh, and I once absentmindedly used an entire stick of butter to make a gingersnap piecrust which I then attempted to bake blind without foil or pie weights. This resulted in a pie dish full of melted butter and gingersnap crumbs which admittedly tasted pretty good all by itself.
Amanda S. December 30, 2015
Laura M. December 30, 2015
Tried to make lemon pudding cake for a dinner party. Under baked the cake and managed to drop one of the ramekins spattering the wall and counter with half-cooked batter. Also dropped f-bombs. Still served the "cakes."