TThis year, I spent the winter holiday with my extended family in Hawaii.
What always makes the trip so special is, in part, the food. We go big! This year, an Aunt cooked Singapore pepper crab and another Aunt roasted turkey on Christmas day. One Uncle baked bread for us almost every day and another Uncle spent hours researching and preparing ingredients to make Japanese hot pot.
There’s always pressure to perform when you’re in our kitchen, which is why I wanted to bake the perfect pavlova for New Years’ Eve.
I’d made a pavlova once before with my brother, Ian, who taught me exactly what to do. My memory of when to stop whipping the egg whites and how to create a little depression in the center of the pavlova stood strong in my memory.
This’ll be great!, I thought, as I whipped the egg whites on high.
But soon after putting the pavlova into the oven, it began to collapse. The egg whites had lost their structure. The pavlova had melted to the point where it looked like a big pancake instead of a fluffy, dreamy marshmallow.
And we were 15 minutes into baking. There was no going back now!
Crap. This is not what I imagined!
An hour later, I pulled it out of the oven. I had what looked like a big brown puddle. Even worse, when I tried to lift it from the tray, it stuck resolutely to the parchment paper. The bottom was undercooked.
Time was running out. I had to stick with the puddle.
I suddenly remembered an episode of “Salt Fat Acid Heat”, when a chef made pavlova with grapefruit. Instead of serving perfectly round pavlovas, she broke them into pieces and artfully arranged them with fruit. Ahah! It was the perfect trojan horse for my messed-up meringue.
I quickly tore the pavlova apart and arranged it with berries and pomelo pieces from the fridge. Little fluffs of uncooked egg white stuck to my fingers like cotton candy.
Finally, I stood back and surveyed the finished product: It looks better than before. Besides, a little raw egg white never hurt anyone!
Then, the moment of truth: I brought the dessert out to my family. “It looks great, Kris!” They said before digging in.
To my surprise, the pavlova was finished by the end of the meal! Success!
The experience reminded me of what my Mom used to say whenever I showed up, glum-faced, with a less-than-perfect drawing: “Mistakes are opportunities for you to create something new! Don’t give up!”