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A Food Writer’s Worst-Case Scenarios

A Food Writer’s Worst-Case Scenarios

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What can possibly go wrong? More than you’d think, according to Gilda Claudine Karasik.
Text And Photo By Gilda Claudine Karasik

Food writing for the masses can be…scary. In the moment just after hitting “Publish,” my confidence is often hijacked by apprehension. Did I catch all the typos? Is the title just right? Is my recipe authentic enough? Who will read it? Will anyone actually COOK it? Is my post platitudinous? Have I overused words like platitudinous?

Then again, I have a knack for imagining worst-case scenarios. For instance, in a flash, I can think of a thousand ways to die by feather. Examples? One: downy barbs fly into eyes while driving and car careens into lake. Two: while enjoying a cucumber sandwich on the veranda, breeze kicks up and blows quill into nostril, immediately piercing brain. Three: bird lands on head and shakes a tail feather, releasing parasitic mites that crawl into ears, infiltrate bloodstream and live happily ever until host keels over approximately 24 hours later. I assure you, I typed these spontaneously.

It’s not that I sit around expecting the worst. It’s just that I am capable of imagining it, perhaps more than the average person. This special little talent actually comes in handy at happy hours and family dinners where I employ it as a way of breaking the ice or simply redirecting the conversation — not if, but when — my father and mother-in-law start debating politics.

Usually this kind of talk gives others the sense that they are normal compared to me. And maybe they are, especially those types who go through life taking things in stride, like Californians who never seem concerned about the imminence of the Big One. So, by way of sharing this social elixir with all of you chill foodies out there and making you feel all warm and Zen inside, here are a few of my impromptu worst-case scenarios in the cooking, eating, writing context:

Cooking. I have spent a year apprenticing in Diana Kennedy’s Mexican kitchen. Cleaving chickens while blindfolded. Foraging for wild mushrooms in Tlaxcala, pencil drawings my only clues. Roasting chiles with one hand tied behind my back. I have evolved from home cook to chef. Doña Kennedy has become my spiritual food advisor. I return to the States, ready to film the first episode of my new Cooking Channel show. I’m in the studio, live. Chopping, chatting, cooking. Then, a solar flare pummels the earth, signaling the beginning of 2012 doom and gloom.  All communications satellites are fried and, needless to say, the show is cancelled.

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Image courtesy Schaller & Weber - Gold Medal Meats and Charcuterie

Eating. I have invited my top 25 favorite food writers to dinner. The skies darken just as my guests arrive. It begins to storm. I serve the first course when, suddenly, the lights flicker and then go out. A breeze blows out the votives on the candelabra; the crystals on the chandelier tinkle. We sit in total darkness and I laugh nervously wondering whether the flan in the oven will be done in time for the dessert course. Then, just as unexpectedly as they went out, the lights return, illuminating a murderous scene: Anthony Bourdain face-down in his mole. I am ruined.

Writing. Just when I am gaining a respectable readership, aliens invade and mind meld with several food writers the world over, including Yours Truly.  Space-invaded me accesses the internet and re-writes my published recipes to cater to an alien diet, replacing such things as eggs with the other kind of huevos. This not-so-minor substitution sparks intergalactic war and leads to the brink of human extinction.

What’s your worst-case scenario in the kitchen or on the written page?  Actual or imagined? Over-the-top or platitudinous?

View Comments (16)
  • You made me laugh with this text, I really like your style of writing and keep up the good work :)
    My worst case kitchen scenario is when a cake I bake and invest so much effort (and money) in completely…fails! It has happened. I become agressive :) Towards the cake, I mean :)
    My worst case food writing scenario would probably be that someone leaves extremely rude comment on my work/text/recipe…Fortunately, it hasn’t happened so far and I’m really, really grateful

    • Thank you, Tamara! I re-read my writing so many times before I let it go that I sometimes lose perspective. I’m really glad you found it funny upon a fresh read.

      As far as any failures in the kitchen, without them we wouldn’t improve as cooks, don’t you think?

      Regarding rude comments? That’s what the delete button is for!

      Cheers and thank you again for your kind words.

  • As a father who loves to debate politics with my daughter’s mother in law or anyone else who may be handy I take umbrage with the idea that I might be redirected. My worst case scenario is me about to completely demolish who ever may be taking the other political side with my impeccable logic when my loving daughter redirects me into discussing her current theory that alien mosquitos from Venus have infected her with traumatic brain farts.
    … obviously brought her up right …

  • haha this is perfect. I feel the same way about hitting the publish or the submit button after finishing a post. Especially when it is a recipe that I created myself from scratch. I can read, re-read, pick it apart 20 times, and yet sometimes I still copy and paste wrong and the baking time gets left out of a cake recipe!!

    The good thing is that we are not aliens, we are human, and we get to make mistakes, and most rational respectful people will understand that! I hope :-)

  • Writing is a personal thing and it can be hard to put yourself out there – – to be kicked around or embraced. But then again, that to me is almost the fun of it. It can definitely start a conversation. I love a little controversy, but do I dare? If I think something is funny, will the reader groan and run away? I do know that I love feedback from the readers and when someones cooks a recipe that I posted and takes the time to comment, I really appreciate that. So yes, I agree that publish button can be quite intimidating but I am willing to chance it! Nice post.

  • Worst case scenario: Opening a restaurant in a medieval village in Italy, watching one partner go off the deep end and become a full blown psychotic, realize the other partner is a lying thief, faulty wiring that meant the lights would go out at the height of rush hour, developing a small trickling water fall down the stone wall in the reception area, realizing my co-chef didn’t understand menu planning when he decided no one really likes chocolate desserts… OH Wait! That was in real life!
    Let me get back to you on a fantasy worst case scenario….

    Great post! Looking forward to more fun.

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