I read in the NY Times that it was ramp season. Nearly 32 years old, and unless a chef snuck it onto my plate, I have never eaten a ramp. So, passing near Union Square one weekday in the first week of May, I bought a bunch from a farmer, asking him what I should do with them. "They're good with anything!" he offererd cheerfully but unhelpfully. When in doubt, I thought, saute it with eggs. But I didn't get that far; I'm never home and lately somehow too rushed even to make breakfast. The ramps grew old and soft on my refrigerator shelf, until I threw them away. Ramp season-- a brief window-- now over.
That didn't stop me from buying half a pound of gorgeous fresh rhubarb at Union Square the following week. I imagined the compote I would make, and how good it would taste over plain yogurt. I imagine lots of things, and my imagination is mostly a more perfect place than my reality. This held true for the rhubarb, which I oversweetened and overcooked. I tried to eat it over a bowl of hot oatmeal, and thought to myself as I chewed, "This is one of the worst things I have ever made."
Lately the gap between the world I hope and plan for and the world I've got has been seeming frustratingly large. The ramps are a reminder that my schedule is for shit, and the rhubarb is a reminder that I can fail at things, even when they seem failsafe. Failures in the kitchen are frustrating-- especially when they involve beautiful seasonal ingredients that won't be available again for a while--but I try to see each one as a learning experience. The real challenge is to apply that same kind of thinking to the world outside the kitchen. Failures can be beautiful...? I'm trying it on for size.