Cooking With Myra: Learning to be 'good enough'
Oct. 18, 2010 at 5:18 a.m.
Updated Oct. 20, 2010 at 5:20 a.m.
I like making a piece of string into something I can wear.
- Author Unknown
I was sitting in a knitting class several weeks ago, struggling with the concept of "good enough" as it applies to knitting mistakes.
Of course, nothing but a machine knits perfectly.
My friend, Kim, and I had signed up to take a knitting class from Michelle. She occasionally teaches classes at B&B, a local sewing shop.
Both of us were interested in learning new stitches for a scarf. We had advanced past the knit and pearl techniques of our past neck scarves.
Our class would meet for two consecutive Tuesdays and then we could complete the scarf on our own time. I looked at this class as an opportunity to meet some other knitters and perfect my techniques, while spending some time with Kim.
In knitting, once you get the basic stitches down, and don't have to concentrate so intensely, you can do a lot of visiting.
I learned to knit in seventh grade. My home economics teacher gave each of us a pair of needles and a skein of yarn and taught us the basics. We learned how to knit and pearl, cast on and bind off.
Although I recall little about the teaching part of the class, I remember asking my teacher to help me make a shrink. A shrink is a pull over vest without sleeves.
I also had the intention to knit a red heart in the center of this white vest. I am sure that the teacher thought I would give up since my initial attempts were pathetic, even for a seventh-grader.
In case there are any loyal readers of mine out there in newspaperland who happen to be in seventh-grade and are talented knitters, I do hope that you will forget that last remark. Anyway, I persisted, and eventually completed my vest, then wore it to school beaming with pride that I had made it.
Several years ago, I picked up the knitting needles again and made a simple poncho. I feel that same pride knowing I made it myself.
The natural progression of a knitter is to continue to learn new stitches and tackle more challenging projects, thus the evolution leading me to take a class.
Our class consisted of several levels of knitters. Some are professionals, that meaning they are the teachers and have knitted almost everything there is to knit, and they know all the stitches. Others are semi-professional. They can look at a pattern, figure out how to do it and never ask even one question. Some are wanna-bees.
I fit in the last category. Wanna-bees never pull out their mistakes, they just work around them.
It is a given that when you are knitting, you will make mistakes. After all, the entire process is about wrapping thread around a needle in multiple ways and tying stitches together, all while talking to the friends around you. Occasionally, I forget to yarn over, that is to pull my thread to the front before I knit, but the problem is that I don't figure it out until the next row or maybe five rows from the error.
Professionals and semi-professionals pull out everything in order to correct their errors.
So, it was with great interest that I asked Michelle how to correct my errors. She pulled out several rows so I could get back to the good part and then proceeded to show me where I made the mistake. I continued again trying to be very careful and not make any mistakes.
I had about 20 inches of the scarf made, when I put on my reading glasses and stared in horror. Somehow my border stitches had gone from three to two making my scarf slightly narrower.
I had gone awry after knitting about 12 inches of scarf. I made the decision to continue despite my inner voice screaming "do it over."
It was at this point I realized I am a "good enough" person when it comes to some things in life.
My house doesn't have to be perfect even for company. I may run around cramming some things in drawers, but those who know me, realize that most of them are already full from the last time I crammed them full.
My car is rarely as clean as my husband's, and it doesn't bother me a bit, even if he does make comments like that someone might want to make a reality show about the inside of my car. I might even get a dark tint put on my windows, and then I'll never have to clean out my car ever again.
If I run short on some ingredient when I cook, I simply substitute and hope it turns out OK, since I think it will probably be good enough.
There are some things in life where this attitude is not beneficial and it is in those situations that one must unravel their projects and start over.
I found about 10 bell peppers in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator. I had purchased them to make gumbo, but had forgotten about them. Being somewhat near the end of their useful life, I racked my brain on how to use up so many green bell peppers. I decided to revive a recipe from my childhood with a few changes. My mom used to stuff bell peppers with spicy meat and rice and top them with tomato sauce.
Looking in my pantry, I realized I did not have any rice, so I substituted bulgur wheat, then added currants and toasted nuts. It really created a wonderful complexity of tastes. This would make a great side to a meat dish or a vegetarian meal.
Experiment in the kitchen and delight in your masterpieces. Enjoy.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail email@example.com.