Fall project: Homemade mozzarella

This week I had the opportunity to practice what I preach – that is, just because something doesn’t turn out the first time doesn’t mean you should give up and never try that again.

I say it in cooking classes all the time, because you can’t believe how often someone says to me, “Well, I tried to make [whatever] once, and it just didn’t turn out” – the inference being that the one try was evidence enough that they just aren’t cut out to cook that particular thing.

Which is ridiculous. I mean, how many times did you fall off a bike before you got the hang of it? Imagine if you’d given up after one try. Or two. Or ten.

(Let’s pause for a moment to remember my grandpa pushing me up and down the block on my new two-wheeler. Endlessly. You were the best, Papa.)

I think the thing is that, as kids, we know we have to learn things, and so we have more patience with ourselves as we go through the this-is-awkward-and-uncomfortable space of it.

Once we become grown-ups, we get used to being good at things – not realizing we’ve been practicing, honing, perfecting them for years – and so when we’re not good at something, we think it means we never will be.

But the truth is, we’ve just become spoiled by how long it’s been since we had to go through that uncomfortable learning space, and that‘s made us unwilling to go there again.

You can see where this is headed.

This week for the first time, after years of thinking about it and inspired by this semi-recent post by my friend Don Lesser, I made homemade mozzarella. As Don did, I used this recipe from the New England Cheesemaking Company.

But unlike Don’s, my curd didn’t separate from the whey when it was supposed to. Once it did, I dutifully cut it into squares, but they quickly transformed into a shaggy glop. Once the whey was drained off, kneading the curds as directed didn’t yield a stretchable mass, but rather a rubbery mess. At several – many – points along the way, I thought, “Well, this isn’t for me.”

Or, “So much for homemade mozzarella.”

And, “Okay, I’ve had enough – now how to dispose of this stuff?”

But I took my own advice, gave myself a break, and forged ahead through the discomfort of learning something new.

After an hour or so, I was holding in my hands a ball of homemade mozzarella.

Holding homemade mozzarellaJust about then, my husband came out of his office to see how things were going. I held out my mozzarella. And he said, “Awwww – it’s adorable!”

I beamed and replied, “I know – isn’t it?”

Sure, it could’ve had a better texture. And sure, it could’ve been a little sweeter-tasting. But you know what? It was my first time.

And it was pretty cool to see something – a gallon of milk – turn into something totally else.

And it’s been kinda fun to have my mozzarella – I made it myself, you know! – to nosh on, and to slip into salads and sandwiches.

And I’m okay with that I’m learning.

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