I am a failure. It’s true. For what feels like the 87th time my test batch of caramel pecan brownies did not turn out the way I intended.
I experienced that when I was developing our vegan brownies as well. Literally the cocoa, flour and sugar would separate out from the oil. It would turn into this crazy, weird puddle of chocolate goo in a lake of fat. You can see below. It was very much terrible. I tried every egg replacement that I could come up with, time and time again, until I finally decided it wasn’t worth it and moved on. It wasn’t until several years later when I reformulated our brownie recipe to be grain free as well as gluten free that I was able to hit on the key to making it work without eggs.
So let’s talk about failure a minute. What is failure really? When I say “I am a failure” is that true? On the other hand did one instance of failure happen? Let’s look at what Merriam Webster has to say.
“1a: omission of occurrence or performance, specifically: a failing to perform a duty or expected action
2a: lack of success”
According to their standards, it is correct to say I am a failure. My recipes trials were not a success. In my case taste or appearance issues and not at all the result I want or need. I believe failure is much more highly nuanced than that, though.
What Do Others Say?
I looked for specifics authors for these 2 quotes but either there are non-existent or they have been lost. Two statements that I believe help us have a correct view of failure are below.
“Failure is only failure if you give up”
“Failure is only failure if you do not learn anything”
I think the more important of the two statements is the 2nd one, “Failure is only failure if you do not learn anything”. When something goes wrong we have the great opportunity to examine what happened and to see what went wrong and how we can improve next time. Maybe that’s my case with the brownies. I have learned that cooking the caramel into the brownies is tasty but ugly. It also masks the flavor of the caramel to some degree. If I simply give up out of frustration or keep doing the same basic thing, that would be failure. I have learned from it, though, so I am trying new and different ways to make it work.
What about the first statement? “Failure is only failure if you give up”. I totally agree. Is that what I did quite a few years when I was first working on my recipe? I would argue I did not just simply give up. There is such a thing as a strategic retreat. Giving up I would argue is when we quite out of frustration and discouragement.
On the other hand we can look at a situation and recognize this is causing me to exhaust so much time and resources for so little return we need to move on. I tried every egg replacer I knew, the ones you can buy premade, chia eggs, flax eggs, apple sauce. If it existed and I could find it I tried it. In the end I decided it was not really worth pursuing at the time. I did not get many requests for it, and I was literally throwing batch after batch of brownies in the trash. I did learn from it though! Those lessons helped me figure out how to make our Vegan Brownie mix successful now though.
I do want to add one thing – not to discourage you but to prepare you. You will experience things going wrong in life, what lots of people call “failures”. Things go terrible at work, kids wreak havoc at home, a recipe goes horribly wrong, maybe many times over! These will happen; they are a part of life. Here is a great quote from one of my favorite authors Zig Ziglar.
“Make Failure your teacher, not your undertaker”
When something goes wrong, remember, it’s only truly a failure if we don’t learn from it and we give up in despair. When you are tempted to say “I am a failure”, say “No! Sure this did not go as planned but I will learn something from this and move on and make it better.” On occasion that may even be realizing you have spent so much time and effort on something that it’s just not working and it’s not worth it in the end. So be it. Take the lessons you learned from it and make other things in the future better for it.
Will I be giving up on Caramel Pecan Brownies? No! I certainly am not doing the same thing again though!