I made a simple pasta dish last night for dinner. Nothing complicated — it certainly didn’t stretch my knowledge or technique. And I had made this dish several times before, with excellent results. But last night was…boring. I couldn’t point to a particular problem, just that it wasn’t quite as good as all of the other times. What went wrong? I have no idea. Did I sauté the garlic and shallots incorrectly? Or maybe the shrimp was mislabeled, and it was really harvested in a Chinese shrimp pond next to a sewage treatment plant? My bet is on the arugula not being particularly good. But whatever happened didn’t ruin the dish, it just toned it down so each bite wasn’t a pleasure.
This has happened to me before, and it will certainly happen again. Consistency is tough — just think about your favorite restaurant and the occasional disappointing meal. It doesn’t mean that they are going down hill, just like my relative failure in the kitchen last night doesn’t mean that my wife will have to take over the cooking.