Sunday, January 13, 2013

Julia Child's advice on mistakes

My wife just finished reading Julia Child's autobiography. After describing a failed attempt at making eggs florentine for a friend Julia Child states:
We ate the lunch with painful politeness and avoided discussing its taste. I made sure not to apologize for it. This was a rule of mine. I don't believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make. When one's hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as "Oh, I don't know how to cook...," or "Poor little me ...," or "This may taste awful ...," it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not. Besides, such admissions only draw attention to one's shortcomings (or perceived shortcomings)...Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is. If the food is truly vile, as my ersatz eggs florentine surely were, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile - and learn from her mistakes. (pg. 71-72 of My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme; bold is mine)
This principle goes far beyond cooking. I tend to be the person who apologizes for things even when they 1) were not my fault but I feel bad, or 2) were my fault but were so minor you probably didn't notice and now my apology clues you into my self-analysis of the situation. My wife has been especially fond of this quote; it can be very liberating when we can move on from mistakes and not overburden ourselves. We need to learn from our mistakes, but not apologize when we have done our best. I think this is an area I could improve on.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't apologies for when we have truly wronged someone, but we can relax when we do are best and come up short.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

This is great advice! It's so hard not to point out my own faults/mistakes. Reading your post this morning kept me from apologizing to someone for being a flake. Thanks!