Thursday, February 08, 2007

Smart friends

Pretty Lady just loves it when friends of hers succumb to her enthusiasms and start blogs of their own. She gets to show off how smart they are, and what good taste she has in friends.

Many parents, understandably, try to protect their children from failing, from stumbling, from risking embarrassment or discomfort. They want to teach their children how to do things right the first time, to help them succeed -- just as I did. And with school curricula crammed full of ever-increasing content, teachers rarely have the time to allow their students multiple attempts at trying a new skill, before the test or assessment that passes final judgment. Students get one shot at it, with people watching, and their fate is sealed: they are good at making pancakes, or bad at making pancakes. Good cooks or bad cooks. A-students or D-students. With no motivation to try again, to change their strategy, or improve their skills. But it doesn't have to be that way.

One of the most interesting, and counter-intuitive findings that has emerged in several different program evaluations that I have done... is that students enjoy learning more, and end up producing better-quality work, when they are given the opportunity to fail, and learn from that failure, before the official test or assessment.

Fortunately, this is an opportunity that we can provide for ourselves:

Fail early.
Learn from the attempt.
And try a new strategy.

Pretty Lady has long been a student of this process. Whenever she succeeds at something on the first attempt, it veritably bores her; she immediately moves along to her next dramatic failure. Oh, the conflagrations that have attended Pretty Lady's path to success! Or rather, her path along a varied and interesting life, one that she shall not have regretted, once the time has come to assess it.


Chris Rywalt said...

Students get one shot at it, with people watching, and their fate is sealed: they are good at making pancakes, or bad at making pancakes.

This is weird because I'm currently sitting in the kitchen reading on my wife's laptop while -- can you see this coming? -- cooking pancakes.

I have spent, by the way, about 25 years learning to cook pancakes. Doubtless it wouldn't have taken so long if the Web had existed for the early years.

I am still learning how to make pancakes. I'm pretty good, but I'm still not quite there.

Anonymous said...

I love failure. The dorrway to almost everything.
Welcome back PL.
Chris...? isn't there something about making the frying pam (cast iron skillet) incredibly hot and no oil or anything before the batter goes in??then perfect. But my memory is sort of out to lunch on that.

Pretty Lady said...

You would have to have a very well-seasoned cast-iron skillet for that, Danny, or I cannot even imagine the charred, stuck-on mess that would result.

I am still struggling with my pancake technique, possibly due to inferior skilletry. Also, for some reason, when one makes buckwheat pancakes with blueberries in them, they always shipwreck themselves. Always. I do not understand the physics, but so it is. Perhaps there is insufficent gluten in buckwheat flour to transcend the presence of a blueberry.

Chris Rywalt said...

Years ago my father bought a cast iron griddle which spans two burners. He never used it. A few years back I appropriated it and have been using it to make pancakes. It is very well-seasoned -- interesting: the process of "seasoning" cast iron is the same as the process of "drying" oil paint, namely polymerization of vegetable oil into a hard, almost permanent surface -- and I butter it, then wipe it down before putting batter on it. Low heat.

All you wanted to know about pancakes is here in this transcript of my favorite cooking show, Good Eats.

Pretty Lady, the trouble with your buckwheat pancakes is buckwheat has no gluten at all. You might want to try adding your blueberries to the uncooked top of the pancake before you flip it, after it's set a little. Or maybe add a little more wheat flour to your buckwheat.

Personally, I am attempting to master just one type of pancake: buttermilk. I don't add fruit or anything else. I'm specializing just this once.

Anonymous said...

Buckwheat pancakes are excellent made very thin, like crepes. Then you can serve the blueberries on top of them, or wrapped up inside.

I believe that French Canadians call these pancakes "Ployes."


Chris Rywalt said...


Chris Rywalt said...

Reading the recipes for ployes, and for creton, the pork spread for them, I had to make them. It all sounded delicious. So yesterday I made these ployes and this creton.

By all that is holy and unholy, this was the most digusting, horrific food item I have ever made. And I have made some really bad food. One time I even accidentally substituted baking powder for corn starch in a Chinese-style brown sauce. And that was better than this nasty mess.

My kitchen still smells like the ployes with creton. It almost makes me vomit.