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Um… It’s Not What It Looks Like. But Then Nothing Ever Is.

Sometimes I think we forget this is real life.

If we could observe the goings-on in a stranger’s home for a day, I think we’d be surprised by what we see.

If you were to look in my home for a day (but please don’t), you’d see that I don’t actually find it necessary to answer my phone every time it rings. (In fact, I rarely even have it near me.) You’d see that sometimes I eat olives from the jar as a mid-morning snack, take unauthorized rests during my workout, and lose my temper when my dogs bark at squirrels.

And not everything is so flattering.

For example, you might see that, despite last year’s debacle, I spent an unseemly amount of time yesterday spreading coconut oil and lemon juice on my head to relieve winter-and-stress-induced scalp itch. I let my dogs lick my face. I ate an olive off the floor.

And I’m not proud of these things, you know. I share in the vain hope that I’m not alone in my imperfections.

Not the least of which is my (lack of) cooking skills.

With the recent bout of chilly weather, I found myself in a rare mood for soup this week. So I perused my “Skillets, Soups, & Casseroles” board on Pinterest for some dinner inspiration, and ran across this incredible Spicy Kale Soup with Roasted Pepper and Tomato from Cooking on the Weekends. It was chock full of healthy kale, flavorful sun-dried tomatoes, smoky roasted red peppers, and gave me an excuse to use the rest of the potatoes in the pantry I’ve been trying to empty before the move.

Photo By: Valentina, Cooking on the Weekends
Photo By: Valentina, Cooking on the Weekends

To me, it looked amazing. A warm, rust color, shimmering ribbon of red, and a delicate leafy garnish. Perfect for a chilly fall evening. (Seriously — go to her site for more amazing food photography and the recipe for this soup.)

I poured myself a glass of wine and dove into chopping red onion, smashing cloves of garlic, and peeling russet potatoes. Before long, the kitchen was bathed in wonderful soup smells — the kind that told me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this one was going to taste good.

What I didn’t realize, that is until I started blending it in batches, is that it wasn’t going to look good.

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Not even close.

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I mean, I had known when I started that photos wouldn’t be great because my kitchen was dark, so I hadn’t planned on blogging about it. But really, in person, it looked like something that had already been eaten — and expelled — by an infant. And it had nothing to do with the dark room.

Where had I gone wrong? Too much kale? Using a jarred red pepper instead of one freshly roasted? Why was I being punished with baby poop green soup?

DSC_8329_web

My garnish didn’t help. The sun-dried tomatoes looked like tiny slivers of lung, and the kale looked like… well… kale. My bowls aren’t cute, my counters aren’t rustic, and Oh, Pinterest — why do you shame me so?

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Yeah. I don’t envision this photo ending up on anyone’s “must try” list anytime soon. And I want to apologize to Miss Valentia for making her soup look so… unappetizing.

Especially when the taste? It was absolutely delicious.

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Lung slivers and all.

Anyway. I’m a firm believer that comparing yourself to others — difficult as it is not to do — is the fast road to unhappiness. Every day we’re inundated with Facebook status updates that make us feel inferior. Instagram photos that remind us we’re not traveling enough. Pinterest pins that flat-out make us want to crawl back into bed — but only one meticulously hand carved from balsa wood and adorned with 1,200-count allergen free Egyptian cotton peacock blue sheets.

From now on, instead of comparing, let’s make a pact to only let these things inspire. Think possibility instead of put-down. Hope instead of despair. The hard-earned lesson that sometimes, a little kale makes a lot of difference.

The truth is, you’ll be hard pressed to find an Instagram photo of me with coconut oil spread over my scalp. We put so much effort into only showing our best to the world, that we start to think there’s no room for imperfections — for disorganized pantries, undecorated nurseries, or poop green soup.

And my guess is that even Martha Stewart forgets to shave her armpits every-now-and-then.

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Katie

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Comments

Stephanie
Reply

I’ll bet she doesn’t.

Your soup looks fine. I don’t think attractiveness is ever a key component of soup.

But yeah, definitely pinterest and whatever should be inspirational at most. It definitely shouldn’t make you feel like a failure. For me, I don’t think it’s even inspiration so much as, “Ooh, look at the pretty pictures.” I also like the humour section, all though I’m a little shocked by the amount of classism and racism passes for humour. (“Look at the fat people in Walmart! Ha ha!”)

Katie
Reply

Attractiveness is a key component of all food to me – we “eat” with our eyes, first! Fortunately, we (and I’m thinking you, too) are the type who can move beyond what it looks like if it at least smells decent. :) And yes – much online humor (including plenty right on this site) is in really poor taste. P.S., this soup is vegan and very tasty! Highly recommend!

Colleen Brynn
Reply

So initially I couldn’t help laugh when I saw the differences in soup. I don’t mean this meanly. You presented it in a funny way. But then the message of the post. I want to say STOP IT. Stop writing posts I should have written! I am completely in agreement with this. It’s actually why I have limited my Facebook time… I only really go on when there is an update and I don’t really scroll through the news feed. Most of that isn’t really real anyway… like you say, it’s how we present ourselves to the world. And I’d rather know the real person than see the photo of the flowers her boyfriend sent her for their 6 month-iversary.
I like your attitude. I think we’d make good real life friends. I’d also happily eat your soup.

Katie
Reply

I had the same reaction when I saw the difference. Right after I cried. Not really. But kind of.

You could write this post too, and you’d probably write it better. (Crap, comparing again!) And I’m sure I’m not the first. Spread the word, sista friend! I’m inching my way northward – let’s meet up one day! You definitely have a couch to crash if you ever make it to the southeast U.S. And that’s hugely generous of me because I’m terrified of optometrists. :)

Valentina Kenney (@cookingweekends)
Reply

Hi Katie — and her readers, I’m Valentina of Cooking On The Weekends. First, Katie, I’m sorry that this didn’t meet your expectations — and that it looked so terrible! (I’m happy however, that it was still delicious!) This is so timely because I’ve just been toying with the idea of a post that addresses exactly this . . . the premise of my post is that if you take 10 people and have them cook the same recipe, following it exactly, every single recipe will turn out differently — even if it’s slight. Reading your post has inspired me to follow through and post it. Perhaps even this weekend! So thank you.

And I’ve had fun perusing your site, and I’m enjoying your writing a lot.

As for this kale soup, I think the stock could be the main culprit for the color — vegetable stocks and broths can vary greatly in color, depending on how rich they are, what vegetables are used to make them, homemade, store bought, etc.

:-) Valentina

Katie
Reply

The vegetable stock TOTALLY explains it. I wasn’t even using “real” stock – just organic stuff from a box. :( I’m trying to get better about using real ingredients, but I haven’t gotten as far as stock yet, which I know is pretty basic! How do you preserve the veggie scraps until you’re ready to use them? Freezer? It’s the organizational aspect of cooking that always gets me. So yes! A post about how a recipe can turn out differently depending on who cooks it would be fantastic. Feel free to use me as an example. :)

Anyway, I love your site – you make incredible food that still feels attainable. And just to be clear, I definitely knew the appearance of the soup was MY fault – not yours! And it definitely met my expectations as far as taste. (And probably would’ve been even more delicious with homemade stock.) Even my husband, who doesn’t love the fact that I try to incorporate vegetarian or vegan dinners 3-ish times per week, gobbled it right up. So thank you!!

Valentina Kenney (@cookingweekends)
Reply

Katie, thank you for your kind words about my site. Right back atcha!
I save and use any veggie scraps I might have, and keep them in the fridge — but, I mostly use the whole vegetable when I make stock — whole carrots, tomatoes, onions, etc. (Kale stems are great to add — the super tough ones you’d normally throw out. And I’m told that 100% of the potassium is in the stem.) You might like this soup http://cookingontheweekends.com/2013/09/sweet-red-kapia-pepper-soup-recipe/ — it’s quick and easy, and will turn out red (I can almost promise)! I will definitely link you into my post about how recipes can turn out so differently. Cheers! :-)

Britany Robinson
Reply

Taking photos of food is SO hard. Maybe you didn’t get the soup spot on, but the pictures are pretty darn good anyways! (minus the baby poop color, but hey, as long as it tasted good, who cares??)

Katie
Reply

Aw, thanks!! It IS hard. A local magazine commissioned me to take photos of a dish at a super fancy restaurant in this nearby swanky golf community. When I got there, you know what they presented? Effing pork chops. Tell me – how is one supposed to make a pork chop look sexy?!

reciperenovator
Reply

This is an awesome post, so glad to have found you. Love your sense of humor

Katie
Reply

Aw, thank you! I was just perusing your site – I LOVE San Diego and dogs (except reverse that order), so I know we’d get along splendidly. :)

DeeConstructed
Reply

Ok wait a minute. You pinned a recipe that you actually went back and looked up then cooked? And you took photos and published a post? Dude, you have got me beat by a landslide. Freaking overachiever. :)

Katie
Reply

Pinterest is like my online recipe book. I consult it when I need to come up with a plan for dinner. And I only took the photos because it was so gloriously ugly. ;)

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