Do Not Be Afraid Of Mistakes-Why?
25th April 2023
By Elegbede Abiodun
Some years ago, my wife was away for a few days and I decided to prepare a pot of yam and beans pottage for our children: a dish they had come to love because we introduced it to them early in their lives. For unknown reasons, many children hate beans, but we introduced it early to our children in a variety of ways: with plain rice and stew/soup, with jollof rice, with plantain pottage, with yam pottage. They embraced it in all forms and looked forward to eating it.
However, because I had not prepared the yam and beans dish for a while before then, I had forgotten that boiled bean seeds do not absorb much water like rice does. Sadly, just as is done to rice, I poured a generous amount of water in the pot and put the beans into it. After a while, I added the yam and the condiments.
I waited for the water in the pot to decrease radically like it is obtained with rice, but that was not happening. I tasted the yam as well as the beans and realised that they had become soft and done. The food was ready. But there was a problem. There was still too much liquid in the pot. If left like that, the dish would not be like the yam and beans pottage we knew.
I panicked! I had already added all the ingredients, and everything had mixed up. The food tasted well but seemingly had too much water in it. If it was still plain yam and beans in plain water, I would have quickly sieved some water off. And the more I left the food on fire, hoping for the water to decrease, the more the yam and beans softened and became like pap, which would not be good.
I watched the water in the pot as it flowed like the Red Sea, shook my head and smiled ruefully.
“Azuka, you have messed up big time!” I muttered. “Chai! The boys will laugh that daddy has fed them coloured water while mummy was away.”
I scooped out one or two spoonfuls of liquid from the pot but it seemed like pouring away the condiments used to prepare the meal. With a sigh of resignation, I let the food be. I braced myself up for whatever reaction that came from the children. I concluded that the worst they could do was to grumble and not eat the food well. If that happened, I would buy them something else to eat.
When it had cooled down a bit, I served the children their meal with some apologies that the meal was a bit watery. I stood by to watch them eat, my heart racing, while waiting for their complaints to burst forth.
Surprisingly, they gobbled down the meal with glee, saying repeatedly that it was tasty and different. They asked for another helping when their plates were empty. I thanked my stars quietly.
When my wife returned, I told her the story and we laughed over it. But days later when she wanted to prepare a pot of yam and beans, our kids told her to prepare it like the one daddy prepared: with a lot of liquid in it. I hid my laughter and said to myself: “You guys don’t know the battle I went through over that ‘watery’ dish.”
But it taught me a lesson: What we see as a mistake can be an innovation, a new style or fashion statement that will expand the frontiers of knowledge.
Therefore, don’t beat yourself up over certain actions you see as mistakes. That the customer is not complaining about your offering today does not mean that there can’t be a new way of presenting the same offering to add some fillip and excitement to the brand! Don’t be afraid to innovate.
The story of the invention of the potato chip followed a similar pattern as mine, even though some have countered the story as a myth. The story goes that what we know today as the potato chip was invented in Saratoga Springs, New York in the United States of America. One day in the summer of 1853, a cook named George Crum had prepared a meal for a wealthy customer, Cornelius Vanderbilt, at the Moon’s Lake House. Vanderbilt rejected the meal, complaining that the French fries were too thick.
Crum was not happy with that feedback from the customer. Grudgingly, he sliced the potatoes as thin as possible, dropped the pieces in the hot oil and fried them until they became crispy. He sent the overcooked potato slices to the customer as an insult, but Vanderbilt was excited about them. The proprietress of the restaurant soon announced that the chips would become a new dish at the restaurant. Later on, Crum opened his own restaurant, named Crum’s Place, in the neighbourhood. Customers lined up to buy the “Saratoga chips.”
Similarly, the microwave was invented by accident in 1945 by a self-taught engineer called Percy Spencer during a radar project for the defence giant, Raytheon. As he was testing a new vacuum tube called a magnetron, he observed that the heat had melted a chocolate bar in his pocket. He found that amazing. He decided to confirm his observation by placing some popcorn kernels near the magnetron. Again, the heat made the kernels pop into fluffy popcorn. Then he experimented with an egg by placing it near the magnetron.
Spencer noticed that the egg began to move as a result of the heat that had created some pressure inside the egg. The egg eventually exploded. He found out that the yolk had become hot, a confirmation that the low-density energy from the magnetron could cook food fast. Consequently, he made a metal box with an opening through which he fed microwave power. The energy was trapped inside the box, creating a high-density magnetic field. He positioned a food item inside the box, and the heat generated by the energy cooked the food, giving rise to the first microwave.
It was the same story with Coca-Cola. John Pemberton set out to produce a pain killer in 1886 but ended up creating the soft drink sold in over 200 countries today. Likewise in 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by accident through some carelessness, leading to the discovery of the cure for bacterial infections which had hitherto caused the deaths of millions of people.
Therefore, never be afraid to make honest mistakes, for through them you may find new ways of doing things. Even if you don’t create any new thing through that, making a mistake simply shows that you are human.
-The Punch –