The pie: What a baking disaster taught me about the best-laid plans

Back in the day, my roommate Shane and I weren’t overly ambitious in the kitchen. I remember Shane having cottage cheese, celery, cucumber slices, peanut butter toast and yogurt for supper one night. I opted for a hardboiled egg with a side of broccoli, carrots and some cold baked beans.

So imagine my surprise when Shane announced he’d be attempting to make a pie from scratch using a recipe from the cookbook he got from his mom.

He hemmed and hawed for a long time, carefully considering which pie to make. He finally landed on maple-walnut. (I was rooting for rhubarb.)

By 8 a.m. the next morning, he was at the grocery store with a list of the ingredients he needed. Once back home, he pulled out measuring bowls, spoons and the rolling pin. He scrutinized the recipe, following each step to the letter. He preheated the oven, setting it precisely to the prescribed 375 degrees.

The pie went in. Shane set the timer. Deliciousness was imminent.

Unfortunately, what came out of the oven was a crime against nature. The abomination was a charred piece of ash resembling the scorched remains of a five-alarm fire.

You see, Shane failed to realize that our oven was apparently a portal to the surface of the sun: a cosmic crematorium that burned to a crisp anything left in there for more than an instant.

(We might have known this if we had used the oven more often instead of eating toast and cottage cheese for supper each night.)

Life is full of curveballs, and even the best-laid plans can go sideways. From the meticulous measurements to the carefully cut walnuts, Shane did everything right in his baking adventure. But in the end, he was foiled by an appliance on the fritz.

Plans change. Surprises happen. Pies burn.

A freak thunderstorm can rain out your golf tournament. A costly car repair can force you to postpone a holiday. A global pandemic can upend your wedding plans (trust me, I know).

But fortune favours the flexible.

Accept that setbacks are inevitable, so you won’t be too discouraged when they do happen. Be prepared with a Plan B, so you can adapt when things go awry. Set aside money to deal with that random burst pipe. Build buffers into your project timelines to account for the unexpected. Bring five ideas to the table in case your first four get nixed.

Finally, always remember to keep a backup box of cookies in the cupboard — just in case your dessert plans go up in smoke (literally).