Even food writers have kitchen disasters … and so do readers


My worst kitchen disaster came when I had been cooking for just a few years, but long enough to know better.

I put a baking sheet of oatmeal cookies into the oven and baked them for the appropriate time. When I took the sheet out, it was nothing but hot, sweet, oatmeal soup. With raisins.

I called the woman I was dating at the time and asked what I had done wrong.

“How much flour did you use?” she asked.

Me: “Flour?”

It was embarrassing, but not bad enough to keep her from marrying me. Still, to this day the recollection of it all gnaws away at the back of my mind, like a mouse.

So I decided my misery deserves company. I went on Facebook and asked my Facebook friends to share their biggest kitchen disasters. And they responded. Oh, did they respond. Here are just a few of the very best:

Lee said: “I sometimes make a standard chili, but with white chicken meat instead of beef. It isn’t really chili, but it’s good. I once rationalized that canned tuna is as mild as white chicken meat, so I made canned tuna chili. Even the dog wouldn’t eat it.”

Betsy was in college and did not know the meaning of a “clove” of garlic, so she cooked a chicken dinner with two heads of garlic. “I blew my food budget for the week” and went out to eat.

When Doug was a child of 10 or 11, he decided to bake a cake for his mother. Ever the thoughtful child, and knowing that she liked the color green, he used white frosting with a generous sprinkling of green sugar sprinkles which, he said, made a beautiful cake.

“Then we ate it. The green crystals were celery salt,” he said.

Annie also had a problem with a cake — and her own sense of humor. She has a friend who absolutely hates rutabagas, a vegetable with which she was unfamiliar. As a joke, she decided to bake him a cake with rutabagas in it.

“I thought, ‘I use zucchini in cake, right? This will be just like that.’”

“I mixed up a German sweet chocolate cake, shredded rutabagas in it, and popped it in the oven. The smell was the worst. It was so horrible that I was gagging. I grabbed the cake pans out of the oven and threw them out into the backyard just to get this abomination out of my house.

“Then I had to crank all the windows open to get the smell out, which wouldn’t have been so terrible except that it was early March in Ohio and really cold outside. So there I was in my freezing house that smelled like a German chocolate fart, admitting to my friend that one really cannot make a rutabaga cake.”

Mitzi’s cake story was equally unappetizing: “As a teenager, I baked a chocolate cake and forgot to add the eggs to the batter. I discovered the uncracked eggs and tried to add them after the cake was half-baked. Not a pretty picture. Scrambled eggs in chocolate.”

Julie’s daughter had a very different problem with a birthday cake. She “misunderstood the recipe’s instruction to slice the layers in half. I have the photo …” she said.

The first time Carrie made pie crust, “I took the recipe’s advice and weighted down the dough with pennies while it baked. Unfortunately, I left the coins in the plastic bag.”

Similarly, Melanie once tried lining a cake pan with plastic wrap instead of parchment paper. “I picked out the biggest pieces. The rest was easily digestible,” she said.

Cheryl tried to bake a loaf bread made with barley flour. “It wouldn’t get done and wouldn’t get done. I kept putting in back in the oven, but it still wouldn’t cook through. Finally, in disgust, I stuck it back in the oven until it burned black, thinking “Now it’ll be cooked.” Nope. When I broke it open (with a hammer and screwdriver), the inside was still dough.”

During the Depression, Priscilla’s mother’s family “was fortunate to come into possession of four fine steaks. In those days, they would fry the steaks. On the big night, with high anticipation, the cooker of these steaks put a large scoop of lard into the fry pan and fried ’em up — only it turned out the ‘lard’ was soap. I do believe that real tears were shed.”

Mary Ellin’s middle-school son “once put Fast Mac in the microwave with no water — just macaroni and cheese. The thing caught fire and as smoke poured out of the microwave, he ran around the house once, then next door to our neighbor (I wasn’t home), who threw the mess into the sink, poured cold water on it, and opened all our windows.”

A lot of the Facebook friends had stories about Pyrex dishes or other glassware that shattered, but my favorite came from Shelia, who, I should point out, runs a restaurant: “I was making a roast in the oven and for some reason decided to add water to the glass casserole dish. I took the roast out and poured in the water, and it exploded. Glass everywhere. Luckily, I had removed the roast,” she wrote.

Susan’s cooking disaster involves Lime Chicken. “I invented it. And it’s an invention I’m not sharing with the world. So. Much. Lime.” She had only been dating her now-husband for a few months, and she decided she “was going to prove my culinary prowess. I learned in short order that, yes, you can have too much lime. Way too much lime.”

It’s hard to get a pizza wrong, unless you do as Tammy did and bake it upside-down. She “opened the oven when smoke began pouring out and the cheese looked like stalactites. What a gooey mess!”

When he was 2 years old, Ray tore all the paper labels off the family’s canned vegetables. “My mother had ‘surprise’ side dishes every night for a week,” he said.

Amy wrote that her mother was once baking cookies when she “opened the oven too quickly, with her face too close, and she singed off her eyebrows. Does that count?”

Dear Amy: No.


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