October 10th, 2014

Food Gone Wrong

The featured image used on the previous page is courtesy of Steven Depolo via Flickr.

We’ve all had less than fine moments in the kitchen. Despite our best efforts to make things perfect, everything seems to go wrong. You’ve read about my mac ‘n cheese debacle. This week, we’ll hear from other Eaters as they share their culinary foibles, proving that even the most well laid plans can have a horrific twist.  Take for instance this story from my dad, who happens to be one of the best cooks I know. He makes the best blueberry pancakes, stuffing and skirt steak (though I’ve yet to perfect the latter — I won’t stop trying!) Dad‘s methodical when it comes to planning out a meal, and militant about how things operate in his kitchen. His love of cooking inspired my obsession, and I have to say … it’s comforting to hear that even he has off days.

“My wife, Leslie, and I were hosting a dinner party to honor the retirement of one of her colleagues. Several senior people were attendance, including Leslie’s boss. I planned an elegant menu with Osso Buco, Veal Tenderloin wrapped in Prosciutto, Butternut Squash Ravioli and other delights. When I went to start the meal I quickly realized the bobby shanks did not have the bones cut down; they were a foot long each. I tried to cut one with a hack saw, but it was scattering bone chips into the meat, so I cooked the Osso Buco in a Lobster pot. I had the Veal Tenderloin to compensate, which came out nearly raw. When I went to boil the ravioli for three minutes I discovered the Sous Chef Leslie hired to “help me” had put the ravioli in the boiling water 35 minutes earlier. It formed a glutinous mass, which I patched the driveway with the next day.

Photo credit: Marius Boatca via Flickr

With all seated and finished with their salads, I had no choice: I served the nearly raw Veal Tenderloin that I tried to convince people was at 140 degrees, green beans I quickly cooked, and a one foot Osso Buco shank … ignoring (and hoping no one would notice) that it didn’t fit on the plate. If you had soaked the ends of the bobby shank in  kerosene they would have made perfect Medieval torches.

Thank the good Lord for a well-oiled cocktail hour with fine hors d’ oeurves … and a dinner served with plenty of wine.”
~ Michael in San Francisco, California


Apparently, these kinds of bad days run in family … as does experimenting with food. Here’s my brother, Ryan:

“Horrible food experience? I don’t have them, I create them. Ever heard of cinnamon scrambled eggs? Yeah, I thought it would be a good idea. My mouth fired me that day and my stomach protested like like a hippy at a Vietnam rally. Lesson learned.”
~ Ryan in Bradenton, Florida

And, as my husband discovered just before our marriage a year ago: Membership has it’s privileges. His experimenting with a whole new food genre led to an experience neither of us will soon forget.

“The only outright catastrophe I’ve had in the kitchen was the birthday feast I was preparing for my fiance’s birthday. It was a month before our wedding and she was eating a raw food diet. Raw. Food. Diet. Feast? Well … the hot and sour soup was a slam dunk. The zucchini pasta was good, and I thought the raw tomato sauce tasted just like mom’s. The dessert, well — the crust was almond, but the filling was green. Like a pastel grass green. And it wasn’t key lime. It even tasted green. We threw it away.”
~ Adam, Washington, D.C.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

skeleton at sink
Photo credit: Powerhouse Museum Collection, Gift of the Estate of Raymond W Phillips, 2008 via Flickr

  Adam’s mom, Elena, was also trying to woo the same girl with desserts. Sadly, to the same effect.

“Because our son, Adam, was bringing his lovely Amy for dinner, I decided to make a special cake for dessert.  To save some time, I bought a much-advertised (delicious?) cake topping. Bad, bad choice!!! The topping, which I thought was chocolate, tasted just awful. And, horrors of horrors, it turned my treat into a trick: I’d actually grabbed root beer-flavored frosting by accident!”
~ Elena, Bowie, Maryland

Elena isn’t alone when it comes to grabbing the wrong ingredient. I again refer you to my sweet mac ‘n cheese, or this story from my Aunt Kathy … who has several different disasters you’ll read about in this post!

“As a young bride, I landed a recipe for clam chowder that a friend raved about. Wanting to impress my husband with this fabulous clam chowder, I planned to make said recipe. Everything went well until I tried it. There was definitely something amiss. I’d had a lot of clam chowder, and that was not clam chowder. The mystery was solved when I looked at the can.  It was crab meat.”
~ Kathy, Waterford, Michigan

But, not matter how bad it is — sometimes it’s just best to grin and bear it. I mean BITE it. Here’s a great example from the Midwest:

“My biggest kitchen disaster happened when I was in 8th grade and wanted to make apple fritters. We didn’t have apples, so I used grapes. And I didn’t know how to make a proper batter, so I just mixed some sugar with scrambled eggs and a tiny bit of flour. When my Dad got home, my Mom said, ‘If you love your daughter, you’ll eat this’.”
~ Jennifer, Bloomington, Indiana

Sometimes, the idea in our head doesn’t translate well on the palate.This can be disastrous — especially when it’s a big event … like a wedding.

“At my husband’s cousin’s wedding, we found a lovely (albeit slightly cheesy) custom-made bottle of red wine on each table. Although eager to try the wine, I am thankful for our nearby fellow wedding guests whose reactions discouraged us.

Apparently, the red wine had gone very bad. While the curious guests were anticipating the red, what they unfortunately drank was vinegar. The worst part about it is that the lovely couple was Heather and Vincent, who combined their names — “HeaVin” (read heaven) — as their wine name. Except what was in those bottles led guests to be “HeaVin” (read heaving).”

~ Renee, Arlington, Virginia
Then there’s the holidays, where stress is always aplenty … and everyone’s eyes are on the kitchen. As guests wait for dinner, moments of extreme panic for a chef trying to impress can reach all time highs.

“The first Thanksgiving after I got married, I wanted to cook the holiday dinner for my new in-laws. I planned my meal out and included an au gratin dish that was a favorite of my husband and the family. It included potatoes, béchamel, white pepper, nutmeg, oyster and crimini mushrooms.

Rather than make two separate dishes, I thought I could just double the recipe and use a bigger dish. Well, I did that and it baked … and baked.

And baked.

The potatoes never got done. Not ever. I don’t know why. First holiday meal, and the dish everyone was most looking forward to was a #fail. Luckily I brine my turkey and then bake it breast down, making it so flavorful and juicy that they focused on that, and my au gratin disaster was excused.”

~ Tanya, Washington, D.C.
Count me in on that holiday disaster team. Did you read about my first turkey dinner … when I painted the walls with an exploding bowl of hot gravy. Thankfully, the turkey was also so moist and tender it didn’t need it. The leg bones slid out when we tried to move it to the serving plate. Aunt Kathy had a similar experience.
Photo credit: timlewisnm via Flickr

Do you remember the old china Farberware blue and white round bowls from the 1960’s that had the images of a farmer, wife and wheat on them? I thought they were cool, so when my mom was getting rid of hers, I grabbed them. There used to be 4.

Now I have 3.

I was preheating the oven for dinner.  I pulled the Farberware bowl out of the fridge, which I had prepared the night before. Not thinking, I set the bowl of the stove.  I turned around only to hear the bowl explode, and along with it, our meal for the evening. We probably ending up eating pizza given how long it took to clean up the mess.
~ Kathy, Waterford, Michigan


So that brings us to the last category of kitchen gaffes we’ll explore: The good, the bad and the BURNT. Like this divinity, which ended up being a far cry from divine.

“I was 15-years-old and just itching to be an experienced cook. But because I also had a growing tendency to accidentally break what I touched, I wasn’t allowed to use the stove or oven without any parental guidance.

I was, however, allowed to use the microwave. I took advantage of what little freedom I had back then and used an antiquated microwave book from the 1970’s to cook this dessert called divinity. I didn’t know what divinity was, but had one of my first food porn experiences with the image from that book: The dessert was cream-colored, fluffy-ish, and shaped into a dollop of vanilla frosting.

I had all the ingredients and utensils needed and felt overly-confident. Since it was just a microwave-related recipe, nothing could go wrong.

Thirty minutes into working the recipe: A badly burnt bowl of sugar, plumes of gray smoke filling the kitchen, and three kids — me, my brother and his best friend at the time — squirting lemon juice, vinegar, and any other sort of food-related acid middle school taught us would erase the stains. Nothing worked, so we buried the bowl in the backyard. A year later, the three of us convened at the scene of the crime and dug. We unearthed a clean bowl, empty of any burnt divinity material, and returned it back into the kitchen. It’s still in use to this day.”
~ Sherryn, Silver Spring, Md.

The next two stories involve my cousins, Kenny and Alex. It;s hard to believe either of them (who are the tallest members of our very tall family, were ever this small.

“When he was little, Kenny couldn’t pronounce the “sp” sound. It came out as “ph” or a “f” sound.

One morning as I was still laying in bed, Kenny came in to announce that there was a spider in the kitchen, only it came out “fider.” I didn’t hear the “d” and thought he was telling me there was a fire in the kitchen.
~ Kathy, Waterford, Michigan
But this next bit does involve a fire … sort of. Kathy was making mostacholi. 

“Usually it smelled really good baking. This time it smelled like something was burning. I kept open & closing the oven door, but did not see anything. I was kind of frantic and going nuts because I thought maybe the house was on fire.

Then I spotted the broiler drawer underneath the oven. As a toddler, one of the boys liked to play with the drawer. And put things in the drawer. I opened it to find a cremated pencil.

For fear of killing us with lead poisoning, we had something else. Probably pizza again.”
~ Kathy, Waterford, Michigan
Last, but certainly not least: We The Eater’s intern dishes on how her, “stir fry brings all the cops to the yard, and they’re like … is your apartment on fire?”

“It’s not every day you attempt to make a dinner that ends in the police knocking on your door, but that’s exactly what happened the first time I tried to make stir fry with my college roommate.

Evidently, we had the burner up too high, and not enough oil in the wok, because our chicken soon began smoking … the kind of smoking that lets you know that your smoke alarm is indeed functioning.

As we opened our screen door and started waving a towel in an attempt to clear out the smoke, there was a knock at the door. On the other side were two police officers who asked us, “Are you two alright? Is there a fire in here?”

Now whenever either of us plan stir fry, we joke about making enough for the police to have some when they arrive.
~ Sarah, Holland, Michigan
See, you’re not alone! Share your story in the comment section below.

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Posted in In The Red Corner