Kitchen Disasters of the Third Kind

I’m not a great cook. In fact, I’d say that I really don’t enjoy cooking, mainly because I’m pretty bad at it. Let’s face it: when we frequently fail at a task, it’s likely that we’ll take the hint and stop doing it. Like me and math. Oh, I can do basic arithmetic okay. I can even do some very basic algebra and geometry (when I can remember how to find the formulas). But cooking is my Kryptonite.

Oh, there are a few things I do fairly well. I make a fantastic meatloaf! Even my kids love my meatloaf! I can also make scrambled eggs, usually without burning them. I am also capable of baking cookies, often without burning those, too. Sometimes. Once in a while. I can make a decent spaghetti sauce (and angel hair pasta), and my Sloppy Joes recipe is really good. Oh, and my corn casserole is awesome!

If a recipe or mix comes with explicit instructions, and I remember to set a timer, I can (usually) do a decent job of making whatever it is, and it is usually edible. This is not always the case. In general, if it can be opened and heated, or if I can simply add water and heat, or even add a few ingredients together, whether it needs to be heated or not, I’m not bad. You should taste my Green Stuff (aka Watergate Salad) or Lemonade Pie. But for the most part, I avoid cooking as much as possible.

It all started back in 8th grade Home Ec, during our cooking course. I was working in our group’s kitchen, and we were making a cake, I think. Anyway, it was supposed to be sweet. We had just finished mixing the batter, and I remembered to taste the batter before putting it in the oven to bake. “Why is this so salty? I don’t remember salt in the ingredients list…” I checked the list again; no salt. I pulled out the sugar canister and poured about 1/4 teaspoon into my hand, then licked it. SALT! WTF?! Somebody in our class had sabotaged our kitchen, and poured salt into the sugar canister! To top things off, our entire kitchen failed that lesson because the batter wasn’t mixed correctly. Was it our fault that someone else sabotaged us? No. But we were the ones who paid for it.

Since then, I have gathered an embarrassingly large number of funny cooking disaster stories, that I enjoy sharing with family and friends. Here are a few of my favorites:

I have, on multiple occasions, burned boiled hotdogs. Yes, burned. BOILED! Hotdogs. You see, when you put hotdogs in water to cook on the stovetop, and you walk away for a few minutes to allow the water to boil, then you get distracted by a good book, or a TV show, or fall asleep, the water will eventually boil off, leaving just the hotdog and some greasy residue at the bottom of a hot pan on a hot (still cooking) burner. At some point, a cloud of black smoke will rise and begin to fill first the kitchen, then the rest of the house, with the wretched smell of burning meat. Then the smoke detector will start going off. Between turning off the burner, moving the pot of blackened hotdogs and burned greasy residue into the sink, and trying to get the smoke detector to stop shrieking, you’ll be very busy for the next several minutes. If you’re lucky, you won’t need the fire extinguisher. This time.

Then there’s the time that I tried making a few “minor” substitutions in a recipe. It looked okay when it was done, but my husband and I each took a bite, choked it down, and guzzled a full glass of water to get rid of the taste. Then I got up from the table, picked up the pot of food, dumped it into the trash bin, and we went out to eat.

More recently, I was trying a recipe for chocolate covered strawberries, and decided to try melting the chocolate in the microwave. Did you know that chocolate can burn in the microwave if you leave it in too long? Yes, and it makes very pretty flames, too!

How about the time that I decided to ignore warnings to not use my Corningware glass casserole dish on the glass cooktop to precook chicken for a chicken pot pie recipe? Everything was going very well; the water boiled, and the chicken cooked perfectly in just a few minutes. I was in the process of pulling out the cooked chicken pieces so I could cut them up before mixing up the pie filling, and one of the pieces was stuck to the bottom of the dish. I gave it the slightest of tugs with the tongs I was using, when suddenly the dish EXPLODED! There were shards of broken glass all over the kitchen! It went into the cooked chicken I had already removed from the dish, all over the floor and counter, and even hit the dogs’ food bowls. After cleaning up (and determining that nobody was hurt, and that I had gotten all the shards off the floor and counter), we ordered a pizza. And I bought a new casserole dish.

Pro tip: undercooked poultry is actually dangerous, and can lead to severe food poisoning. If you cut into your cooked Cornish Game Hen, and it squawks or bleeds, it’s undercooked. So, when planning a dinner party for four, be sure to check that your oven is actually turned on when you put your birds into it. Yes, preheating will help to alert you to the fact that the oven is actually heating.

Here’s another important tip: when you use a coffee maker to make a pot of coffee, it really helps to remember to put the ground coffee into the basket in the coffee maker before starting the water drip. If you forget to add the ground coffee, the pot of coffee is very, very weak. One way to tell if the coffee is weak before you pour a cup is to look at the glass pot. If the water is clear, you didn’t add enough coffee. Hey, I don’t drink the stuff!

Some of my kitchen disasters were not my fault. Once I make a delicious small turkey for Thanksgiving, then set it on the table while I finished the last couple of dishes. I turned around to put mashed potatoes on the table to discover that my cat had jumped onto the table and dragged/pushed the turkey onto the floor, and was happily licking and biting it.

Baked goods are a particular sore spot with me. I’ve made many cakes that have fallen, or burned, or come out underdone. My son is a much better baker than I am. He really enjoys baking cakes and cookies, and I’m glad that he does. Otherwise, all of our baked goods would come from the grocery store.

I’m very fortunate that I married a really good cook. My husband cooks most of our meals, and he even seems to enjoy it. Except when he’s working a 12-hour day shift; that’s when he wants to come home, eat something, then go to bed so he can get up in the morning for his next shift. That’s when the meals get pretty basic, and often leftovers are the meal of choice. Sometimes, when he’s working nights, he fixes something before he goes to work, and takes a couple servings of it with him, leaving the rest for the kids and me to eat when I get home from work.

I guess my point is this: I’m a bad cook; my husband is a great cook; I’m glad I married him; I’d rather make art than cook. It all makes sense now, right? Enjoy your day!

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