kitchen nightmares 101

I’ve been asked more than once about where my love of cooking comes from. Oddly enough, even my mom has asked me this question and she’s one of my food heroes, so maybe the explanation’s not as easy as it would seem.

My mom always had a vegetable garden and almost always made us home-cooked meals. I waxed poetic about some of my food memories in a previous post, but I guess my real love of cooking was a combination of events. Threat of starvation was one of them.

I ventured out on my own in my late teens and it didn’t take me long to realize that eating out was expensive. So, thanks to my mom’s ability to put almost anything in a pan and make it taste delicious, the insane, irrational part of my brains said “I can cook, too!”

Sure.

Very early on, I started a new look with half-singed eyelashes and eyebrows. This, from opening a gas oven at the exact moment of ignition. To my credit, I never did that again.

My brother taught me that I could buy big slabs of bologna from the deli at the grocery store and save money by slicing it myself. With a cheap loaf of white bread and an even cheaper head of iceberg lettuce, I had sandwiches for a week on less than $10. (this was a few years ago, mind you…let’s not get too specific, shall we?) I try not to dwell on the saturated fat I consumed between the mayonnaise and the bologna. I’m pretty sure the white bread and the lettuce weren’t enough of nutritional powerhouses to save me that year.

Chicken was also super cheap at the time so I’d buy a bunch of chicken, some onions, a bag of potatoes and some cream of mushroom soup (arrggg…there’s that dreaded can of soup….) and put it all together in a pan and bake it. I’d eat that stuff for a week. But, to my credit, I could also pay my rent, damn it.

Fast forward a few years, into my very early twenties, and I cooked my first turkey. Oh, I know you think where this is headed so I’ll tell you now that I was smart enough to take the bag of giblets out before roasting that bird. I wasn’t a complete moron.

Except that after a few hours of cooking, a strange thumping sound seemed to be coming from my oven. Thump.   *pause*   Thump.   *pause*   Thump.

What the…..?

I opened my oven to find small clumps of stuffing stuck to the sides and door of my oven. My turkey was literally blowing it’s stuffing out. Those “Don’t over-stuff your turkey” warnings typically apply to being sure the stuffing and turkey reaches the correct, don’t-send-your-family-home-with-salmonella temperature but now you know…it can also get a bit messy. Maybe I do have a bit of moron in me, after all. Baked-on stuffing is not a joy to clean up off the sides and bottom of your oven.

Just a few years later I moved into an apartment with a yard. A real yard, with real grass. So, of course, I proceeded to dig up some of said grass and plant vegetables. Ta da! Come to find out, I could actually grow stuff. Like food. Amazing.

By that time I was a much better cook (practice makes perfect, y’all), so growing my own veggies made me want to cook even more.

A garden is not without its own problems though. Like slugs the size of your foot. And tomato caterpillars that you don’t see until you’re right in their little face because they look just like the tomato stalk. Eek! And those problems were minimal compared to the mysterious disappearance of almost-ripened veggies that seemed to occur late at night. Oooohhhh that used to make me so mad.

What’s your most memorable kitchen disaster?

36 thoughts on “kitchen nightmares 101

  1. That is easy, exploding porcupine meatballs. Not good. Be very careful how you open your pressure cooker at high elevation when you normally use it at low elevation.

  2. I love you story. I need to eat without spending hard earned out all the time dos tend help push things along in the direction of becoming a cook. 🙂 I won’t say it was a disaster, however, it was a major mess up that was corrected somewhat. I was making my first homemade summer sausage. I coarse ground the meat adding seasonings and let it set in the fridge for 24 hours for a wonderful flavor marriage. Then I had to grind the meat the second time on fine grind. After grinding I took the feed auger out of the grinder to clean and there were all these black peppercorns in the auger with the rest of a bit of meat that didn’t go through. I had not thought about the peppercorns being too big to go through the find grind plate. I took all the peppercorns and hand mixed them into the meat, stuffed the casing and to the smokehouse they went. 8 hours later they were finished and had to go into ice water to stop the cooking process and then to the fridge to stay over night. The next day I cut the one pound links in 1/2 and there were some with the peppercorns all in a wad. HA! So, next time I will fine grind then add the peppercorns last before stuffing. You can see the summer sausage smoking here – http://youtu.be/XxkcZFoq158

    • Well, I’m really impressed that you make and smoke summer sausage, Jerry! Very cool and in a homemade smoker, no less! Wow. It sounds like quite the process to go through so finding clumps of peppercorns in the finished product would probably bring me to tears. lol! Thanks for sharing; it’s always nice to hear other people’s stories!

      • Thank you Lola. The smokehouse was actually an all cedar building slated to be used as an outhouse (with real plumbing) here on the ranch as part of the guest facilities but was never used. I’ll be making some more soon without the same mistake as last. This is a better video of the smoke house doing two beef briskets. http://youtu.be/zkEYlw0GtCM

  3. I bought a cooked chicken once and the bag it came in said reheat in microwave in same bag. No problem.

    A week later, I bought another chicken and assumed the same but didn’t realise this bag it came in was a “bit” different. Something to do with foil…..

    … chicken and bag caught fire. But fortunately I put it out in time. The microwave still works and I’m reminded every time I see the black burn marks whenever I open the microwave. 🙂

    • Oh my – that’s hysterical! Thank goodness you got the fire out before any serious damage occurred. (and nothing like having to look at the burn marks to remind you never to do it again!) 🙂 Thanks for sharing – I love hearing other people’s stories!

  4. RoscoeRamblings says:

    One evening when I was in my early 20’s, I announced to my then boyfriend (now husband) that I was going to make him a special meal. On the menu for that night was quiche. My pronunciation? Quee-Shay. The look on his face was priceless.

    • I love it! Quee-shay! That’s just perfect and he married you anyway, so he obviously could have cared less. To this day, I hate when something starts to become popular and I’m not sure how to pronounce it. Makes me crazy.

  5. Great Post. Also the comment about Quee-Shay from RoscoeRamblings reminds me of my first order for a latte. Instead of Lot Tay I ordered a Lotty. The waiter actually helped with “It rhymes with pate not potty.” I could hear the kitchen crew cracking up when he put in the order.

    • Lotty! That’s so funny! I swear they started coming up with hard to pronounce food and drinks just to make us all crazy. Every year it seems like it’s something new. I liked Quee-shay, too – you both brought smiles to me today! Thanks for sharing John!

  6. I think we talked about this before but in case we didn’t, here goes again…. you have GOT to be my foodie soulmate! lol Kindred spirits. AND you’re even a Midwestern girl! SO cool.

    I, like you, have a mother who can make a gourmet meal out of flour and water. lol She also grew our food and LIVED in her garden. We were poor after Dad left and wouldn’t pay child support so we went hungry because mom wouldn’t or couldn’t go on food stamps. Maybe they didn’t even have food stamps in the early 8o’s? IDK. Mom was proud and we just went without unless some of her sisters or Grandma brought us food. I remember one of my aunts coming to visit for a weekend and bringing 5# slab of bacon that she’d had her butcher throw together. She raised hogs so this was inexpensive for her to do. Anyway, Mom and I cried because we could finally eat. I remember grabbing handfulls of dried oats and eating it because I was so hungry and the same goes for uncooked rice. I was too hungry to wait for it to cook. I could tell you some stories. What did I learn form all of this? How to be a food hoarder! Now, I will WAY overspend to WAY overstock my house with anything and everything. My oldest daughter who is a struggling teacher, comes over here to “grocery shop”! lol She know I have too much and we can’t eat it before it goes bad… she helps out by taking that food off my hands. lol I’m pitiful, really. I think it’s kind of a PTSD thing. I’m just afraid, terrified really, of going hungry again.

    Oh and your turkey thing? Yeah, I did the same thing in my early 20’s! The worst thing I ever did was going off (I was 22) and leaving a frying pan of hot grease on the burner. I was going to fry toasted ravioli and the phone rang. I actually thought “the hotter the better” when it came to grease. I seriously didn’t know the oil would catch on fire but it did. First I threw water on the grease. When it spread the flames (cause you NEVER EVER EVER throw water on a grease fire), I ran the pan outside of my apartment. The flames ran up my arm and caught it on fire. The scariest part of that story was that my 4 year old daughter got panicked cause her mama was screaming. She ran right into my path and the flames actually bounced off her head. I don’t know how it didn’t catch her on fire! I had 3rd degree burns on my right hand all the way up to my elbow and it was 2 weeks before my wedding. I STILL have scars from that and it happened in 1988!

    Geeze, there I go again jacking your post! lol SOrry but I loved this one! Love the way you write too 🙂

    • You can jack my posts anytime you’d like! I have a tendency to be a bit of a food hoarder too, then twice a year go nuts with trying to use everything up. lol! On a serious note though, I agree that your hoarding is probably a type of PTSD. It makes sense that, after spending time scrounging for food when you were young, that a part of you wants to make sure it never happens again. You’re daughter’s probably pretty thankful though that she come to your place for groceries! 🙂

      And OMG – your grease story is so scary! Thank God your daughter wasn’t seriously hurt, though I’m sorry to hear you got 3rd degree burns – that’s horrible! And 2 weeks before your wedding no less….sounds like something that would happen to me.

      Thanks for sharing your stories – I always love hearing from you!

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