Contemptible Culinary Calamities

With all of the septic tank excitement last week, I’m way behind in my word count for Camp NaNoWriMo. Which means I need to come up with every spare minute possible to catch up. Therefore, for the next three weeks, I will mostly be recycling posts from my first year of blogging…back when very few (if any) people were reading them. This one is from December 2, 2011. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed reminiscing and writing it.


At some point in our lives, we all have to learn to cook.  There’s just no getting around it – if you want to live for any length of time after leaving the nest anyway.  How we learn, or how much we learn, depends on what our taste buds are willing to tolerate.  For some people, a plate of boxed mac and cheese and a hot dog is all it takes to make them happy.

I am not one of those people…

Nope.  I enjoy good food, and wanted to learn to cook from a very early age.  But it was from that very early age that I realized that even adults weren’t always successful in the kitchen.

One of my earliest memories is of an uncle babysitting my siblings and me.  He thought it would be a good idea to make some fudge (we thought it would be a good idea, too).  Only this fudge wasn’t exactly fudge. At least not as we knew it.  The consistency was more like a really soft, gooey taffy we had to eat with a spoon.  It was a delicious mistake.  In fact, every now and again I try to screw up my recipe so it will turn out like that, but haven’t had much luck with it yet.

Next on the list was a Saturday morning cooking class my mom signed me up for when I was in the third or fourth grade.  It was just kind of a fun thing the school offered, but I loved it.

Each week, all the girls were supposed to bring in one ingredient for the recipe we were making, and  I had to bring flour the day we made chocolate chip cookies.  The teacher instructed us every step of the way, from mixing the batter to spooning it onto greased cookie sheets.  Only problem is, she forgot to have us add my flour.  Made for an interesting first batch…

Moving on…

Maybe it was those early experiences, seeing recipes both exceed and dash expectations when not followed correctly, that led me to a whole lot of experimentation in the kitchen.

I’ve turned into a pretty good cook, so obviously I managed to do something right.  But there were some spectacular failures along the way! For instance, my first try at making a pizzeria style pizza.

Way back when, in much the same way bakery cakes were few and far between, so it was with take-out pizzas.  We didn’t get them very often, which meant it was high on the ‘need to have’ list.

For some reason I thought oregano was the key to magically turning a homemade, Appian Way pizza into a pie worthy of Casa Nova’s (the best pizzeria in Lansing).

My oldest younger brother and I were the chefs every Friday night, and one of those nights I seriously wanted take – out, and decided to put my theory to the test, generously sprinkling the sauce with oreganoMom caught me before I could doctor up more than one, and that’s the pizza I was stuck eating from.  Let’s just say I learned the hard way that oregano wasn’t the magical key.

Still, I didn’t learn my lesson, and then next one came after I moved away from my parent’s house.  And this time it was my first batch of homemade spaghetti sauce. 

I’d used a heavy hand  (extremely heavy) with the oregano, but didn’t want my mom to know I now had green spaghetti sauce, so I called my grandma to see if there was a way to fix it. She said I could add an additional gallon of tomato sauce, or just throw it away and start over.  Unfortunately she mentioned it to my mom, who has a memory like an elephant.

It was a long time before I bought another bottle of oregano…

An early attempt at chicken stew…with cauliflower added for extra veggies…didn’t turn out well either.

There is one experiment, though, that I love thinking about.  One that will make me laugh until I cry.  It happened when I moved back home for a few months.

It was one of those days when nothing sounded good and, for some reason a box of dry soup mix caught my eye at the grocery store.  I picked it up, read the recipe on the back, and bought the ingredients.  I was so excited about it, I met my dad at the door and told him I’d tried something new for supper.

The expression on his face was a cross between, “Oh please, God, not again,” and “Just shoot me now.”  There was also some muttering going on, to the effect that it had better not be as bad as my last disaster.

I have to give him credit because, much as he was dreading it, he sat down at the table – resigned to choking down another ‘science project.’ Lucky for him it was a successful experiment.  In fact, there was such a look of relief on his face when he realized it tasted good that it was almost pitiful.

Yes, I still experiment in the kitchen.  But I’ve learned from my mistakes, and usually turn out meals that won’t result in the need for medical intervention, or anyone having to hug a toilet.

Can’t say I like beer, because I’ve never acquired a taste for it, but this seems to go along with kitchen disasters quite nicely.

What about you?  Have you ever made a dish that was so bad you’ll never live it down?  What about happy accidents?  Something you thought you’d ruined, but has now turned into a family favorite?

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