Monday, June 15, 2009

Kitchen Fiascos.

My kitchen skills fluctuate between culinary genius and raging disaster. I am a good cook. My husband tells me so. My son tells me so. My - bible - tells - me - so...Oh, wait that one was from "Jesus Loves Me". It's just that sometimes things go awry.

Growing up at our house meant that it was just us 3 'women' for dinner during the week because Dad worked 2nd shift. With a busy schedule, the routine was that whoever got home first started dinner - either me or Mom. So, I ended up doing a lot of cooking. I loved to cook. I loved to experiment and make up new recipes or tweak old ones. One of my favorite compliments that my dad would give me is when he would say, "Boy, you're gonna make some man a happy husband some day 'cause you sure can cook!" I'm no Paula Deen. But I can get a palate pleasing dinner on the table most nights. But, there are those raging disasters I mentioned earlier.

The first one that comes to mind happened when I was still a teenager living with my parents. We ate a lot of chicken breasts which can get boring (if I say so) unless you jazz them up with a little variety. I loved to make 'orange chicken' if we had oranges in the fridge. I don't remember exactly what I did, but I know it consisted of baking the chicken with sliced oranges and some of the juice. One night when I was doing dinner we didn't have oranges. We had grapefruit. Hmmm...I love grapefruit. I substituted and made 'grapefruit chicken". Ugh! Pft, pft, blah! It was completely and totally inedible - a raging disaster. I don't remember what we ended up doing for dinner that night, but it didn't include that chicken! It was hilarious though, because shortly after that we saw a chef on TV making 'grapefruit chicken'. Maybe I was on to something. Or not.

Growing up in a Southern family we ate a lot of biscuits and gravy. Mmmm...I love me some biscuits and gravy! It's still one of my favorite foods. Does flour, milk and butter actually qualify as foods? Who cares? It's soooo good! My granny and mom taught me how to make homemade biscuits. I had them perfected. Then I went off to college and basically quit cooking for a couple of years. Then I got married to a man's man. Not a salad eatin' (though he does love a good salad), granola kind of man. A meat and potato, my dad was a butcher kind of man. Ooooh, how he enjoys a good meal! Shortly after we were married I wanted to impress him with my skills. I was gonna make him homemade biscuits and gravy. Oh, how I poured my heart out into that flour, butter and buttermilk. I caressed that dough with all the love I had in my heart for that studly man of mine. I was such a proud wife when I pulled those biscuits out of the oven. Then we tried to eat them. They were more fit for the National Hockey League than they were for dinner. I swear it was like trying to eat a hockey puck. I don't remember what we did for dinner that night, either. I just know it didn't include those biscuits - and I use that term very loosely here. I was so deflated after that incident that I took to using canned biscuits for the next 14 years. It's only been the past couple of months that I've had the courage to reacquaint myself with the art of biscuit-making.

Of course, we can't forget the reason I bake all of my French fries now.

More recently, I discovered that you have to have an attention span longer than that of a 2 year old if you want to do something as simple as boil eggs.

My most recent kitchen fiasco happened this weekend, though. We have some dear, sweet next door neighbors - Bob and Teresa. Bob is 86 and Teresa turned 81 on Saturday. I found out about her birthday Friday evening as we were talking over the fence. Isn't that a nice, neighborly custom? I don't think people talk over the fence as much as they used to when I was growing up. Anyhoo...I wanted to do something nice for Teresa for her birthday. Teresa probably weighs about as much as the years she's spent on this earth. There really isn't much to her. She reminds me of my Ain't Clayter in that respect. Taking this into consideration and the fact that when we were having a bonfire with some friends in the fall, she brought over the left over cupcakes she had from when they had company - I figured she's not much of a sweet eater. That pretty much eliminated making cake or cookies. But seeing how I hadn't planned on baking something Saturday, my pantry options were very limiting. I did have a can of pumpkin, though. I could always make Pumpkin Bread. Yeah, that would work. It's not nearly as sweet as cake or cookies. Pumpkin Bread it is - even though it's June. Whatever. It's the thought that counts, right? Well...I've never actually made Pumpkin Bread before. That meant that I would have to find a recipe for it. I found the recipe in one of my old church cookbooks. With all of the things church people can't do - they have darn near perfected the art of cooking. This was going to be great! Or so I thought.

I followed the directions to a T. I mixed the sugar and oil in my Kitchen Aid. I incorporated the eggs one at a time. Then it said to start adding the dry ingredients a little at a time, adding the water as needed. Huh? I read the ingredients again. Yep. There it was; 2/3 cup water. So, I alternated - a little of the dry ingredients, a little of the water. Is this right? This doesn't look right. This looks too soupy to be bread. This looks like way too much batter for one loaf of bread. Hmmm...maybe it's supposed to make two loafs of bread and they just forgot to add it to the recipe. But, I pressed on following the instructions. It wasn't my recipe - who was I to question? So I poured the batter into the loaf pan. I had enough batter left over for a second loaf. Good. One for Teresa. One for us. I put it into my pre-heated oven. I set the timer to check on it in 45 minutes. I go about my business. Little Britches hollers at me a while later that he smells something burning. "No biggie.", I thought. "It's just that a little of the batter has probably bubbled over and is burning on the bottom of the oven." After 45 minutes the bread is still completely soupy in the center and 1/2 of it is burning on the bottom of my oven. I press on. Maybe 15 more minutes would finish it off. Nope. The only thing 15 more minutes did was cause my house to look like a training exercise in smoke inhalation for the fire department. And the bread was still soupy. 2/3 cup water my big, fat butt! What the recipe should have read was: If batter is too stiff, you may add up to 2/3 cup water to thin it down.... So, I took Teresa her card. It read; Happy 81st Birthday! I was going to bake you some delicious, homemade Pumpkin Bread, but nearly set my oven on fire (Which has actually happened to me. That's another post, though). So, all I got you was this crappy card! Are you kidding me? I don't want her knowing I'm an idiot savant in the kitchen! She did end up with just a card, though.

So, what have learned to today? a) All stereo-types are wrong, wrong, wrong. Bad, bad, bad. Just because someone attends church and submits a recipe to the fund-raising cook book, it does not automatically mean they can actually cook. b) Listen to your intuition. If that voice keeps telling you that something doesn't look right - then it probably isn't right. If that voice tells you to place a cookie sheet under whatever it is that your baking, listen. c) Place a cookie sheet under whatever you're baking. :0) d) Don't multi-task too much when cooking. Working with things that can make you homeless if left unattended for too long requires more attention than a 2 year old can give. And finally, e) Dyson vacuum cleaners are not only good on floors, they're good on ovens, too.

P.S. The car wax is working perfectly on the faucet!


  1. OMW! That is TOO funny! LOL on the vacuum working in the oven. Oh, and I'm SO trying the wax on my faucets.

    I have a very similar early teens cooking fiasco (in that it involved citrus and chicken), though the dish I'd become known for was the Betty Crocker cookbooks Lemon Chicken over rice.

    Once during a particularly difficult 'season' of our family history (parents looming divorce, financial problems) we didn't have any lemons on hand...just an old plastic lime in the bottom corner of the fridge that miraculously still had some lime juice in it. I used it measure for measure in place of the lemon juice in my recipe...creating the most incredibly sour chicken ever. So sour my family couldn't even eat it. They pushed away from the table appalled, and my mom ended up breaking out storebought burritos to wipe the taste from our palettes.

    The cats actually turned their noses up at it and our dog wouldn't touch it (and our dog ate ANYthing). I cried and very nearly gave up cooking altogether it was so bad. Unbeknownst to me at the time, limes are 3x the strength of lemons sour-wise. Ugh.

    Another fiasco has come to be known in the annals of my family history as the "Salad on the Wall" incident. Do you remember those Betty Crocker "Suddenly Salads" boxed pasta salad mixes back in the 80's? The pasta could be boiled in the bag along with a packet of dehydrated veggies, and a seasoning packet mixed with oil made a dressing for a pasta salad?

    Well, I made one once, and as I was tearing open the tough boilable plastic bag of piping hot noodles (done in the method I would normally open a bag of chips), it 'gave' and the pasta flew out all stuck to the laminate backsplash wall near the sink, lol. My sister said it gave a whole new meaning to "suddenly" salad, as it was suddenly stuck on the wall, lol.

    Thankfully, my skills improved greatly before I met my hubby, lol. In fact, he claims that the very first meal I ever cooked for him was what won him over.

  2. Pam, I had to chuckle because similar things have happened to me over the years. I have some of those church cookbooks too and while there are some winners in them, there are also a few "clunkers", lol.
    I've had similar biscuit and bread experience too but I just keep on keeping on!!
    Thanks for sharing your delightful posts. :)


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