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Oct 2, 2001 10:31 PM

Kitchen Disasters

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I had a really bad day in my kitchen on Sunday. In the morning, I finally got my kid to clean the catbox, which was what I had assumed was the cause of the bad smell that had been lingering near the pantry for a couple of days. WRONG. Turns out it was a carton of chicken stock in the back of the second shelf which had leaked 3/4 of its contents. We all know what flows downhill- around and down the back of the pantry, pooled on the jam-packed lower shelves and the bottom, where I store white wine and six packs of beer. Spoiled chicken stock smells REALLY bad. Emptying the pantry shelves and cleaning everything in it was not how I planned to spend my day...

That same evening, I had my big stockpot going and slightly offset the tempered glass lid for a moment while I left the room for something. When I came back, the lid had shattered like an automobile windshield, and the pot was full of broken glass. I must've had a bad moon rising.

It got me to thinking about other disasters I've had--like the time years ago when I dutifully followed a Dionne Lucas recipe for boneless leg of lamb stuffed with pork sausage. I was too inexperienced to anticipate the disaster that happened when I sliced the medium rare meat for my dinner guests, and found that the sausage stuffing was still uncooked. I ended up slicing the meat and broiling the slices to cook the stuffing. But I was mortified. (Who edited that cookbook? The recipe should have called for pre-cooked sausage.)

Anyway, I wonder if fellow 'hounds would be willing to share their own kitchen/culinary disasters.

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  1. I invited a former restaurant colleague of mine who went on to movie stardom to join my wife and I for dinner. I was cooking a striped bass recipe I had gathered from somewhere. I had gotten whole fish. And I cooked whole fish. I neglected to gut the bass.

    Needless to say we ended up going out for dinner.

    1. I once attended a thanksgiving dinner where the hostess forgot to turn on the oven...and didn't discover this until about 1/2 before we were meant to eat (and had been dutifully starving ourselves for the day!)

      As for me...I once left a red lipstick on my stovetop and it rolled into the burner, and was hidden under the kettle. In the morning when I was boiling water for coffee, it melted into a pool of blood-red - I usually walk around in the morning without my contact lenses, and to my un-focused eyes, I thought a murder had taken place in my kitchen during the night.

      1 Reply
      1. re: magnolia

        I look on this "disaster" as more of an adventure, but I guess that's in the eye of the beholder.

        One summer in Maine I had the opportunity to buy a big sack full of Maine crabs for steaming. They're much smaller than Blue Crabs but incredibly sweet. I clamoured down a ladder at the dock to the boat that had them for sale, and was given a grocery bag swarming with crabs. Back up the ladder I went with my treasure. If you're ahead of me, you know that the bag was getting wetter all the time! As I hurried into the kitchen, ready to dump the crabs into the sink, the bottom gave way, and a couple dozen of pinchy, scrambling crabs went everywhere. I wasn't certain just how many I'd purchased but thought I'd collected them all...until...a week later when there was quite a stench from under the fridge! It's brethren were delicious though!

      2. Not switching the oven on: did this just the other night when my wife had important guests round.

        Then there was the oxtail stew for twenty that got dropped on the floor.

        Then there are my top three 'dishes that didn't':
        Kidney soup which smelt like a drain and had a loathsome texture.
        Dosas, for which I spent what seemed like the whole weekend grinding the flour, but which turned out as an inedible greasy stodge.
        An elaborate almond and orange tart which included some rancid nuts.

        But at least I haven't poisoned anybody yet. At the wedding of some people I know, the guests were served a dish of seafood with home made mayonnaise, which had been standing in ninety degree for several hours. Salmonella all round. No laughing matter.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Martyn
          Janet a. Zimmerman

          A friend of my sister's once made dinner for a large group -- a vegetarian stew served in a pumpkin shell. It included lima beans, which she didn't cook thoroughly, and pretty much everyone got sick (I was out of town for that one, fortunately).

        2. Hi everybody,

          This disaster happened to my Mom about 30 years ago...

          Early December, and she and a friend had gone up to Apple Hill, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, to get some fresh baked apple products, and scout out Xmas trees. On the way back, they stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things. When Mom got home, she just had time to put the perishables in the fridge, and put the apple pie onto a cooling rack, before taking my sister and I to piano lessons.

          When we got home, our keeshund, Suki, was lying on the floor of the kitchen, frothing from the mouth, and convulsing. A bit of investigating found most of the apple pie, along with 1/3 of a bar of Irish Spring soap, had been eaten by the dog. Unfortunately, Suki had vomited right in front of the stove.

          Mom called the vet, and was instructed to bring the dog over right away. Since it was getting near dinner time, Mom put a pot of leftover chili on the stove, and yelled at my older sister to clean up the dog's mess, and keep an eye on the chili. We all then left for the vet's office.

          Got back about an hour later, only to find the fire department at the house. Seems that my older sister hadn't been home when we left, and came back to a smoke filled house.

          Luckily, nothing but the pot was permanently damaged. One of the firemen, though, seeing the dog's handiwork in front of the stove, figured that whatever it was had boiled over from the pot, timidly asked "what were you guys cooking?"


          1 Reply
          1. re: Andy P.

            Or maybe he wanted the recipe. ;-)

          2. I spent a couple hours making elaborate fillings for turnovers (spinach & feta, olives & peppers, steakums) and made a yeast raised pastry dough (kind of like a brioche but with no sugar).

            Unfortunately I did not add enough flour to the dough, and rather than rising, it spread like some kind of floor of the ocean ooze.

            While throwing out the dough, I took my eyes off the steakums (I know it's not very chowhoundish, I can't help it) long enough for my roommate's great dane to get them.

            *somehow* the heat got turned up on the stewing olives & peppers, and they caught fire. I covered the pot and put it on the floor (don't ask me why) where it naturally melted the linoleum.

            Probably the worst thing about all this, was all the food stuffs I'd been using were things my parents had bought for me, as I was a poor college student at the time, and this was going to be my lunches & dinners for the week. So for a week I had to subsist on frozen yogurt waffle cones (a steal at 90 cents) and illicit waffles.


            2 Replies
            1. re: ben f

              > So for a week I had to subsist on frozen yogurt waffle cones (a steal at 90 cents) and illicit waffles.

              What's an illicit waffle?

              1. re: steve

                The only palatable thing my college ever made available was waffle batter and a waffle iron. If I had no money, I'd hang out outside the dining hall windows until one of my friends happened by (or I'd arrange this ahead of time) and convince them to make a waffle, wrap it in napkins, and slide it through the narrow tilted window.

                if their pizza had been edible, it would have been illicit pizza.