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Kitchen Disasters

  • z

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.


            2. This is a seriously fun thread. Thanks for starting it!

              Here are a few. I got into cooking through desserts. I had such a sweet tooth as an adolescent and teen that I would make my own when the store-bought ones ran out. One day I tried to make ladyfingers, but the recipe said cake flour and all I had was all-purpose. Well, I reasoned, it's for all purposes, right? Wrong. I got to the point in the recipe when it said to fill a pastry bag with the mixture and pipe onto a cookie sheet, but my mixture was the consistancy of pea soup. I added more flour to correct, then piped lines of dough on a cookie sheet and baked. I almost broke my tooth when I bit into one.

              One of my siblings once made Hamburger Helper (yeah, we ate well in my house) but neglected to drain the meat after she browned it. You can imagine how awful that was.

              Jane Brody mentions in one of her cookbooks that her biggest catastrophe as a cook was making a recipe for guests and, half an hour before she was supposed to serve dinner, getting to the line in the recipe that said "chill overnight." Ouch.

              I used to throw an authentic Medieval potluck every year at Halloween. One year, my sister-in-law (a real germophobe) was there. I had a tiny oven, and I was piling various dishes on top of each other in order to keep them warm until we were ready to eat. A chef friend of ours made made a lovely mushroom pie, and as I was putting it into the oven, it fell all over the place-- on the oven door, in the bottom of the oven and on the floor. My husband and I, knowing the floor was very clean, salvaged what we could, but while we still had lots of pie to serve, it was a wreck. My sister-in-law was standing there as we were picking the pie off the floor, but I don't think she could accept what we were doing so it just didn't register. As we were preparing plates (thankfully we did that in the kitchen away from prying eyes), our chef friend popped in his head and wondered how the pie was slicing. We panicked for a moment (because it really looked like an awful mess on the plates), but then he said, "The crust seemed crumbly to me, so I didn't think it would look very good after it was cut and served." We eagerly agreed that it had "crumbled a little." It tasted good, though!

              Finally, right after my now-husband and I moved in together, I threw my first adult dinner party-- a four course Provencal feast. We had a gas stove and I was roasting peppers over the flame when my hair (which was and still is down to my waist) caught on fire. I was home alone and I tried ineffectually to bat out the flames (which were mostly behind me). Then my bathrobe caught. I had the sense to get into the shower to put myself out, but I was extremely shaken. That was bad enough, but I couldn't get the smell of burnt hair off me or out of my apartment. Surprisingly, the party actually went well.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Beth P.

                Beth, I can't believe you caught your hair on fire! That has to be the pinnacle of kitchen disasters. Here's mine: I tried to barbecue a whole hog. We had around 20 people come over to eat. The thing is, it LOOKED perfect. I mean, a perfect mahogany brown, beautifully crisp skin, and after 12 hours on the pit, it was pretty much raw. Not exactly something you can pop back in for a few more minutes.

                1. re: Greg Spence
                  Caitlin McGrath

                  On my 25th birthday, I leaned forward to blow out the candles on the cake-those tall, skinny, sophisticated ones. My boyfriend, who was sitting next to me, started whapping my head; I didn't even see or realize what was happening for a few seconds, but the rest of the table looked on in horror-and later laughed a lot--as my hair caught fire.

                2. re: Beth P.

                  Beth, Thank you. I'm laughing so hard I can't write more;

                3. Last spring for Mother's Day, I offered to cook dinner for my boyfriend's mom and family (10 people). A couple of his siblings are vegetarian, so I decided to make porcini risotto cakes as the main course.

                  I made the rice mixture the day before, making sure to undercook a bit and thought I would form and fry the cakes/patties at his mom's house.

                  Somehow the cakes wouldn't stay formed, so we made the decision to just put the rice mixture all in one big dish and warm in the oven. By the time dinner was served the mixutre was the consistency of paste. We served it anyway (with lots of veggie side dishes and lobster for the non-veggies), and his mother was kind enough to tell me what a great 'risotto' it was...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Kim B

                    Hang on to this guy - what a great mom!

                  2. j
                    Janet A. Zimmerman

                    This happened years ago, when I was in junior high. My mom was cooking dinner for some very good friends (dad was out of town). She was basting cornish game hens and had pulled the pan out of the oven and rested it on the oven door (the oven was at chest height). You guessed it -- the entire pan slid off the door and onto the floor. As my mom's floors really were always clean enough to eat from, she did the prudent thing and picked up the hens. But there was still all that grease all over the floor, so my sister started to clean it up. Unfortunately, the cleaning rags were on a shelf on the other side of the the pool of grease. Eileen tried to jump across it to get a rag, and didn't make it. She fell and slid across the floor into the cat's food dish, adding cat kibble to the mess. By this time, my mom's friends were asking if she needed a hand, to which she replied, "NO. Stay there." (Incidentally, this was the first time I'd ever heard my mother swear.)

                    As if this weren't enough, one of us had turned on the wrong burner before this had all started. As it was an electric stove, it only then became hot enough to ignite the potholder that was on top of it, and we all watched as it burst into flames. Somehow, though, the sight of that cracked us all up and we ended up laughing hysterically as we mopped up the mess.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                      Janet, I had to tell you how hard I just laughed at your story! I especially whooped over the line that this was the first time you'd heard your mother swear!

                      Reminded me of a time we visited my husband's sister and brother-in-law a few years ago. For a quick meal, my sister-in-law baked a family-size Lean Cuisine lasagna. As she brought the bubbling, steaming mass to the table, the aluminum foil pan buckled and the lasagna ended up on the floor, on the table, splashed up on the walls, the curtains, our legs-- and it was the first time I'd heard my sister-in-law swear. This disaster certainly warranted some swearing-- on all of our parts!

                      Another long-ago memory involves 7th grade Home-Ec class when the assignment was apple muffins. I'm still not sure what went wrong-- too much baking powder? Chunks of apples rather than diced? Anyway, my teacher sampled one of my muffins and as she chewed, her face slowly contorted into a grimace and I think she may have even shivered a little.

                      She told me I would receive a "D" as my grade for the muffins and moved on to try some other students' efforts. However, within a few minutes she returned and told me I was going to receive a "D minus"... for AFTERTASTE! (Don't even get me started on the horrors of my attempts at making a skirt in Home Ec-- BIG TIME grimacing from the teacher!)

                      1. re: Sandi

                        I've had that experience in a cooking class myself.

                        Ofttimes it's chunks of baking SODA that do that. It lumps up really easily, so it's best to put it through a strainer unless it's totally smooth.

                      2. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

                        Ah, here I was, smug in my belief that I was the sole person alive without a kitchen disaster of my own....
                        and then terrible memories are sparked...

                        I can beat your Home Ec D-minus - I actually lit my Home Ec teacher on fire. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were all aproned up and ready to start cooking away for the first time. We actually had to graduate up to this point - previously we had to demonstrate our kitchen prowress by making an iceberg lettuce salad with some Wishbone dressing. Thus far, I had been the star pupil. Anyhow, we were embarking on the great adventure that was to be butterscotch pudding (from mix, natch) and eager to begin. Our teacher, clad in a fuzzy bell-sleeved sweater and coifed with MUCH Aquanet, gave us the command to light our stoves. Now, I grew up with an electric range... I don't think I had ever even seen a gas range... but with an electric range, you have to turn it up to "high" to really get it cranking (I'm nothing if not impatient). Now, I sure as hell didn't expect giant flames to come leaping out of the burner - if I had, I would have waited for the teacher, who was pointing to something on the other side of my range, to get her arm out of the way. Both sweater and hair almost immediately vaporized. Luckily, she wasn't at all seriously burned - but was not at all thrilled to find herself standing there, in front of 20 seventh-graders agog, in her bra and nothing much more than smoking embers where her hair used to be. She had to take a few months of "personal time". I was immediately pulled from Home Ec and school administrators placed me where I could do the least harm......wood shop!!

                        1. re: Shmingrid
                          Bob Martinez

                          Wonderful! Some one should compile these. Maybe alternate each "disaster" story with a "worst meal ever" gem.

                      3. We hadn't known this couple too long when I decided to invite them for dinner. Among other dishes I served rice pilaf that had pignole nuts in it. I'd never had these nuts before but I bought some and dutifully made the pilaf. As we sat eating I kept wondering why the pilaf was so crunchy. Then my friend explained that the nuts were supposed to be used only AFTER they had been shelled. Needless to say, whenever I used pignole (or pine nuts) again I always made sure they were already shelled.
                        A friend of mine decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for her new husband. She bought a lovely frozen turkey and on that holiday they waited and waited and waited for the bird to defrost. Dinner was served at midnight.
                        When pressure cookers were a new invention, I tried cooking peas in one. Imagine, if you can, the sight of peas that have shot out of the cooker onto the walls and ceiling of the kitchen. It made for an interesting design but a huge mess to clean up!

                        1. When we were first married, my husband made his first attempt at cooking in a wok. The recipe said to wait until the oil became hot. I checked as he was heating it. I said "it's ready"; he said "no, it's not". I insisted it was, he said it wasn't, and with that, it burst into flames. We threw the top on to stifle the fire, and spent the rest of the night cleaning black smoke off of the kitchen ceiling.

                          1. A couple years ago I made a delicious stew from deer meat which a neighbor (a hunter) had shot. Being too tired to clean the pot that night, I put the lid on it and shoved the pot into the refrigerator, meaning to clean it the next day. My husband went food shopping the next day and pushed the pot to the back of the fridge to make room for the groceries. Well, the pot remained there, forgotten, for (yikes!!) well over a month until I was cleaning out the fridge and noticed it. To my horror, I saw dime-sized chunks of green mold OOZING THROUGH THE SIDES OF THE POT! The mold had EATEN THROUGH THE METAL! No way was I opening that pot! I threw the whole thing out. And I threw the rest of that frozen deer meat out too! I have been dying to tell this story to someone for two years, but I needed anonymity to do it!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Kitty

                              That's not a kitchen disaster--that's a halloween story!

                            2. I had just finished a 12 week cooking class at The China Instiute with Floence Lin. She warned us not to try cooking a 7 course dinner the first time out. So ofcourse that's exactly what I did. Fortified by alcahol my jangled nerves were dulled.( Truth be told) I was more than a little bombed. I heated the wok with oil and put dried chile pods in. I got distracted and before too long my guests were scrambling out into the hallway gasping for dear life. Spicy hot smoke filled the railroad flat. Angry voices filled with explatives bounced off the bricks in the alleyway outside and my upstairs neighbor screamed, "What the .... are you trying to do down there, kill us?" I was mortified

                              1. I've told my fried chicken fire story a couple weeks ago (my former roommates in North Carolina will NEVER let me live that one down), and from what I hear, the grass in front of the apartment has grown back nicely.

                                Besides that, not too many horrible kitchen disasters. Corn starch is evil, though. I made a beautiful mango dessert a couple years ago for company that called for corn starch in the sauce. Not realizing how much it would clump up, I dumped the teaspoon in. Five strainings later, I managed to salvage the dessert.

                                Blue skies,

                                1. 4 stories, one about me and my mom, one about just my mom, and two about my dad.

                                  Preface by saying my mom is a really good cook, I'm OK, and my dad is clueless.

                                  One dish my mom likes to make is spaghetti with a bunch of julienned vegetables, including red bell peppers. Except for the time she used habaneros by mistake.....That had to be thrown out.

                                  Another dish is chicken marinated in lime juice, garlic, and basil. This involves lightly cooking chicken breasts, boning them, slicing them, and marinating them in a sauce with about 20 ingredients, including 1 TSP of sugar.....not I CUP of sugar, as we used.....oops. We managed to fix it by adding some
                                  more lime, some vinegar, and some more chicken.

                                  My dad was dating my mom, and was having a few people over for dinner. He decides to make a turkey, so he gets a recipe, buys a turkey, puts it in the oven, and melts the giblet bag all over the inside of the turkey.

                                  And finally, my dad had just gotten a dishwasher. He read the instructions to fill the cup with detergent. He figures "if a little is good, more is better", and the dishes were really dirty. He dumps in half a box,
                                  turns on the machine, goes out to get a newspaper and comes back to find the whole apartment filled with suds.

                                  1. I forgot about a pan of Marmalade which was simmering, when I remembered it,it had burnt and stuck to the bottom of the pan, what turned a mishap to disaster was when I got rid of the unburned liquid suger down the toilet ! Which instantly welded itself into the trap, blocking it !! It had to be chipped away using hot water and a scrapper.

                                    Its been a while since I have been allowed to make marmalade !

                                    1. I remember giving my ex-husband directions for putting a beef heart in a pot, filling it with water, and bringing it to a simmer when he went home from work for lunch. Silly me, I forgot to tell him to put a cover on the pot...Hard and black on the bottom and raw on top, the house full of smoke.

                                      Another time he cooked mushrooms without removing the dirt. Crunch, crunch.

                                      My daughter gets her cooking tendencies from him. She's moving too fast to read the labels on the cannisters and the sizes on the measuring cups, so sometimes something comes out unaccountable.

                                      The brownies made with pancake mix instead of flour worked pretty well for sundaes.

                                      The chocolate chip cookies made with salt instead of sugar, though...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: ironmom

                                        The salt for sugar fiasco made me think about someone else's disaster that I witnessed--in this case a cooking demonstration by a French chef, Michel Blanchet, from L'Hermitage, which was the fanciest restaurant in LA during the 1970's. He was demonstrating Tarte Tatin at a cooking school classroom full of tony Beverly Hills and Pasadena matrons. He had assembled the whole thing and it was cooking away, and he was telling us how the sugar would caramelize, and seemed more and more confused when that wasn't happening. He took a spoon and tasted it and I'll never forget the look on his face. If there had been a hole to crawl in, he would have. He had put a cup of salt in, instead of sugar. They had been in similar canisters on the counter. I felt sorry for him, but an unfortunate number of ladies in the room were glad that disasters sometimes happen to professionals--schadenfreude.

                                        1. re: ironmom

                                          my roommate did that (the salt/sugar cookie switch).

                                          he actually grew attached to them... called them beer cookies.

                                        2. This happened many years ago. My mother put up some eggs to boil and sat down in the living room. A little while later, my father suggested a walk, so they went out. As the elevator door opened on their return, the smell of sulphur was very strong. It got stronger as they opened their apartment door. The water had boiled out, the bottom of the pan melted onto the burner, and the eggs had exploded all over the kitchen. Glad I didn't live at home...

                                          1. e
                                            Emily Cotlier

                                            My most immortal kitchen disaster came when I lived in a small rowhome apartment in Philadelphia.

                                            I was dressed to the nines for a highly creative AIDS fundraiser, including evening makeup, high-heeled boots, long gloves, and a replica 16th-century corset. Just as I was about to tiptoe out the door, I heard a dripping sound from the kitchen. A pipe had burst in the apartment above mine and water was streaming down, through my dry food cupboards and spice collection, and onto my aluminum counter.

                                            I stood still for a moment, screamed AAAAAAAUGH! in frustration, then threw a few towels on the counter, called my landlord, and went to the event. Much, much later that night, after my return, I cleaned everything up and threw sodden food away.

                                            It certainly diminished the glamour of the evening for me.

                                            1. I've had my share of kitchen disasters, but once my son snatched disaster from the jaws of victory!

                                              I had spent a couple days preparing a buffet supper for a a few friends and my family. The triumph - IMHO - was to be the dessert: pears poached in wine reduced to a syrupy sauce. This syrup was so good I winced with pleasure as I tasted it. But what made it better still was the roquefort creme anglaise that accompanied it. The cheese sauce counterpointed the spicy sweetness of the pears beautifully. This is still the best dessert I've ever tasted. I even went to the trouble of serving this in individual servings instead of my usual lazy family style so that everyone would have just the right ratio of of pears, syrup, and creme anglaise.

                                              After putting out these plates, I left the room briefly only to return to hear my son's loud wailing warning to NOT eat the rotten dessert! Seems the unexpected contrast of the cheese against the sweet led him conclude the creme anglaise had gone "bad." Fortunately, my other guests enjoyed the dessert and some went back for seconds.

                                              1. Thanks, Zora, for starting this thread. Some very funny stories, well told. I'm reminded of one autumn afternoon when I was a kid when my mom and my aunt decided to make a big batch of chicken spaghetti (this is the South in the '50s, folks)to freeze for the winter. They did it together at our house; my cousins came, my dad and my uncle were there. A real family affair. When the chicken spaghetti was done, they divided it up. But both my mom and my aunt thought that the other one should have more. (Don't know why; there were four in both families.) They'd take turns sneaking out of the living room to put more into the other's pot. My aunt was sneaking across the kitchen to add to Mom's portion when Mom busted her; her feet slipped out from under her and she slammed into the floor, breaking her tailbone in the process. But not one strand of spaghetti spilled from the big pot she was carrying at the time. All these years later, we're still remembering and laughing at that incident.

                                                If there's one lesson to be learned from these posts, seems like it's to keep your kitchen floor squeaky clean.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Dee Gustay

                                                  I'm almost scared to ask, but what's chicken spaghetti?

                                                2. When I was in grade school I was a latchkey kid, so my mother would start dinner the night before and leave me directions on how to get things ready by the time everyone got home. This usually went well, except for the time she pre-made a nice meatloaf, put it in the fridge, and gave me instructions to just take it out of the fridge and put it into a preheated oven. I did that, but when we took it out of the oven there was a beautiful shiny glaze all over the meatloaf ... she didn't tell me I had to *remove* the Saran Wrap! Uh, we ate out that night and it's a story that keeps getting retold in my family (I'm much better in the kitchen now!).

                                                  Deb H.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Deb H.

                                                    This reminds me of a dinner party which I attended at a friend's house in NYC, which happened to be the first meal his very sweet but clueless wife had ever cooked (really). She knew we liked lamb and bought several packages of chops from the grocery, all of course neatly displayed on styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic wrap.

                                                    Fortunately I happened into the kitchen just in time to catch her putting them into the preheated oven just as she had brough them home from the grocery -- styrofoam tray, plastic wrap and all! Disaster averted!

                                                  2. This happened, of course, in college. Pull up a chair...

                                                    I was sharing an apartment with three women one summer. One of my roommates, Katie, had...well, a certain fondness for alcohol. Being a penurious college student, she decided that it would be a Good Thing (tm) to save money on liquor, so she decided to experiment with making her own booze.

                                                    She proceeded to do this by emptying a 16-oz glass Pepsi bottle, rinsing it out, and filling it not quite two-thirds of the way with canned cling peaches in heavy syrup, sorta cramming the peach slices down through the neck of the bottle. She then added a few tablespoons of sugar and a full packet of baker's yeast. (I was watching this whole process, my jaw dropped in horror, but she assured me that I wouldn't have to drink it if I didn't want to.) She then screwed the cap down tight and left the bottle on one of the shelves in the kitchen.

                                                    Now, this was during summer in upstate New York. During a *hot* summer in upstate New York. It's not like the Southwest, but it was still pretty toasty.

                                                    I tried to put the experiment out of my mind and let Katie deal with it on her own, but I took a look at the bottle every so often out of morbid curiosity. Nothing much happened that first day. The next day, the yeast had gotten started and the mixture was bubbling something fierce. The day after that, the bubbles had really risen noticeably. By the following day, a greyish-orange mixture of goop and bubbles completely filled the bottle. Katie's assessment: "Wow, lookit that! This is gonna be good!"

                                                    By the following afternoon, however, things had changed. My buddy Jim (who's a pretty good homebrewer) was visiting. He looked at the bottle (which I had been trying to ignore that day), then motioned me over to see. The bottle was no longer filled with bubbles--instead, the glass in the top half of the bottle was clean, and the surface of the peach/liquid mixture was absolutely flat, with no peach chunks rising above the waterline. Jim and turned to each other, our eyebrows raising simultaneously, and Jim asked, "Uhh... Katie... did you burp the peaches?"

                                                    Katie looked up from the game of solitaire she was playing at the kitchen table and replied, "Huh? Whaddaya mean?"

                                                    Jim: "Burp the peaches. Let the gas out."

                                                    Katie: "What gas?"

                                                    Jim: "From the yeast."

                                                    Katie: "Oh."



                                                    Katie: "Uhh...no."

                                                    Jim and Karl: "Oh shit."

                                                    Karl: "Katie, why do you think the bottle looks like that?"

                                                    Katie: "Ahh, it'll be fine."

                                                    It was at this point that Jim and I realized that we would have to be the ones to Burp The Peaches.

                                                    [insert ominous organ music]

                                                    Jim took the bottle down from the shelf, set it on the kitchen table, and twisted the bottlecap.

                                                    Nothing happened.

                                                    I then tried it.

                                                    Nothing happened. The cap refused to budge.

                                                    He then held the bottle in both hands while I focused on twisting the cap.

                                                    Nothing happened. It was like when you have a jar that's really tightly vacuum-packed and you can't open it. Except in this case the pressure was on the *inside* of the bottle.

                                                    Oh, great, I thought. I have a glass fragmentation grenade sitting on my kitchen table.

                                                    It was at this point that Jim and I realized that Steps Would Have To Be Taken.

                                                    [insert ominous organ music]

                                                    Now, Jim and I were in the SCA at the time. This is a medieval recreation organization, where one of the activities is to have people dress up in armor and beat each other with sticks as a form of recreating medieval combat. This meant that we had plenty of protective gear, so Jim and I proceeded to armor up, covering our torsos, arms, hands, and necks with heavy leather and steel, and then put on goggles and full-face shields that I'd earlier borrowed from the college metal shop. We then got a pair of good-size pliers from my toolbox, and carefully slid the bottle down to the end of the kitchen table. We knelt down to get as much cover from the table as possible. I held the bottle, while Jim carefully used the pliers to turn the cap.

                                                    Karl: "Okay, go slow."

                                                    Jim: [turns the cap a bit]

                                                    Bottle: [nothing]

                                                    Jim: [turns the cap some more]

                                                    Bottle: "ffffffff..."

                                                    Jim: [turns the cap a bit more]

                                                    Bottle: "...ffffFFFFFFFfffff." [then stops hissing]

                                                    Karl: "It stopped. Why'd that happen?"

                                                    Jim: "I dunno." [turns the cap a little more]

                                                    Bottle: "fffff..." [the level of peach glop starts rising in the bottle as the pressure is relieved and it can expand]

                                                    Karl and Jim: "Whew!"

                                                    Bottle: "...ffffffffffffSSHHPURRRGLLTTTPPPPBBHHHH"

                                                    Y'know how those glass Pepsi bottles had metal screw-on bottlecaps? And y'know how those bottlecaps had a row of tiny little holes around the top? Well, it turns out that if there's enough pressure, peaches will fit through those holes. The bottlecap is now oozing peach puree.

                                                    Karl and Jim: "Whoa."

                                                    Bottle: "SSHHURRRRRRLLLBB."

                                                    Karl: "It stopped again."

                                                    Jim: "Weird." [turns the cap a little more]

                                                    Bottle: "sssssssPOP!"

                                                    [Karl and Jim duck under the table]

                                                    When we got up again and looked at the bottle...it was empty. And not just empty--it was *dry* on the inside.

                                                    We then looked around the kitchen, and there were peaches *everywhere*. There were peaches on the table. There were peaches on the floor. There were peaches on the refrigerator. There were peaches behind the refrigerator. There was a two-foot circle of peaches embedded in the tiles of the dropped ceiling. There were peaches on the shelves, on the stove, under the stove, in the sink, on the walls, on the windows, down the hall, in the bathroom where they'd have had to rebound off two walls to get in there.

                                                    We never did find the bottlecap.

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: Karl
                                                      Bob Martinez

                                                      A great story, told beautifully.

                                                      1. re: Karl

                                                        Well done. Reminds me of last winter in my kitchen. My dog ate a dead skunk (dog=bottle; skunk=peaches, add fermentation). Forgot to Burp the Dog. The rest is not suitable for this fine forum.

                                                        1. re: lucia

                                                          I don't mean to be critical, but you need to feed that dog more often.

                                                          And I know times can get rough in winter on the plains, but what was a dead skunk doing in your kitchen?

                                                          1. re: Deven Black

                                                            Ah, you may be unfamiliar with the pleasures of country living? The world is a grand buffet for the original chowhound. Sometimes "wet brown" just doesn't cut it.

                                                            1. re: lucia

                                                              Yes, I'm a city boy. Manhattan born and bred, but now forced to live in the rural suburbs. Okay, not thoroughly rural, but the county does have more than one working farm in it. And instead of a stoop and pavement in the front I have grass, trees, and wildlife in the back. So far I've managed to keep it all outside... even those turkeys that reside in my yard.

                                                          2. re: lucia

                                                            Be thankful the dog didn't eat a live skunk, is my feeling. All that distress and a stinky coat too. Ick.

                                                          3. re: Karl

                                                            thank you so much. i was having a fairly crappy morning until a friend a mine happened to open up this web site. being a really good cook but, a consumate klutz i can identify and visualize this disaster. i really needed the laugh today. thank you so much.

                                                            1. re: Karl

                                                              My stomach hurts.

                                                              I had contemplated posting an account of a bad cioppino day, but the bar has been raised far too high.

                                                              1. re: Samo

                                                                Samo, I dashed to the Homepage to read "When bad food happens to good people." I'll provide the link in case you're still vertical! But sleep, lots of sleep should help. With nausea, don't drink water. Replace electrolytes with a sports drink. Take care. Pat

                                                                Link: http://chowhound.com/sick.html

                                                                1. re: Pat Hammond

                                                                  My stomach hurt from laughing at the previous burp-themed post. No medical attention required.

                                                              2. re: Karl
                                                                Caitlin McGrath

                                                                I laughed so hard after reading this, and Lucia's followup, that I cried. So much so that my boyfriend woke up and came running out of the bedroom, afraid that something horrific had happened and thoroughly freaked out.

                                                              3. For a local Ag benefit out in a cornfield, I made a layered vegetable terrine--bright green (spinach), orange (carrot), red (pepper), etc. Embedded in the top, I spelled out "FARM" with strips of roasted pepper on a pale green background. I turned it out on a plate, sliced a few slices off the end, and went to hear the speaker.

                                                                On the buffet line later, I hear someone say "What's that supposed to mean? Is it beans? Ooooo." Some helpful person had reconfigured my inscription to offer different advice: FART.

                                                                1. I was working at one of the food conventions at the Javitz Center (Fancy Food or Restaurant, I cant remember) as a food demonstrator. For three days, I scouted out all the food at the convention I might be able to take home with me at the end of the convention.

                                                                  That Sunday, I brought a duffle bag with me to the show, and by 3 or 4 had loaded it up almost entirely. I had $300-$400 at least worth of salad dressings, flavored oils, vinegars, pasta sauces, jams, olives, capers, bar b que sauces, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Thai peanut sauce and more.

                                                                  I live in a relatively small apartment on the Upper West Side. One thing we dont have much of is things like closets or pantry space. I had built a shelf in the kitchen that was my version of a pantry, and when I got home I put as much of this stuff as I could on this shelf that was about 7 feet off the floor and about six feet long.

                                                                  The next morning, I came into the kitchen in my shorts, no shoes no shirt, and put some water on the stove to boil. Suddenly, something crashed onto my right shoulder and broke, it actually cut me. Then to my right a bottle smashed, then to my left two bottles crashed. Before I knew it there was broken glass, oil and all other ingredients you can think off falling from a foot over my head onto my head and the floor around my bare feet. I jumped about five feet into the living room, covered in jam, oil, and less obviously, blood (I was not seriously hurt, a little bruised and cut, but no stiches).

                                                                  For the next minute, I just watched bottle after bottle crash to the floor, with absolute amazement. There was nothing I could do. I had no shoes or shirt and there was broken glass everywhere. I had just watched $300 dollars worth of goods be destroyed, AND I had to clean it all up. To make matters worse, My floor slopes, so everything went across the kitchen.

                                                                  My wife walked in a couple of hours later, crinkled up her nose, looked at me on my hands and knees and said, "something smells funny."

                                                                  BTW I had been searching for a kitchen disaster story of my own, but couldn't think of one. I had completely forgotten this happened (i was only 2 or 3 years ago) until I was telling my wife about this thread and she asked if I was going to share my story. I asked "what story?" I guess that is what they call selective memory.

                                                                  Still cooking

                                                                  1. My sister, in her brief "gourmet cooking" phase, which preceded her conversion to a suburban New Jersey sort of health food fadism (see linked posting, below), badly bungled a pie crust egg wash and wound up with lemon/scrambled egg chiffon.

                                                                    Was not serendipitous.

                                                                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                                    1. I once used baking soda instead of baking powder in a berry pie.

                                                                      Suddenly an unbelievable odor pervaded the house. When I opened the oven, a black charred mess was taking over the pie pan.

                                                                      Better living through chemistry? I think not.

                                                                      1. Last night I made a special pork chop meal for my bf that I'd been planning for a week (my first time executing chops so I wanted to research properly). I brined the chops, made beautiful mashed potatoes and apple sauce from scratch along with a great salad. When I went to make the gravy after a evening long cooking marathon (and an afternoon spent schlepping groceries due to misplaced car keys) I inadvertantly added a good cup full of apple cider/brown sugar reduction (left over from apple sauce) to the drippings thinking it was my chicken stock. When we poured it on the potatoes it tasted like candy gravy (fyi: not a good combo). We laughed about it all evening but after all that work I cried a little on the inside...