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May 29, 2013 10:14 AM

Cringeworthy dishes by people who think they are terrific cooks...

Does anyone have a friend who thinks they are an amazing cook?

I live in a real gastronomic paradise - there are so many amazing restaurants around me I will never get around to trying them all. Yet a friend of mine recently told me he doesn't eat out anymore because he's recently realised he can cook so much better than any restaurant. No irony.

Last week he cooked a 'lasagne' which was layers of tomato sauce, cheese, cream of celery soup and leftover onion dip between sheets of pasta.

Anyone else been served something hilarious by someone who thinks they are the next Julia Child?

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  1. I have a few times it was really hard for me not to show my emotion on my face.

    1. I try not to discourage anyone starting to cook at home, I figure with that confidence they will eventually learn more and improve. Giving them cookbooks and quality ingredients for holiday presents helps. :)

      21 Replies
      1. re: weezieduzzit

        Oh, this guy's not a beginner. ;) Most of the people I know who think they're accomplished in the kitchen (there are a few) have been cooking for decades - they've just never been told how awful it is!

        1. re: Elster

          I guess I'm just not in the habit of making fun of my friends, especially on internet message boards.

          If the food suits your friend and makes him happy I think that's great! If you don't like his food you should decline further invitations. Problem solved.

          1. re: weezieduzzit

            I think you're right W.
            it's all a question of intent. Now maybe i'm getting soft in my old age or I'm becoming a hippie (and many people who know me and consider a v. cynical person will be surprised at this). But if a person's second name is hubris and they just want to show off fair enough. If they are taking love and care to cook for friends then it should be accepted as such.

            If I may I will bore you further. The Xmas just gone the starter was made by a v. accomplished cook who made sous vide rabbit leg topped with a pea mousse, pickled vegetables and a foie gras sauce.It was restaurant standard.The host panicked and said the main event couldn't possibly match this. I simply said did you make it with love. She said yes. I replied well it will be great then.

            1. re: Paprikaboy

              Lovely way to be a good friend to the host. I will also venture that many of the guests were relieved by whatever she served, so long as it was NOT rabbit leg (not a crowd pleaser).

              1. re: Paprikaboy

                My mom used to throw big family parties every summer. There could be 70 people in our backyard. We would cook and freeze food to serve. The people would be gathering around the tables as we brought out the food. No kidding -- we had to say "excuse me," "excuse me," "excuse me," just to get the food to the buffet table. My mom finally stopped doing it because she got tired of it. People would come up to her and compliment her food and then tell her why they wouldn't invite my parents over -- because they couldn't cook like she did. My mother's reply -- a hot dog would do. But that was the end of it for her.

                    1. re: Gastronomos

                      wonder if that is why people come to our house but we never get invited to anybody elses house..are people have parties and just not inviting us? :(

                    2. re: Disneyfreak

                      Happens to my parents all the time. For Christmas Eve we used to host sit down dinner for 32 ish folks and the house just could handle it. The compromise is now that my parents bring the food to someone else's house.

                    3. re: Paprikaboy

                      "sous vide rabbit leg topped with a pea mousse, pickled vegetables and a foie gras sauce"

                      Sounds hideous, I hope the main course was real food.

                      1. re: ratbuddy

                        I think that some people get so wrapped up in their foodie-ness that they forget to be approachable with their food.

                          1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                            We don't do fancy but we do thinks people don't normally cook, filet, crown roast, stuffed shrimp. Plus they season food. Half the people admit to not being able to cook though.

                      2. re: weezieduzzit

                        I don't think that the OP is "making fun" of his/her friend. That would involve looking at and/or tasting the dish, rolling your eyes, and saying something like "You made this? What were you thinking?"
                        IMHO the OP was just pointing out there are some who think that opening a can and heating its contents is "cooking". This can be a bit...I don't know...trying? annoying? insulting? disconcerting? amusing?... to those of us who wash, pare and chop fresh veggies, mix flour, sugar, and eggs together and knead and proof the resulting dough, personally grind meat, etc.
                        I have a neighbor like this- all frozen veggies and store-bought cakes- I just bring something handmade that's not too over-the-top and for the rest of the meal, I just concentrate on the spirit in which the food is provided...
                        ....and I eat before I go there! :)

                        1. re: Michelly

                          <This can be a bit...I don't know...trying? annoying? insulting? disconcerting? >

                          That sounds like something from Christopher Hitchens would have said.

                          I also don't think the original poster meant to make fun of his/her friend -- at least that wasn't the goal. It is more about "Do you know people who think they a great cook but they really are not?" Basically, people who are disconnected from reality. You have thousands of people who think they can professionally sing, but they really cannot.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Thanks C-k, that's exactly what I was getting at. I don't want to be mean to or about anyone here, but I was referring to people who are arrogantly proud of their cooking skill and yet serve up truly scary food! It was just for fun - lord knows I'm not a perfect cook myself, but I have nonetheless been given some eye-watering meals by other self-professed kitchen geniuses...

                            1. re: Elster

                              The question is who determines genius, if someone loves what he/she makes? Just look at the variety of suggestions on Home Cooking. Those of us who participate think we have something to offer, enough so to take the time to post and I'm sure there are others who read some and cringe. I always look back years when I thought I was a decent cook/baker and see how far I've come. I'm sure there were those who thought the dishes/cookies/whatever were (or still are!) eye watering but they've been kind enough not to judge. And, I'm hoping, in the future, I look back to where I am now and think about how far I've come.

                              1. re: chowser

                                I've been cooking for years, friends and family love my cooking. I don't cook gourmet dishes, just typical tried and true American fare. I too feel I've come a long way, but for me there is still so much to learn.

                              2. re: Elster

                                My MIL is like that. All of her country kin think she is an amazing cook, and I can't stomach her food. My husband can't either. He won't anything she makes. He used to, but I have spoiled him with fresh and healthy food that is seasoned with things other than salt and pepper and his tastes have changed. He is more finicky about food quality than I am these days. I don't think my husband had ever eaten fresh green beans when I met him, and everything had cream soup of some kind in it.

                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                  " that is seasoned with things other than salt and pepper and his tastes have changed."


                          2. re: weezieduzzit

                            Seriously? It's the perfect place to make fun of bad cooks - we all need to vent like total b**ches sometimes and no one will ever know who we're talking about.

                      3. A friend of mine is a very basic level cook. Last time she had me over for dinner (a while ago), she served roast chicken. Quite edible, although the potatoes she cooked it on were a bit tough and the pan sauce was off balance. Well, she sent out an email to several friends including me sharing her "acclaimed" roast chicken recipe. I'm not sure if someone requested it or not, but I got a bit of a chuckle out of it. I think most people who can cook can roast a chicken...

                        I have another friend who once had me over and served a chicken salad that she, her husband, and all their family love. It had poached chicken, mayo, and grapes, with maybe a couple other ingredients. It was horrible. I chalk that one up to cultural differences, though. She's from the northern Minnesota and I'm a gulf coast cajun, about as culinarily different as two white Americans can get.

                        That lasagna sounds nasty.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: tandooritaco

                          I will say, when I was a new cook and roasted a chicken and had it turn out well for the first time, I pretty much thought I was the best cook ever. :)

                          1. re: juliejulez

                            I kind of feel like a simple roasted chicken with a sauce is the first thing omnivore cooks should master. Not only is it amazingly yummy, but you can make something else with the leftovers and simmer the carcass for broth. You could make that once a week and not get tired of it. It is also one of those things you could take to someone who just had a baby, or a potluck, etc...

                          2. re: tandooritaco

                            Don't be so sure about the chicken. I've had lots of people be amazed by what I considered to be a plain old baked chicken like I had every Sunday growing up. Many swear their Mom's never made any such thing. I actually had friends call from Thailand to double-check my instructions (no recipe) before they baked one. When they called back to tell me it was terrible, I realized I had left out one obvious detail...I had told them to wash it, and puts some herbs inside, but I didn't think to specify "take out the guts". They baked it with the innards still in the cavity! Oh, what a yucky mess that must have been! Glad I wasn't there for it.

                            1. re: tandooritaco

                              I make chicken salad or more of a Waldorf salad with chicken, mayo/yogurt, grapes, apples, celery or celery seed, raisins and walnuts. Perhaps we should file this thread under the "Don't yuck someone's yum"?

                              1. re: melpy

                                There's been a lot of yucking other people's yums lately, what's up with that?

                                1. re: melpy

                                  Oh, I understand, I know lots of people enjoy that kind of stuff. If anything, it gives me the perspective needed to not be so judgy when people dislike things I cook because they aren't used to the flavors. Nothing wrong with liking what you like, but the chicken salad you describe is downright alien to my culinary upbringing!

                                2. re: tandooritaco

                                  I'm 66 y.o. and only when I discovered Zuni chicken had I ever felt that I'd roasted a really good chicken.

                                  My chicken salad is chicken, mayo, a dot of mustard, maybe a squeeze of lemon juice, s&p. You wouldn't like it )

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Ah yes, a good roast chicken is easy, but a perfect roast chicken is a work of art. I've gotten some great ones with Thomas Keller's recipe, but none has been perfect (I should try the Zuni method).

                                    1. re: caseyjo

                                      Even Chef Keller says the Zuni method is the best. I ran into him when we were both looking over cookbooks in same section of the store. He recommended the Zuni Cafe cookbook specifically for the Chicken recipe.

                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      Wow--Thanks for the memory. It's been four years since my only visit to San Francisco, and the beauty of eating the Cafe Zuni chicken for lunch shines out among the best things I've ever eaten (even the panzanella that came with it knocked my socks off). Off to order the cookbook...

                                    3. re: tandooritaco

                                      It's funny, because I usually make roast chicken as my go-to, don't have to think about it meal when entertaining. I'm always surprised by how impressed people are! I always tell that all there is to it is cooking the chicken until it's done. I mean, I usually do additional stuff, like tempering the meat and making sure the skin is really dry, then salting (heavily), trussing, rubbing on sticks of butter after roast, and resting. However, I don't think it has to be that complicated. It's pretty much the easiest dish I can think of (and the one I would teach a 12 year old, if asked to give them a "recipe" to get them excited about cooking).

                                      1. re: caseyjo

                                        What do you mean by "tempering the meat?" I temper egg yolks, but don't think I've ever tempered meat.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          Letting it come up to room temperature (or as close to it as you can) before putting it in the oven. I usually just leave the whole chicken on the counter for an hour before putting it in the oven. By doing this, the meat cooks more evenly.

                                          1. re: caseyjo

                                            Okay, I do that; just never have seen it called tempering before.

                                      2. re: tandooritaco

                                        No not everyone can roast a chicken. It's easy if you're experienced, if not the chicken can be ruined quite easily.

                                      3. Sometimes I worry I'm the one who gets described this way. TBH, many of my friends don't cook and appear to be impressed with the (simple) things I make. But who knows what they're saying when I'm not around!

                                        7 Replies
                                          1. re: tcamp

                                            Same here. My future in-laws, in particular. They are always very courteous when they come over for dinner, but we come from very different backgrounds and have vastly differing tastes.... I'm never sure if they like it or are just saying so.

                                            1. re: Kontxesi

                                              My parents hate it when I cook meat. I'm a medium rare girl. They are charred hockey puck people..... I'm not saying either one of us is right or wrong... we just have different tastes. I try to respect their tastes when i cook now

                                              1. re: Firegoat

                                                I wouldn't say either of you is right or wrong, but you're definitely right! Hockey pucks, cringe.

                                                1. re: Firegoat

                                                  Yep, I have the same issue with the previously-mentioned in-laws! We had them over for steak one night, and they complained about theirs being tough.... I didn't say anything, but I was thinking "Well, if you didn't have him cook it to death, it might have been edible!"

                                              2. re: tcamp

                                                Same here. I can prepare simple things that have gotten rave reviews, but I don't grind my own meat, make my own dough, and I don't know how to temper an egg yolk or what tempering an egg yolk even entails

                                                1. re: Sparkina

                                                  "...and I don't know how to temper an egg yolk or what tempering an egg yolk even entails."

                                                  Very slowly incorporating a hot component (usually melted butter) into the egg yolks in order to raise the temperature without causing them to cook,

                                              3. Cringeworthy, that's a great word. Anything with a cream of is usually a quick comfort dish. I aspire to be a good cook using cookbooks by the likes of Julia Child but in her league far from it.

                                                14 Replies
                                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                                  If I do not feel free to tell a story on myself, how can I possibly tell one on somebody else?

                                                  First Thanksgiving dinner for about 8, including passionate girlfriend. With many calls to my Grandmother 1700 miles away, everything turned out great. Thanks, Nana.

                                                  Couple days later, we decide to have another mass production, and since I did so well the first time, I get picked again. Over the licensed cook from the cafeteria. So I decide beef stew would be perfect. Unfortunately, got involved with girl friend and lost track of time. Using Joy of Cooking recipe, took every short cut I could. Like flouring frozen meat and starting immediately with water and white wine. Making it a one pot meal resulted in a greasy gray solid lump of flour glue with suspect veggies and raw potatoes.

                                                  Roommate from the cafeteria took me under his wing when we rented a house together later. Without girlfriend.

                                                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                    Hmm, one should not mix business with pleasure especially when a novice!

                                                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                      Last time my fiance and I "got involved" during food prep, the smoke alarm was involved and we had to toss out a perfectly good pot. Bad news.

                                                      1. re: Kontxesi

                                                        No one dare bother me when I'm cooking!

                                                      2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                                        Was this the JoC Gaston Stew? My mom made it several times a year, as do I now because I think it's delicious. The first time I made it myself, though, I decided the cooking time was "negotiable." I'll just say that was a big mistake, and leave it there. Wish I'd had your distraction, rather than just my stupidity!

                                                      3. re: Ruthie789

                                                        We have a community cookbook that features submitted favorite recipes from members. Chicken Francaise uses canned cream of mushroom soup. Chicken Italiano uses canned cream of tomato soup. And Chicken Allemande uses canned cream of celery soup.

                                                        My favorite of all is Chicken International Dateline. Uses a mix of all three canned soups.

                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                          LOL....very funny, Steve. I hope not to eat it (or any of them for that matter). Heh.

                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                            To me the canned cream concoctions are comfort food and usually are done in fast preparations. I'm all for comfort and joy!

                                                            1. re: Ruthie789

                                                              I like everything from scratch mostly, but about once a month, my family loves this hamburger stroganoff I make. It's cooked ground hamburger with 1 lb sauteed mushrooms, 2 cans cream of mushroom, white wine, heavy cream, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, herbes de Provence, and sour cream. We serve it over egg noodles

                                                              1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                That sounds like the kind of comfort food my other half would absolutely swoon over on a chilly, rainy evening...thanks for a great idea to keep in the back of my mind.

                                                                Personally, I will fess up to liking the "Cream of..." soups in certain cases!

                                                                1. re: ItalGreyHound

                                                                  Hey, I was a Campbell Kid! Never ate that much of it, but my Dad worked for the company for many decades, very much an ethical company that took care of its employees, did recalls when they were needed, his salary put me through college without debt, and his employees stock plan gives me a cushion in my old age. I love the Campbell Soup Company!

                                                                  1. re: mwhitmore

                                                                    We had a Campbell plant in my hometown. They only processed chicken I think and made canned Swanson's chicken and canned Swanson's chicken broth. My parents bought our house from the Campbell's. The plant manager got transferred after living in the brand new house for two months. After he couldn't sell the house, Campbell's bought it from him. The housing market was soft and my dad made a ridiculous offer (something like $10,000 less than it cost to build it) and they took it. This was back in the 70s.

                                                                    I remember every once in a while a chicken would get loose from the delivery trucks and they would be running around loose. A high school buddy thought it would be funny to catch one and turn it loose at the high school basketball game. He was wrong.