Tales of Kitchen Chaos: My Top 3 Disasters

courtesy hyperboleandahalf.com, I LOVE her work

The theme today is disasters. No, I’m not talking Titanic or the Japanese Tsunami. I’m referring to those moments when you add the cream too early and it sours, when the cheesecake refuses to set and resembles something that is best described as bird-poo-on-a-plate, when your guests bite into their chicken and it’s a fleshy pink inside.

Every cook has their fair share of disasters. The best cooks learn from them.

Of course I can dispense this kind of pithy wisdom now. It was a different story the other night when I tried (and failed) to make decent gluten-free chicken empanadas.

these didn’t work at all. AT ALL!

I’d like to say I showed poise and grace in that instance but the truth is I swore like a long-haul truck driver and stormed off in a sulk.

They weren’t inedible. In actual fact, they were extremely tasty but the pastry just didn’t work at all and they fell apart in my hands.

Ho hum, such is life.

In the spirit of learning from my mistakes and owning them as some therapists would no doubt say, here are my top three disasters.

  1. The time I made a deliciously elaborate quiche only for it to slide out of my hands as I bent to put it on the oven. Hubby heard the crash and appeared to find me sitting weeping on the floor, raw egg dripping from my hair and pieces of runny spinach strewn about the kitchen. It must’ve looked like I had vomited explosively as my head rotated 360 degrees, a la The Exorcist.
  2. Once I served key lime pie to my inlaws. They loved it, had second helpings and loudly praised my abilities in the kitchen and my general brilliance as a human being. Except that what actually happened was that the pie crust stuck to the bottom of the pan, the whipped cream topping I’d oh-so-cleverly squirted onto it an hour before dinner to save time, collapsed into a runny mess and the lime filling looked like an anemic blancmagne. In short I served them a collapsing tower of green and white goo.
  3. Sometimes, when the mood strikes, I make my own stock. I carefully pour the liquid into ice-cube trays, shove it in the freezer and use as needed. So far so good. One night I popped out a couple of cubes and added them to a delicious bean chili. Within two bites hubby was saying “what’s this crunchy stuff?’. The crunchy stuff in question was the remains of a glass bottle that had shattered in the freezer months ago. At the time we thought we’d cleaned every remnant but no, shards fell into the stock cubes and then I tried to feed them through my husband’s intestines. Thankfully no-one died that night but it was close.

What about you? Care to share your tales of disaster? How do you handle the failures – with a mature and optimistic response? or, like me, by shrieking like a banshee at the first sign of trouble? How bad would something have to be before you decide not to serve it to guests? Have you ever inadvertently killed someone with your food? (perhaps don’t answer that last, I don’t want to be considered an accessory).


9 thoughts on “Tales of Kitchen Chaos: My Top 3 Disasters

  1. I scream, cry, sulk and swear! Once I made the biggest tray of lasagne you have ever seen. I was feeding eight people. We were gathered in the kitchen having a drink and I took the lasagne tray out of the oven. My (now ex husband, but not because of this) offered to take it out for me as it was heavy but I waved him away…my dish, my glory of presenting it to everyone. Lots of “ooohhs” and “aaahhs” when I took it out followed by lots of “oh noooos!” as I turned and smashed it into the side of the kitchen bench…at least your quiche was cold…I still have lasagne scars all these years later…we ordered pizza…love this post 🙂

  2. Love it, my top two are
    1) Xmas Eve after opening my restaurant, having my mother and ex-in-laws for dinner and making Beef Wellington. Got off work at 10:30 pm, my family super, duper hungry, I had pre-prepared everything but covering the beef with the pate and duxelles and pastry, after I had covered the beef fillet with the aforementioned, had cooked in the oven for about 20 minutes as I took a lightning quick shower, ran back to the kitchen to take it out of the oven, in a frenzy pulled the tray out of the oven and both of the beef fillets they went flying off the plate with my gorgeous platter and crashed all over the floor. I too slumped to the ground on the spot and started quietly crying, more because I was so stressed out I think back now than because no one would eat. I can now look back and laugh.
    2) Thanksgiving 2007, was having about 30 people over for dinner, had purchased a very, very large turkey, and the bugger didn’t fit in my oven. I put it directly on to the oven tray, and went off to take a shower. Came back, and my OVEN WAS ON FIRE. I managed to put it out, but had these visions of serving my guests turkey covered with fire extinguisher foam all over it.
    And I am sure I have had many, many more. Just these two have been the most memorable!

  3. I am extremely clumsy, turn the air blue and generally have a tantrum on more occasions than not in the kitchen!

    The first “oops” that comes to mind is the first time I offered to cook chilli for my husband. Of COURSE I knew how to make basmati rice in the microwave, I’d done it hundreds of times before.

    Which is why D eventually noticed the rancid smell of burning and removed a black, stuck-to-the-pan, unrecognisable mess that looked almost entirely nothing like rice. We still laugh about it now.

    Recently I was making pickled chilli courgettes for my Mum, and didn’t realise that I’d given D the wrong quantity of courgettes to use (I told him 1kg instead of 500g).

    Everything was going swimmingly until it came to canning the finished product; I ran out of pickling mixture and had to make up more – and then I had to make up MORE!

    At this point I became rather panicky and ended up dropping half of the courgettes on the floor, taking a couple of jars down with them. At least the jars didn’t break!

    We refer to that incident as “The Day Gemma Got In A Pickle” 🙂

  4. Love that graphic, love her blog! Disasters… A few mishaps when I first started the blog & got over-zealous with the food chopper. But the most recent colossal fail was an attempt at artichoke dip that first turned into something far too thin, but tasted ok. After I tried to thicken it, it became a horrid concoction that looked and tasted like mortar. Good times…

  5. Oh I’ve had many. I just laugh now. I made, or rather tried to make a delicious seafood curry for my husband with a frozen seafood mixture (shrimp, scallop, baby octopus etc) that was completely inedible. The taste was just….indescribable and horrid! Another time my husband’s friend showed up unexpectedly at dinner time, this was after my husband had been bragging to him about what a great cook I was! I’m also experimental and he happened to show up on an experimental night where it was some kind of buckwheat and egg noodle concoction that was just bleah….now every time he comes over he asks if there will be buckwheat! The odds are…the more you cook and like to try new things…the more stories you will have. I personally love the failures, makes it all interesting and funny.

    • That’s a good point (and also helps my ego) – the more you cook, the more failures there are. I’m definitely one to experiment myself and yep, sometimes you just have to admit defeat

  6. My recent epic failures involved cake pop owls reminiscent of the men’s melting faces in Raiders of the Lost Ark and a watermelon carving of a shark that sort of resembled the Sarlacc sand monster from Return of the Jedi.

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