Thursday, April 7, 2011

Recipe for Disaster

Here's a fun little recipe I recently concocted. Feel free to try it!

  • Several stories of cooking catastrophes suffered by family and friends who probably prefer not to be publicly ridiculed
  • A dash of smugness about your own impeccable kitchen record
  • A cup of bad karma

Combine all the humiliating stories, being sure to include such tales as:
  1. The woman who prepared her first bowl of potato salad for a group picnic but lacked the listed finishing touch of paprika, so she covered the salad with a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon.
  2. The newlywed who excitedly prepared a pan of lasagna but was confused by the terminology and used not just a single clove of garlic but an entire bulb.
  3. The grandmother who baked her three-year-old grandson his much coveted Elmo birthday cake, and then frosted it with an icing which melted and dripped in such a ghastly fashion that the cake resembled Elmo-On-Acid and prompted the horrified child to scream, "I don't like this kind of cake!"
Layer these tales with biting sarcasm and wit. Let them simmer for a few weeks, as you plan to make them public over the World Wide Web. Chuckle at the ineptness of the inexperienced chefs.

Meanwhile, prepare a huge pot of chili. Make a big enough batch to share, because people will fall all over themselves in gratitude for your culinary prowess.

The rest of this process is complicated, so be sure to follow these directions carefully:

Brown a couple pounds of ground beef. Add a few cans of Brooks Hot Chili Beans. Peel and chop a half-dozen tomatoes and dice a couple onions. Pull an assortment of peppers from the freezer: Add a couple bell peppers and a few jalapenos. Remove the seeds from the jalapenos, because not everyone can handle the heat like you can.

Next, ponder the freezer bag of quarter-sized orange peppers which came from an unidentified plant in an assorted nursery pack. Although you never tasted one, they are tiny--and you have a big kettle to fill. Cut up seven or eight and toss them into the pot.

Within a half-hour, you should nearly collapse from the excruciating pain of your burning hands. You will know the pain has fully set when you feel you'd prefer to have a root canal without Novocaine. This signals it is time to Google a cure, as we know is the M.O. of any proper homemaker.

You will find 154,000 hits for "hot peppers burned hands." This will not immediately relieve your physical pain, but it will ease your mental anguish to know that more than a hundred thousand people were as stupid as you.

Be sure to attempt every listed cure: Wash your hands until you are qualified to write a memoir about OCD. Lather them in aloe. Soak them in rubbing alcohol. Pop potentially lethal quantities of Tylenol and antihistamines.

Finally, plunge your hands in bowls of ice water. Be certain to sigh with the ecstasy of immediate relief. Use up every available ice cube in your freezer. Within a few hours, the pain should subside enough for you to face the next step.

Eye your pot of chili. By now it should be bubbling much like a witch's cauldron: one eye of newt, two dragon teeth, and eight devil peppers.

Sample a spoonful. You will immediately forget the pain in your hands--because now your tongue and mouth will be on fire.

Rush back to Dr. Google. Ignore the first noted cure, which is drinking milk. Also disregard Cure #2: sugar water. Proceed promptly to Cure #3: alcohol.

Consume several cold beers.

Next, return to the still brewing pot of Demon Soup. Recall, in your half-plastered stupor, that sugar is supposed to neutralize heat. Pour in a bit of sugar and stir well. Swallow a big spoonful.

Cry, "Holy Mother of God!" Dump in the rest of the bag of sugar. Drink another beer.

The next day, recall that you made soup while you got stewed. Sample your pot of Candied Chili. Cringe. Dump the entire thing in the garbage.

Now, return to your original recipe for a humiliating blog post about your loved ones' pathetic cooking catastrophes.

Toss that too.

Eat crow instead.

Any kitchen disasters you care to share? Has Bad Karma bit you in the ass lately?


  1. So you must have had a bag of habaneros. I hope they didn't come from my garden, I would feel a little guilty!

  2. Make Tuna Noodle Casserole and forget the tuna = cream of noodle casserole. (1990ish)

    1/4 cup of paprika instead of 1/4 teaspoon in meatloaf = dinner for obnoxious neighbor's dog. (1979ish).
    Loved the post Sherry,

    Roll 50+ grapeleaves and break glass in near vacinity + throw them all in the garbage = save 10+ lives. (1995ish)

    Bake a cake from Calphalon Cookbook + write Calphalon to tell them it flopped = 1 free awesome stockpot (with lid). 19something

  3. oops, another mistake. salutations should be at the end. silly me!


  4. Joan: Sadly, I can't blame you. After decades of gardening and cooking, wouldn't you think I would know a habanero when I saw one? Nope. Not until I spied the sign last week below a display in the produce section.

    Toni: Oh my God. I can't tell you how much better I feel after reading your comment. Seriously. Can you come for dinner this week?

  5. Sherry,

    You are just so witty. Truly. When I'm reading, and chuckle aloud, I can't tell you how much I enjoy your posts. You and David Sedaris are about the only people who can get me there every time.

    Alas, I have no stories to share as I am a horrible cook all around. There is nothing that stands out, as my husband in goodwill towards the entire family, took on that task from the beginning. God Bless him for that.

  6. This is hilarious. I once made a pot of soup so awful, the entire family ended up eating chocolate chip cookies for dinner, with my blessing.

    Note to self: if a recipe calls for kaffir lime leaves, turn the page.

  7. HAHAHAHAHAHA!! The only thing funnier would be if a date or neighbor, or better yet, some competitive chef-meister would have been a first taster dinner companion!
    I once went all out on a crock pot dish for a mother-in-law visit. The serving fork thing broke off into the concoction, partially melted and hard spokes of plastic ended up all in the dish, which otherwise tasted great. I think she was being a trooper for a son-in-laws cooking attempt, but I had to stop her from eating more when I realized there was no way I was gonna feed the stuff to my daughter!

  8. Brilliant!

    My lastest recipe fun was when I was halfway through making a pot of my MIL's famous chili, and couldn't find the chili powder we'd just bought. I had southwestern seasoning and paprika, so I took a chance.

    It wasn't *bad*, but it wasn't *chili.* My MIL was not amused.

  9. You really are a funny girl. You wear sarcasm beautifully!

    I must tell you, this is EXACTLY why I hate to cook. There are simply too many opportunities to screw it up. It's good to know one's limitations. Mine exist in the kitchen.

  10. In one Thanksgiving meal, the egg cooked on contact after being added to the dressing that I was making (hard boiled egg in dressing - not so bad), the jello salad didn't set, too much milk was added to the potatoes (potato soap for Thanksgiving dinner...), and the gravy was nothing but lumps. Everyone lied and said dinner was fine...

  11. Lyra: Bless you for these sweet words that made my morning. And bless your husband too.

    Averil: Actually, I understand chocolate chip cookies are a standard substitution for Kaffir lime leaves in any recipe.

    Zoombag: Note to self: Use metal forks, not plastic, to stir crockpot.

    Sarah: I think you deserve extra points for creativity--and for having the guts to even attempt to live up to your MIL's expectations...

    MSB: Sarcasm is the only thing I wear well. Everything else seems to be getting too tight.

    Anon: *cringing for you* (OK, and chuckling too.) I'll bet you gave thanks that damn holiday only comes once a year.

  12. This is a hard one to comment on. Now, I am in no way the worlds best cook...but it is something that I generally love to do. I have stories but they are ALL about me burning something b/c I was busy multi tasking and FORGOT I was cooking.
    Burnt = my kitchen trademark.

  13. Amanda: No worries. I'm pretty sure a cold beer is the cure for eating burnt food too.

  14. I don't have any major disasters, but right after college I knew nothing about cooking. NOTHING. As in, I didn't even know how to make rice that wasn't instant.

    I had this old family recipe that said "Brown flour." I was really confused. What was brown flour? Was it whole wheat flour? I went to the store but none of the flour bags were labeled as brown. Finally, I called a relative and asked her where I could find brown flour. When she finally understand why I was asking, she laughed for about five minutes and then explained that I needed to "brown the flour" by putting it in a pan and heating it. Oops.

  15. Laura: Well of COURSE that's what you thought. I mean, there's brown rice, isn't there? The directions should have said "put the flour in a pan and heat it."

    Just visited your blog--and I will definitely be back!

  16. I am dying laughing here. Okay,not tongue and hands burning dying, but dying.

    This is hilarious. A keeper. I mean it.

    Have you read Lisa Scottolini's essays? This reminds me of them in a really good way.

  17. Lisa: I actually just read "My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space" as market research for an essay collection I'm considering. I didn't see any big similarities in the writing itself, but my mother did. I think Scottoline's a fabulous writer though, so I sure appreciate the comparison.

    Boy, are you people all sweet and wonderful this week! Did you just KNOW I was having a perfectly crappy week and needed some kind words or what?

  18. I'm listening to the audio of that book now and just finished the audio of Why My Third Husband Will Be A Dog.

    We, my friend, may be on the same track here as far as next projects go. Wheeeee!

  19. I am famous for getting the measurements wrong and for losing track of where i am mid-recipe.

    What's for dinner?

    I'm not sure.

  20. Lisa: OK, forget the screenplay I recently suggested and write a collection of stories much like your hilarious last blog post! I've never laughed so hard.

    Downith: Ha--one cup chaos, two cups confusion. Daily recipe in any kitchen with two small chldren...

  21. good, good stuff here.

    i could see a collection of stories for sure, "Kitchen Tales"

    i like cooking--sometimes i get it right, sometimes we order pizza. the most heard line at our dinner table, "just eat it anyway."

  22. Amy: "Just eat it anyway": every kid's nightmare. My mom wasn't a huge stickler for this, but she did insist we at least try a couple bites. The family cat enjoyed one hell of an under-the-table feast each time we had liver and onions.

  23. Ha! Loving this post and comments. My biggest disaster was with pie crust. I had never made one from scratch and decided to go for it with my first inlaw family dinner. The chocolate cream pie was so pretty but I couldn't stab the crust with a butcher knife. Along the same line I decided to make banana bread by transposing the baking powder and baking soda. Yeah, it was a bit sharp.

    Good luck with the essays. Would love to read them.

  24. This is not a cooking issue but still a food problem, just in time for Easter. Which daughter of mine colored and hid Easter eggs in her house then weeks later (following a very foul and worsening odor) found a well hidden egg or two. Which of you three gets credit? Glo

  25. Deb: So I'm guessing you went with chocolate cream pudding for dessert instead?

    Glo: Let's just agree it was one of the other two Stanfa girls. I don't recall any post-Easter odors here, and I'm rather reluctant to take blame for another food disaster this week.

  26. This is awesome!!