Several years ago I got a teabag with a message on the tag; Even monkeys fall out of trees, and I laughed out loud! I think I kept that little tag for years, I may still have it somewhere. It’s a phrase I repeat to myself often and in all kinds of circumstances. Yes, we’re all aware that we make mistakes, but so do monkeys, and I don’t consider their mistakes signs of character flaws as I do so many of my own. Keeping this phrase in mind helps me when I screw up even those things I believe I’m good at, for example cooking. Things have been pretty serious here and I thought it might be fun to share some of my worst (and funniest) cooking mishaps here, these include a range from failing to read the box to leaving out a critical ingredient, hurting myself, and just being sloppy and careless.
Who hasn’t made a cake and grabbed the salt instead of the sugar? I’m happy to say I got this disaster out of the way when I was still young enough to not worry about all the wasted time and ingredients, and old enough to learn never to make that mistake again. When in doubt I check with my finger, but at my house, I use kosher salt which makes this particular error almost impossible to repeat.
Sometimes you know what went wrong, like the time I made a Chinese banquet for a big dinner party, and in one of the dishes rather than using the cornstarch (in a yellow box) I used the baking soda (in a yellow box) that had been soaking up the odors in my fridge for about two years YUM, nothing like ammonia-scented meatballs! Other times you have no idea what happened, and no time to fix it. I was invited to a friend’s for dinner and said I’d bring a lemon meringue pie, sadly it never properly set, so I brought a crust filled with lemon soup under a giant meringue crouton.
I have nearly sliced the tip of my thumb off cutting a baguette, set the oven on fire cooking a duck, cut myself on a mandolin almost daily while working at a restaurant on Nantucket, where a box of Band-aids went for $6.00 in 1993 (and our boss felt we were in charge of our own first aid supplies). I have slipped and fallen on my ass while dancing, in non-slip shoes in front of a kitchen full of team members, losing any dignity I might have had after my public dancing which seemed like a good idea at the time.
There were the individual pecan tarts that I thought were fine, but my boss (the cheap Band-aid dude) thought we too brown to serve at the restaurant and brought them to our house and dumped them on the kitchen table, with a sneer, a nasty comment, and a hasty departure. My five roommates thought they were just fine and ate them all while I sobbed in shame in my room. That was not a fun job!
I have baked bread that didn’t rise, burned numerous pots and pans, made lumpy sauces, coffee full of grounds, and half-raw pancakes (many times). Guests have politely eaten food I have over and under cooked, and given me compliments on under as well as over seasoned food. And I have been trained by the best!
I’m sure you’ve had your share of disasters too, but next time you burn a pan of brownies, or your pasta is a shade beyond al dente, please repeat this helpful phrase to yourself, even monkeys fall out of trees, and carry on.
What have been your worst kitchen catastrophes?