nita

As the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us, this day of feasting and family brings back a multitude of memories.

For most, the day is one of massive food consumption ranging from turkey and/or ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, a variety of vegetables and casseroles and mass supplies of desserts. While pumpkin pie is usually the primary dessert for most, those who don't have the taste for pumpkin find themselves overwhelmed with other delectables such as pecan pie, banana pudding, cakes, cheesecakes, fudge or other such goodies that highlight family favorites.

But the huge amount of cooking such meals is a challenge for many and I've found it extremely humorous to hear stories of cooking disasters - most of which I have equaled or surpassed over the years.

I recall former Sentinel-Echo business manager Judy McCowan relating how her sister-in-law prepared the turkey for the family one year. The woman was told to wash the turkey, then bake it. She did so - but she used dishwashing liquid to wash the traditional bird. The soap, of course, absorbed into the meat - thus destroying the main entree for the family dinner!

Although my mother was an excellent cook herself, she was very uncomfortable with someone "standing over my shoulder" so my cooking experience was extremely lax when I had my own family to cook for. The greatest challenges of "cooking country" was making gravy. I've often said that my attempts at gravy have ranged from it being so thick it could substitute for wallpaper paste. Other times, it has been so runny that I named it gravy water.

Then there was the dumpling challenge. My husband and I tried every trick we heard to make dumplings - handmade, biscuit dough, etc. Our dumplings simply disintegrated in the pot. My Aunt Norma was known for her dumplings and she got such a kick out of me calling her at all times of day and night to ask what I was doing wrong. We tried using wooden spoons rather than metal, we didn't stir the mixture, we didn't let it boil - just as she instructed us. No luck. But luckily the past few attempts have had better outcomes - at least of two batches of dough, we had enough for a couple bowls each!

It also became custom for my husband to remind me to remove the neck and other wrapped parts inside the turkey BEFORE I cooked it, rather than as an afterthought when the gorgeously browned bird was removed from the oven. But even when that was accomplished successfully, it still was as much a tradition that I would burn something in the family meal - usually the rolls. One year I was so discouraged that two entire packs of rolls were tossed out the front door with the hopes that perhaps some starving bird would be desperate enough to eat the charbroiled chunks that were once light white puffs of bread.

Even worse was one year when I got distracted, burned the rolls, then sat the brand new Pampered Chef stoneware pan on the still red hot stove eye. Although Pampered Chef products can withstand even my cooking most of the time, this poor pan simply cracked down the middle - and joined in the history of the rolls of the past - out the front door!

Then comes the challenge of making candy. While I can make and decorate some delicious cakes, candy has never been my specialty. The chocolate no-bake cookies that most can make with expertise still challenge my cooking skills. I've often said that, despite the recipes, my no-bake cookies are either so gooey that they have to be eaten with a spoon. Or else they are so hard they could be used for a foundation block for a house!

Ditto with peanut butter rolls. While I dearly love the no-bake cookies and peanut butter rolls, it is simply not meant for me to fix those. I wish I had the money I've spent on confectioner's sugar and peanut butter that has been angrily thrown into the garbage can over the years. Yes, I've tried putting sugar into pre-made icing, I've cried and even prayed for a good outcome, but thus far, that hasn't come to fruition.

The funniest cooking disaster, however, came with the simplest task - making Kool-Aid. I was on a strict budget so decided to save money by buying a 5-pound bag of salt along with the 5-pound bag of sugar. The two were kept in separate canisters but were side by side on the counter. I had some friends staying with me for a while, so I decided before I left for work I would make their four children some Kool-Aid to drink. I poured the sugar, ran water and put in the grape Kool-Aid and stashed it in the refrigerator.

That night when I returned home from work, I was instantly confronted about the Kool-Aid. Although it had already been decided that the Kool-Aid was undrinkable, it still took some convincing before I realized that I had inadvertently used two cups of salt rather than two cups of sugar. Which then answered my question of why the Kool-Aid bubbled so violently when I poured it into the water and "sugar." Needless to say, the kids refused to drink any more Kool-Aid they saw me making! And I never again bought a 5-pound bag of salt!

It is still a joke among my own kids that they always knew in their childhood days when the smoke alarm began sounding, supper was done.

Although my cooking disasters are not quite as frequent as they once were, there are still times that cooking is a challenge. And with Thanksgiving marking the tradition of cooking and feasting, just adding some humor to the situation may ease the minds of those who might know that experience this year.

Happy Thanksgiving, and Bon Appétite!

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