Country Living Series

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vanilla fish and other culinary disasters

Last night at our neighborhood potluck, our neighbor served fish he had raised and harvested himself. It was tender and flaky and delicious. And it reminded me of a story...

Back when Don and I were newlyweds, I decided to try a new seafood recipe. I don’t recall where I found it or what it consisted of, but the idea was I was supposed to start with fillets of fish, dredge them with plain yogurt, coat them with crumbs of some sort (cracker crumbs? cornmeal? – I forget) and bake the fillets.

The recipe looked delicious and I was anxious to impress my new husband with my (cough) culinary skills. So I got to work.

The only problem was, we didn’t have any plain yogurt on hand. But I had VANILLA yogurt. It’s white too, right? Just like plain yogurt? So I diligently dredged the fish in the yogurt, coated the pieces with crumbs, and baked it.

It looked fabulous. If I recall, I even garnished the dish with lemon and paprika.


My dear husband, who has suffered through my gastronomic shortcomings for the past 24 years, gamely worked his way through three or four bites... but then he had to admit defeat. The fish was simply inedible. I had to face facts: vanilla yogurt and fish don't do well together.

On the down side, that cooking mishap gave me something of a phobia about my kitchen skills. Cooking has never been my strength to begin with. Oh sure, I can DO it... I just don’t ENJOY it. Such is life.

On the plus side, we’ve gotten more mileage out of that silly faux pas than we ever had if the recipe had turned out well. We have laughed, joked, teased, kidded, poked fun, and otherwise remembered that horrific meal with fondness (especially since I never attempted to re-try it with plain yogurt).

The subject of my kitchen deficiencies came up today, and it got me thinking... We've ALL had some sort of culinary calamity in the kitchen. What are yours? Let’s shed the shame and share the stories so we can ALL get a laugh.

Ready… set… GO.

53 comments:

  1. How about baking bread....but forgetting to add the yeast...?
    blort!


    A. McSp

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  2. In the early days of my cousin's marriage (broke college students!), she decided to make macaroni and cheese. She added eggs to it, and put the whole egg in the blender, shells and all! Added calcium, right? She said they "crunched" their way through several meals! She is a great cook now.

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  3. I married my wife while stationed in Japan with the Marines. It was not long after we moved back to the states and she got homesick. So being a good husband I told her to stay in bed and I would cook something for her to eat. First I boiled some ground beef in soy sauce and boiled some spaghetti noodles in an attempt to make Yakisoba. Then came the rice every meal must consist of rice. Due to the lighting in base housing the rice appeared yellow so obviously it needed to be white, the best way I could find to do this was boil it in milk. I had my version of Yakisoba finished and the milk and rice was burning to the bottom of the pan and filling our small 1 bedroom quarters with the most awful smell.

    My wife decided to get up and come into the kitchen to see what was going on. By this time it is the middle of winter in SC and I have every window and door in the kitchen open with the fans blowing fresh air into the house. My wife come over and took one look at what I was doing and started laughing. She told me to go to bed and she would finish.

    I went and sat down on the couch, she gave the burnt milk and rice to the dog who went and hid under the bed rather than eat it. Then tasted the "Yakisoba" yelped like someone had kicked her and immediately threw it in a pot added water and some other spices. We were able to save the "Yakisoba" and turn it into a beef noodle soup. The pan with the burnt milk and rice eventually had to be thrown away, we both scrubbed it and it would not come clean finally we ended up scrubbing the enamel off the bottom.

    Her only comment to me was I hope you fly better than you cook or we will starve. We have had many laughs over the years from that one so called meal that I cooked, but at least it did cure her homesickness. Now I have greatly improved my cooking skills but she still won't let me make rice.

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  4. The first time I made homemade baked beans they turned out like molasses flavored marbles. They were so bad the dog wouldn't touch them. To hide my shame, I buried them in the woods behind the house.

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  5. Wieners Creole...the dog looked at me and said, "Seriously? You put THAT in MY dish?"
    I was hungry for a fall meal, so I put a pork roast, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc. in my dutch oven dish. I invited 6 people over to share.
    I had baked two homemade pumpkin pies first and had them cooling on wire racks. I slipped the dutch oven in after that and forgot it.
    About 5:30 when the guests arrived, I smelled nothing. It was my husband! He saw the pies and the oven on and thought I had forgotten to turn it off. So he did.
    I made him go to the Chinese take out place, get dinner for 8, and pay for it himself.

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  6. Wow. And I thought mistakenly grabbing the ghost pepper flakes when I intended regular red pepper flakes (and thus putting in like 20x as much of them as I normally would), thereby rendering a pot of chili inedible even to me was bad. :)

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  7. When I was first married, I decided to make my husband some muffins to go with dinner. We didn't have a muffin pan at the time, so I put the muffin papers on the cookie sheet, filled them 1/2 full and put them in the oven. When the timer went off, I was devastated, the muffin papers had collapsed and the "muffins" had spread all over the pan.

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  8. As a city-ish teen, I had never cooked before and my family at a lot of fast and pre-made food. I was visiting a relative, and left alone at their house I attemptedd to make BLT sandwiches. However, I had to visit their garden for lettuce and tomatoes. They did not have tomatoes, but had bell peppers, so I substituted the bell peppers for tomatoes, and I found some very sturdy lettuce growing there too.

    What I learned: Pepper, Kale and bacon sandwiches do NOT taste remotely like BLT's. I have also learned to identify veggies and cook since then :-)

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  9. Most things I attempt are culinary calamities... this is why my wife (who is a serious foodie and blogger) does all the cooking. I stick with scrambled eggs and the occasional pancake.

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  10. In the beginning, while dating my wife, I wanted to impress my young sweetheart and fixed our 1st Thanksgiving dinner. As I rinsed the bag of goods from with in the turkey and placed them in a pan to make giblet gravy, my city girl ask about all the different pieces. That day she hesitantly shared giblet gravy... Several years later while watching football on thanksgiving at my parents house, a loud laughter arose from my mother's kitchen. I looked up to find my wife standing in front of me, then popping me on the head to exclaim "Turkey Dong?" Opps! Truth does hurt... All in Love...

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  11. Thought I was doing good when I combined all the open bags of flour in the counter jar. Come baking day my wife was not happy... I just kept telling she was doing something wrong. Then she figured it out... Opps! Popped again.... Dang it, that truth smarts... In loving fun...

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  12. Several years back my Mom bought some canned salmon at the store, after seeing how cheap it was compared to tuna. She opened a can, thought it looked good, and made my Dad a "tuna" fish sandwich to take to work. He called from work wanting to know what was wrong with the tuna fish. She asked "why?" Without telling him what she had done. He said "It tastes weird, and is full of these crunchy cheerio things". She didn't know it had bones in it. We laughed and laughed so hard we cried. She hasn't made any salmon sandwiches since. My Dad said he's happy we find humor at his expense.
    Kimberly

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  13. My worst isn't that bad, however I do warn you - don't try to add tuna to macaroni and cheese; it makes the cheese do funny things and the result is pretty much unedible.

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  14. My family was never big on rice so I never learned to cook it. My husband grew up in Asia and ate it every day, so shortly after our marriage I decided to make some red beans and rice. After it had sat in the oven for hours and seemed to be making no progress, I pulled it out. Nobody had ever told me that you had to add twice the amount of water as the volume of rice for it to soften up. I had simply used the juice from the beans. That was just enough to make the grains glue together and the long cooking had solidified it. I couldn't even break it apart and it had to go into the garbage as a whole 9 x 9 inch brick!

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  15. This is not my cooking but my best friend did this and it is my most favorite cooking tale.
    Never having cooked pinto beans, never had eaten pinto beans and not knowing a thing about pinto beans she decided to cook pinto beans. She followed the package directions. She soaked them overnight, rinsed several times and cooked over low fire for several hours. But, when she saw the skins floating off of some of the beans, she took this to mean she was supposed to peel each and every one. Which she dutifully did, one pound of beans, hours of work. She did serve a delightful story to go with her bean soup!

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  16. One year I lived in a condo with four other young women. We were all learning to cook and frequently had what we lovingly called 'Olympic meals'. Olympic meals should only be cooked once every four years, if that. One night our household invited a household of young men to join us. It was my night to cook and I chose to cook a vegetarian lasagne. I followed the recipe completely - down to adding 2 cups of beans. Unknown to me at the time, the beans should have already been cooked. So, here we are at the diner table and all my roommates kept telling me "you certainly cooked an Olympic meal with this one" and all of our young male friends were gamely trying to eat the lasagne with the rock hard beans. We never did tell them what an Olympic meal was.

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  17. I learned the hard way that a little bit of fresh ginger goes a long way. I made a Chinese-inspired dish that was so hot with ginger even the dogs wouldn't eat it.~~Debbie

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  18. Many years ago wile attending cooking school, I was assigned to the soup station for a week. My first soup was scotch broth. I carefully chopped up the vegetables added them to the stock and set it to simmer. Then we went for our break. Upon returning to class I gave the soup a good stir and spotted a dark lump floating in the sou. I was puzzled as I had not yet added any meat to the soup I gave the soup another stir and realized that it was a mouse. The soup was thrown out but no one would try my other non mouse soups for the rest of the week.

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  19. I tried to make fudge on my own when I was about 10. I used pancake syrup instead of karo syrup and it wouldn't solidify. My wonderful mom bought fruit and we had "chocolate fondue" with dinner. It was actually quite good!

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  20. I am usually a pretty good cook -- I even took graduate courses in food science so I really think I can pull off good food from just about anything. Also, I like to read about different types of food and am always experimenting. The one experiment that everyone likes to remind me of was a complete disaster -- I couldn't even swallow one bite. It was called "tofu boboti" all the ingredients were things I liked but something went terribly wrong -- maybe I should try it again one of these days??

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  21. Raisin pie.

    Fanny Farmer treated us well in the early years, but not that day.

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  22. Shepherd's Pie. Just the mention brings laughs from hubby. I've yet to ever try making it again after 34 years.

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  23. okra - I can't even talk about it yet...and it's been many years

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  24. OH WOW....my sides hurt from laughing :-)
    My niece was making dinner for her future husband. I step by step walked her thru making homemade sauce. Then told her to she was "good to go" after tasting. I assumed she would know to cook the spaghetti....You know what they say about assuming!

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  25. Before I was married I cooked a chicken dinner for my boyfriend when he was working in the Oregon woods. He always came back from work very hungry and I wanted to impress him with, not only my great cooking but my frugality. When I went shopping for chicken,I found that stewing hen was much cheaper than fryers so I bought one. I fried it nicely and left it in the warming oven to keep warm with the side dishes and a nice note on his kitchen
    table as a surprise. Unfortunately my boyfriend was invited to
    dinner with a fellow worker and didn't find the dinner I made him
    until much later that night. The stewing hen was very tough to begin with and after being left on warm for many hours, it was
    so dry that it really was uneatable. In fact, my boyfriend took
    a drumstick and tied it to the rear view mirror in his car to tease
    me. He did appreciate the effort though and we have been married
    almost 48 years now.

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  26. I learned that not all apples are the same when making an apple pie! Early in my marriage I wanted to cook from scratch, so a nice homemade apple pie sounded so good to take to my in-laws to show off my skills. I thought any kind of apple could be used, so I used Red Delicious apples. Well after cooking for the allotted time, the apple slices were still hard and crunchy and their was absolutely no juice whatsoever. A very dry, crunchy awful pie. My in-laws ate and never said a word. Bless them. Now I know better!

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    Replies
    1. Interesting ... One of the best apple pies I ever made was with Red Delicious.

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    2. Rhonda, I'm sure you could use any apple...I just find that the cooking variety apples seem to make more juice and soften better than the firmer kind, such as red delicious. But I'm always still learning! :)

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  27. Oh my gosh --- these are so funny! Rice and dry beans in so many stories. I agree -- those are two of the hardest foods to get right. And vanilla flavored fish? I laughed hard at that one.

    The running gag in our house is my continuing inability to make fried potatoes.

    I have never been able make fried potatoes or hash browns without making a total mess of my pan. I've had to throw away at least two pans because they were unsalvageable, full of burned, fused potatoes. Not even a non-stick pan helps. I just can't figure it out!

    I can make fudge from scratch with cocoa, a beef stew that would bend your knees, and waffles from scratch that are crunchy on the outside and light as a feather inside. But silly fried potatoes? Not once, ever, have I been successful.

    Just Me

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    Replies
    1. I've had the same problem with fried potatoes and hash browns, and then we got a large container of palm oil. It's kinda the consistency of shortening. I don't know why but that stuff is the perfect match for potatoes. I never have problems with them sticking anymore, and it doesn't add a yucky flavor.
      Kimberly

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    2. I'm totally giving that a try! Thanks a million!

      Just Me

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  28. Not my cooking mistake (although I've certainly had my share!) but one I heard about that still makes me shudder . . . a young cook decided to try to make sweet and sour chicken but didn't have the ingredients for the sour part of the meal and decided to substitute dill pickle juice. Ugh!

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  29. Thanks P. for suggesting this topic! So funny! As a new bride, I baked my first turkey with all the 'stuff' inside! Also, I like to have never learned to make gravy! I have thrown out more 'goop' than you can imagine! Plus the time my 6 qt. pressure cooker full of pinto beans! exploded, pot and lid flew off the stove, hit the cabinet and beans went every where! Thankfully, no injuries.
    Vera

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    Replies
    1. Vera,
      Since the "stuff" is usually frozen inside the mostly thawed turkey, I just cook all the giblets inside the turkey!

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  30. When microwaves were new on the market, my sister-in-law gave me a recipe for what she said was "a fabulous, easy, no muss or fuss" microwave meatloaf. So I tried it. It was fabulous -- for keeping the garage door propped open.

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  31. I only made one inedible meal very early in my marriage. My husband loved the mess of meat/soup/goulash I made and ate several helpings. I thought it was disgusting.

    However, when I went to my mother's house, he decided to make brownies that first night and doubled the recipe. Not only did he double the recipe, he doubled the size of the pan, doubled the heat, and doubled the cooking time. He said he soaked and scrubbed that pan for a week and asked me what went wrong. Oh, I laughed as he complained he could not even eat one bite of it. He did say he thought that maybe the fact he could not double the temperature or exactly double the pan size might be part of the problem. Clueless!

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  32. Are you aware that Scifi chick (Jodi) from the "Bacon and Eggs blog that is on your blog list passed away last Thursday from an apparent heart attack?

    http://framboisemanor.blogspot.com/2014/08/a-tribute-to-my-friend.html

    The woman who writes this blog was a close friend of Jodi's.

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  33. I've had several unsuccessful kitchen escapades in my life (through which my husband has been amazingly supportive), but the one that always comes to mind first was an attempt in high school to make eclair cake. It was a simple recipe, with one exception: I accidentally grabbed "cook and stir" pudding instead of instant pudding mix. Obviously, it never set and I had an ungodly soupy mess that had to be tossed. I was so upset! I have yet to ever make it again. But, lesson learned!

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  34. I made honey glazed doughnuts one time. The dough was perfect the doughnuts looked and tasted great. Time for the glaze , I had no recipe so I poured some honey in a pot let it boil for a few minutes and brushed on the doughnuts. They looked wonderful. Took a bite and couldn't opens my mouth, my teeth were stuck together. Honey glaze with the properties of super glue.

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  35. When my sister-in-law was about 16 her daddy asked her to boil some eggs to make some potato salad. She promptly took about 5 eggs and cracked them over the boiling water and cooked them without the shell! They still were ok for the potato salad but just added an extra step! LOL

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  36. How was I to know that you were supposed to rinse the bone chips off of ham steaks before you grilled them ?

    - Charlie

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  37. Early on in our marriage I decided to cook a complete meal from scratch, including home made biscuits. I was using a cookbook that assumed the reader had some basic cooking skills. So when I came to the part about adding a teaspoon of soda I assumed since there was no flavor listed that I could use any soda I wanted. I was partial to Sprite at the time. Needless to say the puppy had a field day with the dozen hockey pucks.

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  38. My first Thanksgiving after I moved out of my parents' house, I wanted to wow them and bring sweet potato casserole for dinner. I bought the potatoes, peeled them, and put them WHOLE into boiling water. The recipe said when they were fork tender to take them out and whip them with a hand mixer. After an hour boiling, they appeared to be ready so I took them out and put them into my mixing bowl. I started my hand mixer, which quickly mashed the outside soft layer of the potatoes. When it hit the inside, still hard part of thr sweet potato, they shot everywhere in the kitchen. I was covered, the walls, cabinets, floor, and ceiling were all coated in sweet potatoes. I managed to have enough still left in the bowl to make a tiny little dish of my family's favorite side and my husband and I still laugh about it almost 12 years later!

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  39. By the time my son was four years old, he had learned how to fan the smoke detector with a pillow when I was cooking! ;)

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  40. When i was a kid, I was home alone one time and wanted to make butterscotch cookie bars for my mom. Unfortunately, I didn't have all the ingredients, so I substituted vegetable oil instead of butter. It took a lot longer for them to cook seeing as how I used a liquid when there should have been a solid. And the butterscotch chips all melted into the mix. It actually was pretty good when eaten with ice cream, but I guess I had used a lot of veg oil cause my mom told me not to make it like that again because it's unhealthy. Heh. I also forgot to add a can of water to the chicken noodle soup, so it was really salty until someone realized the mistake. And I made scrambled eggs and had them sitting in the pan with the lid on and they turned green! I think it was a chemical reaction with the frying pan.

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  41. We have been married for 44 years, and I'll never forget our first Thanksgiving. My young wife and I had never baked a turkey, so her grandmother wrote down what we should do. We followed her directions to the letter, preparing the bird and the stuffing exactly as she described. However, the bird was done in about half the cooking time. It was so done it was falling off the bones! We had stuffed the bird according to Grandmother's instructions, but for some reason we couldn't get even half the stuffing into the bird. Consequently, very little stuffing came out of the bird after it was cooked. We called Gramma and told her what had happened. She said, "Didn't you dampen the stuffing before putting it in the bird? We said no, that wasn't in the instructions! Apparently the dry stuffing had soaked up a LOT of the turkey's juices, so we had very little stuffing, but wow! It sure was GOOD! --Fred & Deb in AZ

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  42. I never had success with cooking in skillets on high heat as everything would stick even with some fat (butter/oil/etc.)...I did have better luck with nonstick (Teflon) pans until the day I was stir-frying sliced chicken breast pieces and I started to see black flecks in amongst the meat...the Teflon coating was coming off the pan and was totally mixed into the meat! I threw out the batch as the coating was peppered into the whole mix.

    I have since learned to keep the heat no higher than medium when using skillets and use olive oil with a pat of butter when frying or coconut oil which is a liquid above 77 degrees F and does splash when moving quickly while opening the bottle...but that is a whole other story!

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  43. OK, I have a tummy ache from all the laughing from this post!

    My husband's favorite story to tell, it still cracks him up after almost 19 years (and he still tells everyone he meets about this...darn him!).

    The first time he came home to meet my parents, I decided to make spaghetti for our dinner (he's half Italian...his mother is VERY Italian). Now, my family's idea of spaghetti is to open a can of sauce. Don had no problems with that. But when he walked into the kitchen while mom and I were breaking the spaghetti in half to fit into the pan (we always did that), and he stopped dead in his tracks, with a perfectly straight face, and said in a soft low voice, "Oh my God, you are ruining the spaghetti", then shook his head and left, mom and I just stood there horrified! I was not a young woman at this time, had been cooking for years, and considered myself to be a fairly decent cook (I can cook quite well from scratch, bake bread, can, etc.), but I was trying to impress this guy and even though I had been making spaghetti successfully for 20 years or so at that time, I really thought I was doing it all wrong. And he didn't let me know he was kidding for several days!

    His mom really loved that story...then she hit him!

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  44. When I was a young child my mom had been frying chicken and had to leave so she asked me to make the gravy. My dad was asleep from working nights. I had watched my mom make gravy and thought I knew what to do. So I added flour and added flour to get it to look like what my mom did. It was smoking and woke my dad up. He helped me fix the mess. Was funny though that I kept adding flour to quite a bit of grease!

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  45. I knew I would love reading all of these comments! Hilarious stories here. I will add my mother mistakenly using salt, instead of sugar, in a Baked Alaska (for Christmas Eve dessert, no less) and my sister-in-law's "Shudder Pie." (It was so gross, her husband shuddered when he ate it.) Hey, this is how we all learn, right? What great stories! :-)

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  46. Hubby still claims I was trying to kill him early on in our marriage. The first incident was some beautiful, broiled pork chops. While I was getting the rest of the dinner on the table, he started in exclaiming how great the chops tasted & wow, the peppercorns were good. Peppercorns? The seasoning I used didn't have peppercorns. Turns out tiny pillbugs had gotten into the bottle. I claim it was just extra protein.

    Second incident was when he decided to go vegetarian for a while. I made him stuffed zucchini. He loved it, and thought the crunchy topping really made the dish. There was no topping. I checked the oven, and the oven light bulb had shattered while I was baking the zucchini. So, yes, I fed hubby glass-laced vegetarian food. And he ate it.

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  47. I wanted to make a berry cobbler once. In the middle of winter. My newlywed husband humored me and $25 later came home with lots of frozen berries. I set to work, cooking and bragging (probably) until I mistook baking soda as a main ingredient. INSTANT VOLCANO. Everywhere. I was never so stunned and he says he was never so amused at the look on someone's face. :)

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  48. As anyone who is on a low, fixed income can tell you, the last few days of the month before the money comes in can lead to creative and innovative meals. My husband is a disabled veteran, and one month when our daughter was about 8 was a particularly bad month for expenses. We were out of so many basics way way before the money was due. There was sliced meat to fry and nothing else to do but fry it, seriously, and NO butter, shortening, oil, etc, of any sort, except the cod liver oil we took daily. Suffice it to say, the smell was horrible and the taste was even worse.
    But bad as that was, the worst one I have ever heard of was when we were in our first apartment 33 years ago. The apartment manager's wife was new to cooking and fixed (using the recipe book) crock pot spaghetti in the brand new wedding gift crock pot they'd received. It might have been edible at first, but he was several hours late coming home. She didn't know to turn it off and reheat it so it kept cooking and cooking and cooking. When he finally made it home, he ate some to make her happy and wound up in the emergency room the next day with an impacted colon and emergency surgery. As far as I know, she still refuses to make spaghetti.

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